HRevolution and SHRM – Beauty and the Beast

Every year around this time there is a discussion among my online Human Resources friends about whether to join or renew membership in the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).

This disagreement exists because many in the online HR community think SHRM is old-fashioned, out of touch, and fails to deliver real value for the dues charged. In fact, the fine HR pros over at Fistful of Talent are so anti-SHRM that they considered holding their own alternative event.  So what prompted SHRM to sponsor HRevolution, an alternative HR event that is full of what China Gorman coined “HR activists”?

Good question.

Last year, SHRM approached the HRevolution 2010 planning committee late in the planning stages, seeking a small sponsorship. It was late when they came on board, and their presence at the event was somewhat limited. Last month, at the 2011 event, SHRM was a much greater presence, even sending Curis Midkiff, their Social Media Strategist, to attend.  According to Curtis, SHRM supports HRevolution because the event offers us an opportunity to participate in an event that brings together with a diverse cross-section of the HR community who are passionate about the profession and are working in various capacities to shape the future of HR.”

To show their commitment to the HR activists that are the heart and soul of HRevolution, SHRM gave away, by means of a general door-prize drawing, two full-access social media passes to their huge national conference in Las Vegas next month. In addition to full session access, the pass allows the holder to access the social media lounge with WiFi, where social media influencers can gather to tweet, post videos and blogs, and connect. At the time the winning names were drawn, those  passes were worth at least $1,400.

I thought this was an incredibly gutsy move on SHRM’s part. They had no idea whose name they were going to draw, and they could have been inviting an anti-SHRM wolf into their chicken coop. In my view, this is evidence that SHRM knows that they have work to do to make themselves relevant to those that are working to shape the future of HR, and are talking some small steps to do so – and there is nothing at all wrong with small steps. As  Alan Mencken and Howard Ashman said in song:

Tale as old as time
True as it can be
Barely even friends
Then somebody bends
Unexpectedly.
Just a little change
Small to say the least
Both a little scared
Neither one prepared
Beauty and the Beast.

For the record, I won one of those passes to SHRM 11. Needless to say, I promptly renewed my membership, and I am looking forward to watching the Beast try to transform back into royalty.

HOW I SPENT $100

Last month I had a contest on this blog.  The title of the blog was “The Social Media Ladder“, and I offered to give away $100 in a random drawing to someone who helped me out by commenting, tweeting, and otherwise mentioning my blog.

The contest winner was Krista Francis, an HR pro from the D.C. area that I got to know on Twitter.  You can watch my announcement video below (which I previously posted on HR University but neglected to post on this site).

Krista was sent her book and $100 cash prize.  Then I received the following email from her detailing how she spent that money:

Thank you again for the opportunity to win $100 in your social media ladder contest. But as thrilled as I was to win, I had the unsettling feeling that I didn’t especially deserve it. Winning was a matter of chance, after all.  As difficult as 2009 was for so many, most of us at least have the bottom rungs of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs covered: safety, security. Food. A roof. Clean water. Family.

Africa-born and raised, I know the things we take for granted are not necessarily givens in much of the world. So when your $100 fell into my lap, I decided to pass it on to others in greater need, specifically women and children who make up the vast majority of the extreme poor in the world.

The first $25 went to Kiva.org. Along with dozens of others, we helped Evelyn in Nigeria secure a $1000 loan to buy more inventory (cloths, sarongs) for her market stall. When she repays the loan, I will lend the principle to another small entrepreneur trying to better his/her life. I also donated a 15% surcharge, or 3.75, to help meet Kiva’s administrative charges.

The second $25 we donated to the employee recognition fund at Jubilee Association, the nonprofit where I work. Jubilee serves people with developmental disabilities, but you may be interested to know that we didn’t choose to direct the donation to them. As the human resources director, I preferred to designate the monies for the employee recognition fund. Our staff work very hard, sacrificing much, for meager wages and little prestige. Indeed, $25 seemed a tiny amount, which is why I give the rest of my life to this cause.

Next, $20 went to Heifer International. Our gift will provide a flock of baby chicks to a family in the developing world. The chicks will grow into chickens, which will provide eggs, which will provide food and revenue. Bonus: as part of the program, the recipient is required to pass on some chicks to someone else so that they can start their own flock.

The next $25 went to Global Mission,which provides education and care to orphans in Jos, Nigeria, where I was born.

That leaves $1.25. I gave $2.00 to a homeless woman huddling against the 20 degree weather on the corner of Democracy & Old Georgetown in Bethesda.

So there we go. $100 given away in five days. A fun and gratifying exercise, though one that left me with the aching knowledge that I had omitted so many noble causes: clean water, violence against women, child exploitation, literacy, health care, and so many more.

Wow.  Here is a woman who gets a $100 windfall and promptly gives it away.  Then, this past week, I received a message from her saying it was too bad, given the events in Haiti, that she had already donated the money elsewhere.

I’m proud to know this person and happy that she won my little contest.

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HRevolution – The Future of HR

Saturday afternoon the gloves came off.

The last session of the HRevolution un-conference, introduced in my previous blog, was called “The Future of HR”.  It was facilitated by the incomparable Mark Stelzner, whose admitted purpose was “to be provocative and shake the room up a bit.”  His mission was well accomplished, and the passionate discussion was described by @KristaFrancis on Twitter: Great minds *don’t* think alike and that’s a good thing.  Mark summed up the discussion on his blog, but I want to focus on this particular statement:

There was a great discussion on how people need to quit their HR jobs if they are that miserable. In other words, stop complaining and lamenting your non-strategic role and instead find a company that values your contribution.

That “call to action” has been repeated since on blogs (here ), and the HR Happy Hour blog talk radio show.

Ouch.

Why does it pain me to hear and read that people who want to make a difference should just quit their jobs and go elsewhere? Because it’s a strategy that’s far too over-simplified, and the consequences of failure are too dangerous for that simplification.  I speak from personal experience.

My Personal History

I come from a small (less than 50 employees) food processing/manufacturing plant.  My husband and his partner own the business.  When I began working there, no one knew exactly what my role was going to be.  I fell into an HR function almost immediately, because there was NO HR function there at all.  I started learning, and I made myself a HR Manager/Generalist.  I had a seat at that strategic table, usually at the head.  I made those P&Ls sing.

So why did I leave in June 2008?  Because I had a nagging feeling that there was more evolving to be done, and I couldn’t do it where I was.  There is only so far you can go in a really small company before some of the work becomes redundant, and some becomes impossible. So I quit (read: no unemployment benefits) and went looking for a company that would “value my contributions”.

It’s now November 2009 and I have yet to find that company.  Telling a recruiter or a hiring manager that I left my job because “I needed new challenges” makes them hang up on me.  Layoffs and downsizings create sympathy, self-indulgence does not.

I’m lucky – my husband still owns the company and has a job, so I still have sufficient funds to go to un-conferences and listen to people tell me to do what I’ve already done.  But suppose I was a sole breadwinner with kids to support and a mortgage to meet?  That strategy would have placed a lot of other people in jeopardy.  Is Laurie Ruettiman’s philosophy is the better one? She says, ” You get a paycheck. Be happy.”

Going Forward

By sharing that with you, I want to emphasize a point that was touched on at HRevolution but not sufficiently embraced: the enlightened HR group that we are a part of is a very tiny minority of the entire HR population.  The solutions and suggestions we propose inside of our “HR echo chamber”  will not be embraced by them  and will often be actively resisted.  We need to help others examine themselves and their roles to see how they can evolve and revolutionize, even if circumstances and paychecks keep them in their positions.  A large majority of HR pros don’t even know that people and technology exist to help them make this journey.  In other words, they don’t read our blogs.  Until a very short time ago, I was one of those people.

When Alicia Arenas asked us in a video to leave HRevolution with a commitment to spread the message, she mentioned college students and local SHRM chapters as examples of avenues to spread our enlightenment. Let’s collectively think of more, and start an outreach program, because we will not succeed without  converting others. With that in mind, I am picking up the flag of  HRevolution and making this commitment:

I will use social media, personal connections, and any other soapbox that is available to me to encourage, aid, and advise HR Pros and other business professionals to embark on a course of personal development that will expand their knowledge and engage and enlighten others.

By doing this, I hope to move past the idea that HR people should just be happy to get a paycheck.  The people I will try to reach may not be able to leave their companies, but they may be able to avoid doing everything “The Company Way.”  Viva la revolution!

The Company Way