Let's face it, if you're like me and occasionally have been challenged to find the value in SHRM, it's usually been because you've felt it moved too slow and didn't have enough of a soul. Speed and accessibility were always the primary issues for me when it came to SHRM, along with an absolute void of opinion.
What? Alrighty then...
So, I've always wanted SHRM to have an opinion, or at least have a face. But it's been difficult to find an opinion/face throughout my membership period with SHRM. If you want to be accessible, you have to work at it. If you want to be seen as a leader, you can't mamby-pamby the EFCA message or other controversial messages to the membership - you have to lead and have a take. You can't have your CEO riff an intro to a keynote at a conference attended by 5% of your membership once a year and think that makes your organization look accessible, because it doesn't. But that's been the SHRM strategy visible to the detached member like me for a long time.
Things might be changing at SHRM. The great SHRM hope is China Gorman.
China Gorman is the COO of SHRM. Whether or not she was passed over for the CEO spot vacated by Sue Messinger is SHRM's business (China was COO under Messinger's leadership). What's important is that she's emerged in the new leadership structure at SHRM as an engaged leader and active face of the organization - even though she's not the CEO.
Need proof? Watch China go toe-to-toe with a clueless legislator on capitol hill, defending the big (our legislative interests) and the small (how to pronounce "SHRM"). Watch China out-tweet the so-called HR bloggers on Twitter (present company included) during the SHRM Conference in an effort to promote what's going on. Watch China look for new ideas that can freshen up the mix at SHRM (sponsoring broad coverage for bloggers) while staying true to the needs of the organization (warning said bloggers not to curse during a blogging panel to be held on Wednesday - which was outright funny, but crafty smart on her part).
I've had some brief exposure to China, and here's the true value of what's going on. Pros like China have always had the capability to engage customers in different ways that help their organizations grow - regardless of the line of business. The problem is that the culture of the organization they're in doesn't always support it. However, once an engaged pro is released at a high level in any organization and starts doing stuff not ordinarily tolerated, the culture can change. People below that leader start taking risks, and everyone figures out that engagement is good. Nobody dies when mistakes are made or opinions are shared. Pretty soon, the organization becomes a lot more open and the customers start raving.
That's my hope for SHRM - that lots of SHRM staffers start engaging members the way China does. Because if 20% of them do and SHRM embraces it, SHRM could be scary good compared to its past.
China Gorman is the great SHRM hope.