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The New CEO of SHRM... 2011 Version...

In a sure sign of how I'm feeling these days, I was going to offer no comments related to the new CEO of SHRM.  There were a few things that stuck out to me, sure, but it seemed kind of pointless to wax poetic about the shortcomings of the search and the ultimate candidate who landed in the job.

I changed my mind, mainly due to the group called the SHRM Members for Transparency putting out a press release on their view.

For those of you unaware, Hank Jackson, CPA, is your new SHRM CEO.

Don't care?  I get it.

Come back when you have something interesting to talk about, Kris?  Will do.

Anyway, I'm moved to write about this today because, as a SHRM member, I should care about who the next CEO is.  When I saw the news and explored the background of Jackson, I had some concerns, most of which are outlined in a couple of the memo points I received from SHRM Members for Transparancy:

1. Since last July, SHRM’s website has made reference to the SHRM CEO search being conducted by Korn-Ferry, a major executive search firm.  What does this say about our Society when the Board and Korn-Ferry cannot find a human resource professional to serve as CEO out of one-quarter million SHRM members?

2. However, the most serious concern expressed by many members is that for the first time in the Society’s history, the Chief Executive Staff Officer will not be a human resource management professional.

Those would be my two big questions.  Jackson was the SHRM CFO and is obviously a Finance professional.  What the...

So, start with that, and then ask yourself the next question.  You hired a CFO as the leader of SHRM, and paid Korn-Ferry a retainer to find the next great SHRM leader and you came up with your own CFO...who was already in your organization..  Interesting.

Here's a tip for the kids.  Before you pay a retainer, look around the table and say, "Is there anyone here we might hire before we elect to engage a high-end retained search firm?".  Might save the org 100K.

I've reported directly to a CFO in my career and it worked well for me as a VP of HR, so I get there's value in a good CFO.  But to run the premiere HR membership organization in America?

Hello?  Wouldn't you have gotten all those services from him if he remained CFO and you... wait for it... went and found a dynamic HR Leader to come in to lead the profession you're servicing with your non-profit HR organization?

I get it.  No one cares.  We now return you to regularly scheduled programming.

From SHRM member 453***...


Kevin Berchelmann, SPHR

Good post, Kris. I care, and it's a travesty.

One of the darkest hours of our association, to be sure. To even suggest that, out of 250K+ members, there was no one capable of leading this professional association... well, that would be a flat-out lie.

There is simply no way that Jackson was so head and shoulders above all others in the nation that the Board needed a year to convince him to accept the role (remember, he "didn't want it..."), so the obvious conclusion is that someone – or someoneS – may not have been entirely truthful during this process.

I sincerely – deep down inside – believe this profession is at a crossroads. More, now than ever before, both the profession (and presumably, then, our association) and our growing, developing HR leaders need a positive HR voice that faces outward to business. Alas, a CFO cannot be that person. Maybe not ever, but damn sure not today.

At last year’s annual conference, Steve Forbes said ““HR is at the epicenter of this economic turnaround. This job [HR] will be more important during the next 2-5 years than ever before.”

Steve seems to “get it.” Most of our members “get it.” Why doesn’t our Board “get it?”

But that's just me...



I hope it won't be long before he replaces the "CPA" after his name in the press releases with an "SPHR". For all his time at the organization, I'm surprised he hasn't taken one of their tests yet.

David Hughes

From my experience as a reformed retained search consultant, oftentimes large organizations hire someone like Korn Ferry in nothing more than a grand CYA gesture. You know, defensible proper-vetting and all that rot. Oops, did I say that out loud?

To further expose myself as a cynic, I will propose that a figurehead job with responsibility to answer to a communistic collective of board members, but lacking in real authority to take action or effect change, is not very palatable to a high-performer. No wonder the CFO didn't want the job in the first place. Korn Ferry probably did conclude that he was the best guy that could be attracted to the job.

Remember, it's not about finding the best person, it's about landing the best person you can get for the given job.

And, Steve, don't place too much emphasis on the SPHR. Hell, even I have that. LOL.


I would care, but my lifelong career in HR is keeping me distracted...
Good post, KD- on the positive side, maybe he can emphasis to the 'traditional transactional' HR pros the importance of the finances/business objectives of their respective business. Maybe just maybe that is SHRMs angle, yeaaah, that's the ticket.
SHRM Member 223***


Thanks for posting this. I also am a bit dismayed that SHRM's search (a) took so long and then (b)yielded someone who was currently doing the job on an interim basis with no HR background.

I really do think that the profession is having a bit of an identity crisis these days and SHRM is having much larger issues with working with its members. About 10 years ago, the biggest issue seemed to be over who had a SHRM tote bag. So I do think that the current areas of discussion are good to have as a profession (and much more meaningful than tote bags) and hopefully will lend itself to an ultimately stronger organization in the end.


Great post and a discussion that really needs to be brought up at all levels. This being the latest of many issues at SHRM. I'm interested to see how this (if at all) plays out. I'm hoping changes will be made.

Ronald C. Pilenzo, Phd, SPHR, RODC

For the past 60 years, ASPA/SHRM has had a senior HR professional head the society. For some reason, the "new SHRM" appears to believe that it really doesn't matter if the head of the world's largest HR professional society is an HR pro or not. Translated this means, we will find a good administrator to run the day to day operations but we (the board) will make all the key decisions. During my 10 year tenure as President of SHRM, the board guided the society through key policy decisions, and the President/CEO was in charge of making it happen with all other authority delegated by the Board. It appears that the Board in their infinite wisdom (an oxymoron?) has put itself in charge of everything and is moving the society in the wrong direction. There are many reasons why an HR pro is needed to be CEO of SHRM and the list is longer than there is time to enumerate in this commentary. Suffice it to say that HR is not a "learned science" and unless you have been in the trenches, there is no way you can meet the expectations of the job and the membership. One final point. A cursory review of the boards and key officers of the AMA, ABA, the engineering and accounting societies reveal that all officers and board members are not only certified in their fields, but no members of the boards come from outside the profession. I wonder why then, SHRM believes that half the board, including the Chair, do not have to certified, or even come from the HR profession. Maybe someone should ask them why they believe the other 4 recognized professions (medical, legal,engineering and accounting) are wrong and they are right? If you find out please let me know.

Susan Warner, J.D., SPHR

Perhaps the saddest implication of not being able to find a President/CEO out of the 250,000 HR professionals in SHRM is that it flies in the face of eveerything SHRM has been preaching to ous about having a seat at the table.

Simply put, if the world's largest Human Resource organization, does not believe there is an HR professional among us fit to lead SHRM it, why, then, should any other organization believe that an HR professional can be a CEO?

SHRM needs to walk its talk and demonstrate repeatedly - as it has with its past CEO's with human resource backgrounds - to the world that HR Professionals can and do make great CEO's.

From what I know of Hank and evrything I've heard, he's a really nice person and well-liked. HR Professionals know those are good qualities but they don't a "CEO" of the largest hman resource organization in the world make! Why don't the members of the SHRM Board know this?


Yes, I have written Kris privately congratulating him on the article.

Every HR professional I know is sick over this. As a former SHRM President @ CEO I just think of all the demands that were placed on me... demands I could not meet if I did not have the knowledge and experience, I had.

I know Hank and people like him. Keep him as a great Chief Financial Officer and allow him to supplement a new CEO that is from our profession. What a great team that would make.

And don't worry about the SPHR or PHR anytime soon. He does not even qualify to take the test. He lacks the required experience.

And please never send him to the "HILL" to testify to Congress. I have testified many times and believe me, you cannot just READ a position paper. It is real time and I have had to not just answer questions but CORRECT many of our elected officials, such as the late Senator Kennedy, Senator Dodd, Senior Metzenbaum, Secretary of Labor Reich, the White House, to name a few.

As I have said many times, "You cannot do HR with an empty head." Human resource management is a profession, and you must know the body of knowledge.

Martha Finney

Hi Kris: what bothers me about Jackson is that he appears to be a far Leftist. I wasn't at the conference but I heard that he sang the praises of social justice (just a pretty way of talking about Marxism) and showed a picture of Valerie Jarrett, calling her a personal friend. How many people in the audience know that she's a radical Leftist? Additionally the SHRM online site quotes him as saying that SHRM's role is to promote employee friendly policies. Really? That's SHRM's role?

SHRM is in the wrong hands on many levels.

Jac Fitz-enz

I don't know Mr. Jackson and I accept that he is an adequate bean counter, but making an accountant the head of a human resources professional association is like making a malpractice lawyer head of the American Medical Association.

What were they thinking??????

Martha Finney

Jac: an even better analogy here would be if the ABA hired a mid-level HR generalist to be its head.

Martha Finney

Ooops. Sorry Jac. My mistake. I misread your post to mean ABA rather than AMA. You're absolutely right and hit the nail on the head.

Michael R. Losey, SPHR, CAE

SMFT has a website as most know. Can those of you who have contributed to this excellent HR Capitalist series, please send us a letter we can post on our website. This would be a very effective way to get your message to the SHRM Board, SHRM members and a growing list of other people. Merely send your comments to [email protected] and give us permission to post your comments. Also let us know if you wish us to use your actual name, or list you anonymously with just your years SHRM years of SHRM membership, if you are a member. If you are not a SHRM member, we welcome your comments also.

Art Hershey

Isn't it wonderful to find refreshingly open commentary about the SHRM selection of a new CEO. I would hate to think that after sixty years of fighting for recognition, the best we can evolve to is demeaning our professional excellence to the level of mediocrity. I was on the SHRM (nee ASPA) Board in the l960's and chaired the l970 national conference. Those early leaders would have a severe case of apoplexy to see this deterioration by the top SHRM echelon. Unfortunatiely, senility has set in at an early age for the current board members.

Dr. Howard M. Pardue

The appointment of Hank Jackson as the new CEO of SHRM is in my 30 year career a serious blow to the current and future welfare of the society. SHRM has clearly lost its way. Mr Jackson simply does not possess the appropriate experience and HR credentials to lead such a massive organization.

Mr Jackson, while perceived as an honorable person, should TAKE ONE FOR THE TEAM in athletic lingo, return to his CFO position and step aside as the CEO. Thats the honorable thing to do in a time when SHRM is with out reservation completely dysfunctional and HAS L0ST ITS WAY WITH NO INDICATION OF DIRECTION AND A CLEARLY ARTICULATED VISION Mr Jackson, take one for the TEAM. RESPECTFULLY..

Wanda Lee

I think of all the mentoring I have done with HR professionals, encouraging them to be strategic partners, members of the leadership team. Hank's selection nullifies this potential

SHRM is a volunteer driven non-profit professional society, but the current leadership is managing as though it were a marketing driven for profit organization. They are totally disrespectful to the HR profession. This is demoralizing for our membership. I predict significant member turnover.

Jim Granfor, SPHR

I thought I had this posted yesterday but somehow that didn't happen. The essence of my comments go as follows:

We, all 250,000 plus SHRM members are to blame for the current things happening today. We allowed a process to begin at some point where the board chooses its own board. The current board is marginal at best so why would any of us expect non-HR board members to select an HR professional to run the organization?

Our goal should be to push for process change starting with the board and its selection process and work our way through to staff positions.

If the process for selecting board members remains the same we will be singing this tune again down the road.

Jackson may be the finest financial whiz in the world but he isn't HR.... Jim

Arte Nathan

Maybe it's inevitable that associations like shrm get too big, and that their leaders lose sight of why they're there and what they're supposed to be doing. Forgive me if I'm mistaken: isn't serving the HR Profession and HR professionals what SHRM is supposed to be doing. If so, I think an HR professional should be the one to lead SHRM.

I've known and watched all the leaders (paid and volunteer)of SHRM for the past 20 years and to me this latest group doesn't seem to have the direct professional experience to be able to personally lead the discussions about the profession. Hank Jackson seems like a good and decent and competent fellow - so was Jerry Hay. I think anyone would want both in the C-Suite of our organization. But not to be the voice of who and what we are. And not to be the voice of why we are.

Again, SHRM's size may be catching up with it and causing it to lose touch with the realities of its mission. But like a late night driver about to nod off, there's no better time than Right Now to pull over and wake up.

Susan Avello

Wow, it sounds just like the elite that run things behing their front man in the Whitehouse.

Fran Sincere,SPHR, MSIR

Over the last 10 years, the SHRM Board has a CEO selection batting average of .250 which is mediocre at best; Susan Meisinger SPHR was the only competent CEO since Mike Losey, SPHR. To me this is results oriented evidence that the leadership of our Society, i.e. the Board, did not meet the normative goals in our profession for selection process success. I think this is due to its lack of demonstrated knowledge and experience in the HR profession which is further shown by its disregard for HR certification at the leadership level. Shooting craps has a better win average with .500 than the Board's .250 success rate. Let’s hope that selection of the new CEO Hank Jackson will be as good as a crap shoot.

Harry Joiner

$100K. LOL.


As an international delegate who attended the SHRM conference and was there for the announcement, I am very surprised to read all of this negativity. I saw people stand and clap, which lead me to believe that this was a good thing - were the 14000 or so attendees just hypocrits? I am an HR professional and to be honest, I do not know (or care) about the politics behind it... however, I do think that we should give people a chance. Yes, our knowledge and experience is imperative to what we do, but I have met many people who have come into the HR profession with transferable skills and been very successful. Good luck to Hank! I hope he can ignore the elitist obstacles that we the HR professional are putting in his path. I also hope that as HR professionals we can accept what has already happened and support him, in what will obviously be a very challenging role and transition.


Talking about social justice does not make one a far leftist. Jeez, Louise.

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