Global HR, HR Insights

A View of SHRM and HR Associations From the Great White North

Photo by Dreamstime

Sometimes I feel torn in my loyalties in the world of HR.

For those of you who don’t know I don’t live in California (why is it that people always think that?). Instead, I hail from the Great White North in the great city of Toronto in the even greater country of Canada. Yes, I am Canadian and proud to be so.

Having said that, here’s where I have an issue with loyalties — it’s in my HR world.

Feeling a kinship with SHRM

A lot of my online and offline friends are members of SHRM. Although I’m not a member of SHRM, I feel a certain kinship with the organization; heck, I’m making the trek this year to Vegas for my first time attending SHRM’s national conference (where we may be/or may not be producing North America’s first RIDE event).

I like SHRM as an organization because it seems to really work hard to build a community of like-minded HR practitioners across it’s membership. It also does a lot of work lobbying on behalf of the HR community in Washington and it certainly supports the various state and national conferences where we all get together.

Does SHRM have it’s issues? Sure; it’s often cited as being too close-minded and not working hard enough to get into the main stream issues (like social media) that are affecting the HR community at large. It’s also had some recent issues with it’s Board and it’s apparent or perceived lack of transparency. I’m not going to get into all those issues because frankly, I’m not well versed enough in the details to make a statement one way or another.

Here in Canada we have the HRPA (the Human Resources Professionals Association). The HRPA is supposed to be our governing body/council for HR professionals. Again I’m not a member of HRPA but I do follow them regularly and quite honestly, I don’t really know what they do for me as an HR professional.

They do hold and annual conference as well in Toronto and it’s usually quite well attended by the various HR vendors and some HR trench attendance. Very similarly to SHRM, much of the attendance seems to be HR consultants and people selling HR products so that has a tendency to be a “oops” on behalf of both organizations, but maybe that’s our bad for not being able to attend these conferences as HR professionals.

Where the HRPA falls down

Both organizations seem slow to offer concrete learning around the fringes of HR including the area of social media, although in fairness, SHRM seems slightly ahead in that regard because they are making real strides to introduce a social media presence in all the events and integrating it into their organization.

Here’s where HRPA falls down in my view: They seem to spend very little time lobbying for changes in legislation within Canada.

They collect a large fee from HR professionals who are members every year, and yet I cannot point to a single instance where they have successfully represented the HR community in Canada from a legislative or movement standpoint. In fact, they seem to run screaming away from any sort of controversy for fear of losing some of the member base.

The only time that they consistently get involved in legislation have been their frequent attempts to make it mandatory for all HR professionals across Canada to be members of the association for the purposes of practicing the profession.

To that I say – WTF HRPA. I mean seriously; your attempts to make our HR profession into a college of sorts is laughable. I know that HR practitioners do great and meaningful work, but we are not lawyers, we are not doctors, we are not nurses. We don’t hold people’s lives in our hands on a regular basis.

Why does HR need to be regulated?

But let’s say we did. Let’s say for just an instance that the HR profession needs to be regulated in some way, shape, or form. Here’s the other issue that I have with HRPA:  they seem to want all the benefits of a college or union status without the responsibilities. Is there a legal fund for HR practitioners who are sued? Is there a defense team in place when an HR professional takes the bullet for their employers? Is there any sort of support from a legal/ethical standpoint for HR professionals?

From what I have seen, the answer is a resounding NO. And if there is (and upon further research SHRM does have a fund) well then, I don’t believe that most HR professionals know about it, and that’s a failure in communication.

So back to my original point; which do I feel a kinship with — SHRM or HRPA? Honestly right now, although I love my HR peeps I can’t say either, although clearly through association I lean towards SHRM.

Neither organization has been able to develop a compelling reason in my mind why I should join and spend a considerable amount of money on a yearly basis to support them. It doesn’t mean that I’m not open to being convinced, but it just hasn’t happened yet. Maybe SHRM National will change that, because that would be radical.

This was originally published in Canada on the Radical Recruit blog.

Geoff Webb is CEO of Toronto-based Radical Events Radical Events. He has over 10 years of experience with recruitment and resource management with some of the top consulting companies in Canada and the United States -- "Geoff is Canada's Most Connected Recruiter." Contact him at gwebb@radicalevents.ca .
  • Tppa Inc

    It should be clarified that HRPA is an Ontario association and not Canada wide.
    If you would like to read about the controversy on Bill 138, Toronto Chapter and HRPA go to https://www.hrtppa.com/hrtppa_news – there are many concerns on the manner in which HRPA is conducting themselves.
    A petition on Bill 138 has also been started with over 1,100 signatures – do to http://www.gopetition.com/petition/41862.html to read the petition.