HR News & Trends

Transparency Group Says They Will Run 6 Candidates for the SHRM Board

From the HR blog at TLNT.

You might say that they’re “mad as hell and they aren’t going to take it anymore.”

SHRM Members for Transparency, the group of respected former SHRM Board members, executives, and current SHRM members who have challenged the incumbent SHRM Board for a lack of transparency and refusal to stand up and publicly explain what it is doing, has given up on trying to get the Board to sit down and talk.

So, they’re taking a different approach and are going to run a slate of candidates for seats on the SHRM Board.

Changing the Society by changing the Board

At a press conference Sunday in Atlanta before the start of the 64th SHRM Annual Conference and Exhibition, the Transparency group announced that they will push six (6) candidates for seats on the SHRM Board of Directors in an attempt to change the Board’s actions from the inside.

“A SHRM member told me, ‘If you want to change the Society, the way you should do it is to change the Board,’ ” said Mike Losey, a former SHRM CEO and a current member of the Transparency Group’s steering committee. “We’re not going back to beg them anymore.”

It’s a tough task for anyone to try to make an independent run for the SHRM Board given that without help from the nominating committee (an unlikely prospect), any outsiders would have to make the bid as “write-in” candidates. And, given that fewer than 5 percent of SHRM’s 260,000 person membership actually vote in the Board election, it’s a daunting prospect to convince them to write anyone in, and in large enough numbers, to have a legitimate chance of success.

First four Transparency Group candidates

Four of the Transparency group candidates for the SHRM Board were made public Sunday; two more will recruited and added to the slate later.

The four named Sunday are:

  • Kate Herbst, SPHR, former chair of the Human Resources Certification Institute (HRCI);
  • Marilyn Hoppen, SPHR, a 31-year SHRM member and current President of SHRM West Sound Human Resource Management Association;
  • Susan Warner, Esq. and SPHR, president of Human Resource Trouble Shooters; and;
  • Mike Losey, SPHR, CAE, the retired CEO of SHRM.

The decision to field a slate of candidates reflects the frustration the Transparency group has with the SHRM Board’s unwillingness to continue to meet with them to discuss the issues they are concerned about. After announcing last year before SHRM Las Vegas that they were willing to talk with the Transparency Group, the Board has only actually sat down to talk twice — in October and then again in March — and no more meetings are scheduled.

With no more meetings scheduled, and no real progress apparent, the Transparency group decided in May to push ahead with a survey of SMFT group members because, “it has become apparent — as many of you suggested it would — that continuing to meet (with the SHRM Board)  is unlikely to be a successful means to achieving our goals.”

A key survey result

The Transparency Group announced the results of the survey on Sunday (and TLNT will have more on the survey tomorrow), but the key question for SMFT, according to Losey, was the following:

To avoid any conflict of interest, Board Source and the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) recommend that, if a non-profit Board wishes to consider compensating itself, an independent committee should be formed to study the issue and make a recommendation to the non- profit Board. The SHRM Board has chosen not to follow these recommendations. Do you think it is important for the SHRM Board to avoid any conflict of interest by following Board Source and ASAE recommendations?

According to Losey, 98 percent of those who responded to the survey voted “Yes” to that question – that is, they think the SHRM Board should follow the generally accepted conflict of issues standards that most not-for-profit associations follow when it comes to pay and premium travel for Board members. Most boards do not accept either, although the SHRM Board does both, and that is one of the big bones of contention for the Transparency Group, who also feel that the Board voted for these items secretly and then refused to explain or justify their actions.

“It’s an inherent conflict for the Board to design and approve a compensation plan (for themselves),” Losey said. “This Board has a right to do anything they want — just tell us about it.”

With six SHRM Board members elected to just one-year terms last year, it’s clear that the Transparency Group can get their members on the Board if they can navigate the many hurdles ahead. But, those hurdles won’t be easy to get over — and the SHRM Board will surely have some sort of response that makes them more difficult than they already are.

Stay tuned for more.

John Hollon is Vice President for Editorial of TLNT.com, and the former Editor of Workforce Management magazine and workforce.com. An award-winning journalist, John has written extensively about HR, talent management, leadership, and smart business practices. Contact him at john@tlnt.com, and follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/johnhollon.
  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Losey/592057313 Michael Losey

    Thanks for the reporting of these important developments.

    • Svrettas

      Ditto, and thanks to you, Mike, for taking a stand. I’m completely riveted, watching this great example of democracy in action. More power to you and the other SHRM leaders fighting for transparency. I couldn’t feel better represented.

  • John Jorgensen

    When  you say most boards, what does that include?  National not-for-profits?  Trade organizations?  Local mom and pop charities?  I would like to know if apples are being compared to apples.

    This is an important issue and I would to see as many facts to help people decide.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Losey/592057313 Michael Losey

      John, as you know, SHRM is a society of HR professionals. As such, compensation and benefit planning is a critical part SHRM members’ responsibilities.

      Your inquiry is right on point, i.e.” I would like to know if apples are being compared to apples.”

      We agree that comparing one organization to another can only be done correctly if what is being compared is equivalent.

      Unfortunately, the consultant’s study relied on by the SHRM Board included a National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD) report, which reviewed director compensation practices among 1,200 for-profit companies in 22 industries. Given SHRM’s size and competition for board members, they argued that the use of this “commercial” for-profit data is relevant when assessing the reasonableness of the SHRM’s Board proposal to compensate themselves at levels as great as $35,000 annually. SMFT feels such a comparison is unsuitable and your concern about “apples to apples” reinforces our concerns.

      We are confident in our analysis and its conclusion that very few nonprofits compensate their boards.

      In addition, we believe it convenient that the SHRM Board and their consultants ignored the recommendations of Board Source and the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE), two widely acknowledged experts on best practices of association boards of directors. They jointly strongly recommend that if a not-for-profit organization – especially an individual member association – is going to consider board compensation, it should have any board compensation and benefit plans proposed, studied, and approved by an independent, non-board committee. Unfortunately, the SHRM Board has not followed this almost universally utilized recommendation.

      We highlighted this point, as follows, in our Position Paper on this subject:

      • On this point (compensation) we (SMFT) were provided the opinion of a highly qualified lawyer who specializes in association law. He was speaking informally and providing information, not legal advice; he is not our counsel. Based on his broad experience, he stated, in part, that “ … In decades of assisting what I’d guess are, altogether, over 1,000 nonprofit membership organizations in my career, I’ve never known any to pay compensation (beyond travel expenses) to non-executive-staff board members, other than in national medical specialty societies, where it is common.” He concludes, “That doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen elsewhere or that it is illegal (it clearly isn’t); but it is certainly uncommon. And it also obviously raises issues of conflicts of interest when it’s the governing board itself that votes on compensation for the governing board.”

      For your information, the Board members’ reasonable and customary travel expenses have been paid by SHRM for greater than twenty years.

      In summary, we share your concern and in SHRM’s case, we believe compensating SHRM Board members is not necessary to recruit and retain qualified board members.

      Sorry for the long answer. Now ask me about the SHRM Board Domestic Premium Class Travel Benefit if you want to be even more surprised and see even less justification.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/K7XHISZTLSSLKTMSX5GA5LX4EY IsaacD

    Thank you so much for reporting on this issue it is very important. A society such as SHRM should not compensate board members particularly when so many of its members are just getting by in terms of the salaries they are paid. It just does not seem appropriate to me.