HR News & Trends

SHRM Board Elections: This Week, the Battle Comes Down to the Wire

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Next week — noon EDT on Sunday September 9, to be exact — wraps up one of the most contentious and talked about elections for the SHRM Board of Directors, ever.

Normally, SHRM Board elections are quiet affairs with little to no discussion of the candidates, zero controversy, and an election turnout that never exceeds 5 percent of the overall SHRM membership. Few members actually vote, and fewer still actually seem to care much about who gets elected to the Board.

That’s not the case this year.

Not your typical SHRM Board election

Because of a combination of factors that include the SHRM Board’s decision to take controversial actions that they don’t feel the need to explain or publicly justify (like voting for an annual salary and first-class domestic air travel for Board members), and, a challenge from an outside group of respected SHRM members and former leaders who don’t like what the Board has been doing, the normally sleepy Board elections have turned into a series of charges, counter-charges, and recriminations between SHRM and the group SHRM Members for Transparency (SMFT) that is fielding an alternative slate of Board candidates.

With six (6) Director At Large positions at stake in this election, the opportunity for an outside group to field a slate of candidates and take control of the Board certainly exists — but doing so isn’t easy.

SHRM’s six official candidates for the 2013 SHRM Board of Directors include:

  • David Windley, Chief Human Resource Officer for Yahoo;
  • Jorge Consuegra, a business and marketing professional who is currently a Partner at The Fearless Group;
  • My-Chau Nguyen, CPA, Senior Vice President, Direct Sales & Marketing, Sirius XM Radio;
  • Coretha M. Rushing, GPHR, Chief Human Resources Officer, Equifax, Inc;
  • Brian D. Silva, SPHR, GPHR, Senior Vice President of HR and Administration for Fresenius Medical Care; and,
  • Jose Tomas, SPHR, President, Latin America and Caribbean, and Global Chief People Officer, Burger King Corporation.

The alternative slate of 2013 SHRM Board candidates being fielded by the SHRM Members for Transparency group include:

  • Susan Warner, Esq., SPHR, President of Human Resource Trouble Shooters.
  • Michael R. Losey, SPHR, CAE, retired President & CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM);
  • Jacqueline (Jackie) Gordon, SPHR, Senior Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer for the YMCA of the USA;
  • Marilyn R. Hoppen, SPHR, Senior Vice President and the Director of Human Resources for Kitsap Bank headquartered in Port Orchard, WA;
  • Jack W. Milligan, SPHR, GPHR, President & COO of Leathers, Milligan & Associates, an HR consulting firm; and,
  • Kathryn (Kate) Herbst, SPHR, is the former Manager of Organization Strategy and Development at Altria Client Services, an affiliate of Altria Group, and a former Chair of the Human Resources Certification Institute (HRCI).

The write-in candidate challenge

The big challenge for the alternative slate of candidates being fielded by the Transparency group is the general lack of interest in the SHRM Board election process by an overwhelming majority of SHRM’s approximately 260,000 members given that less than 5 percent of the membership actually make the effort to vote. Plus, SHRM controls the election process, and as you might expect, fielding a slate of alternative write-in candidates isn’t easy or simple.

One cannot simply write-in a name on the SHRM Board ballot and expect it to do anything (the SHRM bylaws spell out Board election procedures). To make any write-in campaign effective, a specific write-in candidate must have their name written instead of a specific (and SHRM-nominated) Board candidate.

For example, SHRM Members for Transparency is recommending that Susan Warner be written-in for Director at Large Position #1 against David Windley. If Warner is written-in as an alternative to any other official Board candidate, the vote will count but will be diluted since the only way to effectively make a write-in for the SHRM Board work is to target a single and specific write-in candidate against a single and specific SHRM-nominated Board candidate.

So, alternative candidate Warner is being pushed by the Transparency group instead of Windley. Michael Losey, in turn, is the SMFT candidate instead of Director at Large Position #2 candidate Jorge Consuegra, Jackie Gordon instead of Position #3 candidate My-Chau Nguyen, Marilyn Hoppen instead of Coretha Rushing, and so forth.

A big coordination effort

That’s quite a coordination effort, and it represents a huge challenge for any group wanting to have an impact on the SHRM Board elections, but with so few SHRM members (less than 5 percent of 260,000) opting to vote in the annual elections, a concerted and focused effort by an outside group might have an impact.

This year’s Board elections have also been marked by problems with members getting their SHRM Board ballots and communications — many members, including me, haven’t gotten the regular emails about the election (although my paper ballot via U.S. Mail did arrive late last week) — as well as squabbling, charges and counter-charges, and less than gentlemanly behavior. (This blog post by the maine hr cafe provides an independent view of a lot of the election back-and-forth that has been going on.)

So it goes with elections, and why should a campaign for the SHRM Board be any different than a campaign for president of the United States?

It remains to be seen if the Transparency group’s big push with their alternative candidate slate will have an impact on the 2013 SHRM Board elections — and, what will happen next if they do, or don’t, have some success. We’ll probably have some sense at some point after voting officially ends September 9.

Stay tuned.

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.
  • RMSmithJr.SPHR

    Thanks for the shout to my Maine HR Cafe blog and reporting on the SHRM BoD election.