CEO Defends SHRM Against #FixItSHRM Criticism

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Mar 21, 2019

SHRM CEO Johnny C. Taylor Jr. took an aggressive posture at a conference Tuesday, defending the organization’s participation in White House initiatives and associations with individuals some members find objectionable.

According to a report on HRDive, Taylor declared he has “no concerns” about working with the White House or with companies owned by the right-wing Koch brothers or hosting Ivanka Trump at this week’s Employment Law and Legislative Conference. “We’ll always make someone unhappy and that’s not our goal,” he said, “but it’s reality,” HRDive quoted him as saying.

Taylor’s appeared at a press briefing during the conference in Washington, to detail four efforts SHRM is making this year:

  1. Combating age discrimination — He called age discrimination against older workers “almost blatant now.”
  2. Helping employers address sex harassment
  3. Workforce development — HRDive said Taylor focused on helping employers address the student loan crisis and improve the alignment of education with employment.
  4. Aiding the hiring of those with criminal histories

The latter effort was one that most recently provoked criticism from individuals tweeting on the hashtag #FixItSHRM. In February, SHRM announced it was working with Koch Industries on an initiative to encourage American businesses to hire individuals with a criminal background. Quickly, SHRM members began tweeting their unhappiness with the Koch association.  Typical of the sentiment was this one, “While I applaud the goal and support the importance of this initiative,  getting in bed with the Koch brothers has solidified my decision to not renew my membership in February There are other ways to get this done.”

The #FixItSHRM hashtag was created by Victorio Milian last summer to protest a photo op in which a grinning Taylor shakes hands with President Trump. The occasion was a ceremonial signing of a Pledge to American Workers promising to train workers. It was attended by business leaders and others. At the time, Milian used the #FixItSHRM hastag to tweet his opposition to “align(ing) himself with this administration.” Over the next few days, several others expressed their displeasure, often in even stronger terms.

Later, explaining his motives for creating the hashtag, Millian tweeted, “ is to call attention to SHRM leadership, as most clearly represented by appointment to two White House councils, and their complicity in associating with an administration that’s the antithesis of the profession’s code of ethical conduct.”

He also tweeted, “It’s also becoming apparent that the movement needs to grow beyond the hashtag. I will be reaching out to people about the evolution of this effort, and how it can be used to make the profession better.” Where that stands is unknown.

Until now, Taylor and the SHRM organization haven’t directly addressed the criticism. At the press conference, according to the HRDive account, Taylor insisted, “I’m not on a side.”We’re on the side of policy.”

Remarkably for an organization with a budget of around $130 million and a full-time press office, “Taylor said he doesn’t know the details of the #fixitshrm contingent’s position,” according to HRDive. The report goes on to quote Taylor as saying, “‘if it’s as simple as [disliking initiatives] because of who’s associated with it … we’re not going to deprive employers of the talent they need so badly simply because you don’t like’ who’s in the White House or running a company. ‘SHRM can’t align with that,’ he said; “we won’t.'”

The report brought an even greater barrage of criticism on Twitter.

“Taylor said he doesn’t know the details of the contingent’s position”. Well, maybe if would take the time to have a discussion or town hall over our concerns as we have requested, he might know the details!! Instead he & the Board ignore us,” tweeted one person. Said another, “Congratulations on not listening to your members/audience . You’re showing great leadership skills to the # community.”

Added another, “This is so typical of many organizations, in my experience. The top leaders make a whole bunch of assumptions invalidating concerns they haven’t even listened to. Listening is key to engagement.”