SHRM CEO, Transparency Group Battle For Hearts and Minds of State Leaders

From the HR blog at TLNT.
From the HR blog at TLNT.

Here’s a question I would love the SHRM Board of Directors to answer: why does the Board seem to go out of its way to avoid standing up and publicly defending its actions that have come under such scrutiny (and criticism) from the group SHRM Members for Transparency, and others?

Reasonable people can disagree on things, of course, and so it is with actions the SHRM Board has taken to increase its own compensation, enhance perks for Board members, and break with a number of longstanding policies of previous SHRM Boards.

One would think that the SHRM Board of Directors would want to be crystal clear about what they are doing, and why. One would also think that the Board would react to the dissent within the SHRM ranks about recent Board actions by going overboard and working overtime to stand up and explain the reasoning, the thought process, and the nature of the debate that led to the decisions in question.

A lapse in posting board minutes?

Yes, one would think that a not-for-profit organization with 250,000 members and a tax exempt status would feel a greater obligation to go the extra mile to be open and excessively transparent about what they are doing, but that doesn’t seem to be what the SHRM Board is about these days.

Although there are some comments in defense of the Board’s actions this week from interim SHRM CEO Henry Jackson in a story in Human Resource Executive titled Strife at SHRM, nowhere in the story is there any in-depth discussion of just what the SHRM Board was talking about and thinking about as it debated these contentious issues. No current SHRM Board members — including current Chair Jose Berrios or past Chairman Robb Van Cleave — are quoted. And, the issue of Board transparency now seems to have been reduced to simply keeping up with the bare minimum expectation of posting summaries of the Board meetings on the SHRM website.

“There was a lapse in posting the minutes when we were undergoing a strategic review,” Jackson told Human Resource Executive, “and in hindsight, that shouldn’t have happened.”

That’s true enough, but the regular and timely posting of of Board meeting summaries was one of the more minor concerns raised by critics.

Letter details a back and forth struggle

In fact, the gulf between what the SHRM Board says it has done to be open and transparent, and what it has actually done in that regard, seems to be growing larger. And if you need proof of that, just read the latest in the back and forth struggle between SHRM and the SHRM Members for Transparency group for the hearts and minds of SHRM’s state leaders.

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Attached is a copy of a letter from SHRM interim CEO Henry Jackson sent Feb 17 to SHRM State Council leaders concerning a letter the Transparency group sent to those same State Council leaders that detailed what SHRM Members for Transparency wanted the SHRM Board of Directors to do.

In this letter from Jackson is a response from the Transparency group to every point that he makes. It is an interesting contrast, and it probably does as good a job as any in making clear just what the fundamental differences are between the Transparency group and the SHRM Board – and how far away both sides are from bridging that gap. It also offers far more insight and detail on what the SHRM Board is doing (or not doing, as the case may be) than you’ll find in the Human Resource Executive article.

Take a close look for yourself and see what you think.

TLNT is reaching out again and asking for comment by the SHRM Board or interim CEO Jackson on the Transparency Group comments in the letter below. The Board has opted not to respond to past requests for comment, or to answer specific questions, so stay tuned.

John Hollon is Editor-at-Large at ERE Media and was the founding Editor of A longtime newspaper, magazine, and business journal editor, John has deep roots in the talent management space. He's the former Editor of Workforce Management magazine and, served as Editor of RecruitingDaily, and was Vice President for Content at HR technology firm Checkster. An award-winning journalist, John has written extensively about HR, talent management, leadership, and smart business practices, including for the popular Fistful of Talent blog. Contact him at, connect with him on LinkedIn, or follow him on Twitter @johnhollon.