SHRM Gears Up by Naming Former Board Chair to Replace China Gorman

SHRM is gearing up for the big June conference in San Diego later this month by naming former SHRM Board Chairperson Janet Parker to replace China Gorman as Chief Global Membership Officer.

“Parker is the former Chair of the SHRM Board of Directors and Executive Vice President for Human Resources at Regions Financial Corp. in Birmingham, Alabama,” SHRM said in a press release. “Parker, who replaces China Miner Gorman, will oversee SHRM’s U.S. and international membership programs beginning in mid-July. She also will be a member of SHRM’s global management team and will represent the interests of SHRM’s 250,000 members.”

One would think that hiring a former board chairperson as a SHRM executive would be a slam dunk, but honestly, you can’t really judge how a person might work as a SHRM executive from what they did during their stint as Board chair. That’s because the Board chair’s role is, in large part, to put on a good public face for the organization, always. I’ve never heard anything come out of a SHRM board chair yet (at least publicly) that wasn’t over-the-top positive with a cheery spin.

That doesn’t mean Parker won’t be a strong and effective SHRM executive, just that it is virtually impossible to forecast what she will be like and how she may operate in the future from whatever she did during her stint as Board chair.

A tough act to follow

One thing is for certain: Parker has a tough act to follow.

There was a fair amount of angst when it was announced last month that China Gorman was leaving SHRM. She was called “a visible, energetic agent of change for SHRM, an actor on the stage that SHRM really hadn’t had before,” by Kris Dunn in his HR Capitalist blog , and I think Kris was right on the money about that.

“Especially in the digital HR world, China is loved for her leadership and level of engagement in the world of social media. That makes following China a tough act to follow in many aspects,” Dunn says. “Fortunately, I live in Birmingham and I’m familiar with Janet as a leader in the Birmingham HR community and know her to be a very sharp, strategic HR exec who gets what’s going on and what needs to change.”

“Here’s my advice to anyone who thinks Janet is a bureaucrat in the traditional SHRM model. Don’t underestimate her. I know her and I think it’s a great hire. The highest compliment I can give you on Janet? I’d work for her.”

Parker served on the SHRM Board of Directors for a decade, from 2000 – 2009, and was Board chair from 2007 – 2008. During her 20 years as a SHRM member, she has held numerous local, regional and national volunteer leadership positions, including Chapter President for the Birmingham Society for Human Resource Management, State Council Director for Alabama, and SHRM Foundation Campaign Chair.

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In her position at Regions Financial Corp., one of the nation’s largest full-service consumer and commercial banks, she has had responsibility for providing strategic HR direction to the consumer services, business services and trust divisions.

Why this job matters

Yes, it’s easy to say that Janet Parker won’t be another China Gorman, and that’s certainly true. The big question is, what will she bring to the party that is different from what China did? Although I don’t see Parker jumping into social media the way Gorman did, that’s not necessarily a bad thing if she brings other talents and skills to the table.

It also brings up another question: who really cares who fills this position at SHRM? Isn’t this just inside baseball coverage about just another SHRM executive?

Yes, that might be the case, but it’s only due to the high profile that China Gorman brought to her position – and her interaction with the rank-and-file SHRM membership – that makes this particular job more noteworthy.

If there was no China Gorman to follow, most people probably wouldn’t care that it was Janet Parker or anyone else taking over this role. The fact that so many HR professionals were sad to see Gorman go simply shows that it is possible for a SHRM executive to really, truly make a difference with the membership — as China Gorman most certainly did.

And that, dear friends, is why this position is important — and why Janet Parker has such a tough act to follow.

John Hollon is Editor-at-Large at ERE Media and was the founding Editor of TLNT.com. 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 workforce.com, 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 johnhollon@ere.net, connect with him on LinkedIn, or follow him on Twitter @johnhollon.

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