SHRM Members for Transparency: What Do They Want the Board to Do?

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

If there’s one question that seems to get asked a lot about the group SHRM Members for Transparency it’s this: just what is it that they want the SHRM Board of Directors to do, anyway?

Now, there is a quick and relatively concise answer to that.

A personal letter was sent recently to SHRM State Council leaders across the country by the corresponding regional representative of the SHRM Members for Transparency group (they refer to themselves in shorthand as SMFT). I have attached a copy of the letter at the bottom of this post (this version is from Kathy McKee, 1991 Chair of the SHRM Board of Directors, to the Pacific West SHRM State Council Leaders).

An appeal to SHRM’s state and regional chapters

Although you can read the letter in its entirety below, what is striking is how the Transparency group has sharpened its focus since going public by appealing directly to the SHRM’s state and regional chapters for help in pressuring the SHRM Board of Directors to meet directly with SMFT and address their concerns.

There has been some attempt by current SHRM officials to demean our efforts by suggesting our members are “disgruntled” or “wish to remain anonymous” and are a “small” group. The only true statement is that we are small, intentionally. However, our less than 40 HR professionals and voluntary SHRM leaders, have greater than 1,200 years of combined SHRM Membership…

SHRM current officials would also want you to believe members of our group fail to recognize that a changing environment and profession require the type of changes that the SHRM Board has implemented. In effect, they offer as a defense of their actions that our group is out of date.

As you have surely noticed, yes, 17 of our members are past chairs of the SHRM Board of Directors, but, like me, that does not make us inactive in our profession. Other members of our group were on the SHRM Board or the Boards of HRCI and the SHRM Foundation or served in other important positions.

We make this statement because some states are already discussing our issues, and we have had some individuals repeat these SHRM statements about the quality of our participants and their failure to accept change.”

Here’s what the Transparency group wants

So, what is it exactly that SHRM Members for Transparency want the SHRM Board of directors to do? The letter to the various SHRM State Council leaders details the seven specific points:

We not only recognize change but insist on change. For instance, we recommend changing or eliminating, among other things:

1. The self-advanced and Board approved, little known, compensation plan, which allows the Chair and Past Chair of the Society to receive a $35,000 salary and with other board members receiving as much as $25,000 or $20,000. As a Regional, State or Chapter leader, are you paid?

2. We cannot agree with the self-advanced and Board approved travel benefit for all SHRM Board members allowing them to fly “Business Class” without restriction in terms of the nature and duration of the flight. How many of our members do you think have this benefit provided to them by their employers?

3. For the first time since the establishment of HRCI, thirty five years ago, SHRM’s Chair of the Board, Jose Berrios, is not HRCI certified. This is an unexplained and we believe an unjustified exception.

4. Another questionable practice the Board recently established is automatic dues increases every two years, somehow linked to the Consumer Price Index.

5. Attempting to recruit a new SHRM President & CEO without requiring meaningful education and experience in human resource management, and preferably HRCI certification, is by our standards, a mistake.

6. Opening an office in China and multiple offices in India needs to be balance against the cost and number of members gained. For instance, at the current time, after several years of investment and effort, SHRM has only 124 members in China. Of course, this is far fewer members than exist in most SHRM chapters.

7. The 2010 SHRM Board elections raised two issues. The first is the Board did not follow the SHRM bylaw requirement to elect Board members to staggered terms. Nor did the election follow the bylaw requirement to provide sufficient opportunity for members to “write in” candidates to compete against the Board self-nominated candidates.

These and other issues concern us greatly. After repeated unsuccessful requests to discuss these issues with the Board, we are left with no other alternative than to take our admittedly extraordinary and unprecedented actions to share these issues directly with the SHRM membership.”

Prominent SHRM members making the pitch

Although the letter attached here is from Kathy McKee to the Pacific West SHRM State Council leaders (the region she represents for the Transparency group), the same letter was also sent by these other prominent SHRM members as well:

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  • David Hutchins, SPHR and Chair of the SHRM Board of Directors in 2003-2004 (he is the SMFT representative for the North Central region);
  • Kathleen McComber, SPHR and Chair of the SHRM Board of Directors in 1998 (she is the SMFT representative for the Southwest Central region);
  • Susan Warner, Esq., SPHR and Founder and advisory board, Southeastern PA chapter (she is the SMFT representative for the Northeast region);
  • Ronald Pilenzo, Ph.D, SPHR and SHRM President from 1980-1990 (he is the SMFT representative for the Southeast region)

TLNT has again asked the SHRM Board of Directors, through the SHRM media affairs staff, if the SHRM Board has any comment on these requests or plans to address them in any way. Once again, TLNT has been told that the request for comment has been passed on, but there has been no official response just yet. In the past, the SHRM Board has opted not to respond to any TLNT requests for comment about SHRM Members for Transparency or about Board actions concerning any of the issues in question.

The strategy here is pretty easy to follow: SHRM Members for Transparency is reaching out to SHRM leaders at the state and regional level in an attempt to get them to better understand what the Transparency group is pushing for, and perhaps, convince them to help lobby the SHRM Board of Directors to come to the table and discuss these issues with the SMFT leadership.

It’s a smart strategy, but given how intransigent the SHRM Board has been so far, it remains to be seen if it will actually get them to finally open up and engage in a constructive dialogue.

John Hollon is managing editor of Fuel50, an AI Opportunity Marketplace solution that delivers internal talent mobility and workforce reskilling. He's also the former founding editor of TLNT and a frequent contributor to ERE and the Fistful of Talent blog.