Years ago, I quit working in human resources. My main goal? I wanted to reform the image of HR. I started a blog, and I went out in the world as a speaker and writer. I tried to create a brand.
(In retrospect, what an arrogant and mediocre conceit to think that I could be the new “face” of human resources. That was my first mistake.)
I knew that I couldn’t reform human resources without reforming the body that represents over 250,000 global HR employees. That body is SHRM. So before anyone was paying attention to the social web, I grabbed the social media properties and gave them to SHRM’s leadership team — free of charge.
(That was my second mistake.)
Then I spent years working with SHRM on conference strategies, blog strategies and digital media strategies. I introduced them to cool people who might not otherwise pay attention to a stodgy human resources association. I evangelized conferences, I encouraged people to speak at events, I repeatedly donated to an educational foundation, and I spoke to students to help them understand the evolving world of HR and technology.
(Obviously, you see a pattern here.)
But my work was small, mediocre, and insignificant. And it didn’t really make an impact because SHRM is a business. They have a board — with a vision and an agenda — who govern the organization. And their vision is expansion and increased profitability.
My work doesn’t even measure for a moment.
And even if my work was meaningful, it’s not like the future of human resources (or SHRM) is all that bright. There are more HR practitioners who are retiring and/or declining to renew their membership than signing up. The existing membership is old and female, two demographics that lack authority and power in most organizations. And since associations generally exist to collect names and sell those names to advertisers, SHRM is only as good as its list.
And the list isn’t very good, right now. Advertisers can find real buyers using faster and cheaper methods.
So for all the talk about elevating the HR profession and focusing on strategy and technology, SHRM is now doing what any business would do when the sun is setting on a particular business model: they are selling out of both sides of their mouth.
While they would like to have executive members who understand the future of work and have really important jobs, they will make do with glorified administrative assistants.
SHRM still needs to make the donuts. And making the donuts looks a lot like selling compliance toolkits.
(At least they are advertising on LinkedIn and using remarketing technologies to follow me across the web. There’s my legacy. Right there.)
What fixes human resources (and SHRM) is what kills it: great technology, a strong and empowered workforce, and a competent COO who works collaboratively with other divisions of her organization to get stuff done.
When you get a business that hums, you don’t really need a human resources team. And you certainly don’t need a spokeswoman who is constantly dogging the world’s largest and crummiest HR association.
So I am putting in my two weeks notice. Someone else can try to be America’s Next Top HR Lady. I am out!