SHRM, Kennedy, & Blowing Up Human Resources


When you believe in destroying the traditional model of Human Resources — much like I do — you run into major obstacles. The biggest obstacle in my life is also the biggest elephant in the room: it’s The Society for Human Resources Management.

SHRM is the most influential Human Resouces association in America. It’s staffed with wonderful, genuine people want to see Human Resources continue to grow. They want HR to be a credible & important function in an organization. Many of SHRM’s employees and volunteers are my friends. It’s also a very powerful organization with lots of cash.

Unfortunately, Human Resoures can’t grow and focus on important areas of opportunity — like identifying & retaining talent — without shedding some of the old functions that make up SHRM’s core membership.


My manifesto is simple. I want to shift and outsource 90% of the work away from Human Resources and focus on recruiting and retaining employees. That means two things:

  • Eliminating the roles of HR Generalists, Benefits Specialists, Comp Analysts, etc.,
  • and using technology to automate as many HR functions as possible.

Furthermore, I would demand that other functions (legal, finance, compliance) become accountable for managing core & critical issues within an organization.

Do you want a schlump like me to help you avoid employee litigation, or do you want to hire the best employment lawyers out there to train your managers and respond to employee-related issues?

Don’t pick the schlump. You’ll lose every time.


So here’s where I stand as a Human Resources professional with my SPHR:

  • I am through with supporting Human Resources departments that coordinate employee performance reviews.
  • I will never collect and distribute compensation data like it’s a Top Secret presidential daily briefing.
  • Don’t even think about asking me to monitor & approve merit increase budgets based on the pseudo-science of a bell-curve — combined with sketchy market data that may or may not be accurate.
  • I am done mediating disagreements between two adults who should know better.
  • I am through entering job descriptions and requisitions into an internet job board.

Dudes, I’m done with traditional HR — which means I’m done with SHRM, to some extent.


When you dump the concept of HR Generalists and faux specialists in the Comp & Benefits space, you get a function that looks something like this:

  • Research/Sourcing/Recruiting
  • Technology
  • Social Media/Communications/Marketing
  • Training/Development

HR should be selling the company’s mission, vision & values with every employee encounter. Give your leaders a budget and empower them to build your employment brand by making your company a great place to work. Hire Human Resources pros to acquire and develop your talent. I would then recommend that you find the best firms to provide strategic advice on employee benefits, compensation, risk management issues, compliance issues, etc.

Your HR Generalist can’t do any of this — and she certainly can’t recruit and fill your position when she is busy scheduling team building events. She always fails because she is a jack-of-all-trades but an expert at nothing.


Where am I going with all this? I had a very brief conversation about my HR Manifesto with an unnamed thinker/leader/guru at The Kennedy Expo. He listened to my rant against traditional HR organizations and strongly recommended that I volunteer on a SHRM advisory board in 2009 and change the system from within.

His message was clear. ‘Don’t rage against the machine. Make it better.’

I disagreed with this approach. The system is broken and I’m disinterested in fixing it. SHRM may have tons of cash, but the money won’t last forever if HR continues to prove itself irrelevant.

I look at SHRM the way that many people look at General Motors. Although fixing SHRM from the inside is probably the gentlest thing to do, I’m not sure that I want to fix it. I prefer to kick it hard & fast into the 21st century.


Where do I go from here, fellow punk rockers? How do I blow up the traditional HR space and help Corporate America (and SHRM) change their thinking about acquiring and retaining talent?

When I have the answers, you’ll be the first to know.

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