The world’s largest HR association kicked off its annual membership conference and exposition in New Orleans on June 18 with a focus on innovation.
“A new era in business, a new era in HR requires us to be ‘All In,’” said SHRM Board Chair Coretha Rushing from the main stage, highlighting the conference’s designated theme on engagement, innovation and inclusion.
Rushing stepped onstage following New Orleans jazz musician Irvin Mayfield, Jr., who opened the conference with a trumpet solo and his rules for recommendations for navigating the Crescent City. Remember to smile, avoid counting calories while in the city and above all, relax and have a drink, he said. The 2017 conference, SHRM’s annual gathering for its 300,000 members, brought an estimated 15,000 attendees at the Ernest J. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans for the three-day conference and exposition.
The conference also marked the final opportunity for outgoing SHRM President and CEO Hank Jackson to address the membership before he retires in November. Jackson took the stage on Sunday, June 18 to make the case for SHRM’s progress during his tenure.
“The biggest challenge is the tremendous pace of change barreling at us,” Jackson said. “Real winners don’t scramble to adapt to change, they get ahead of it and shape it. They lead it.”
“HR must be the force that shapes the new world of work,” Jackson told the assembled audience, launching into the case for his legacy as SHRM’s leader. That legacy included continued membership growth, the creation of the SHRM Competency Model and the controversial decision in May 2014 to sever ties with the HR Certification Institute, SHRM’s longstanding certification partner, in order to establish SHRM’s own certification, the SHRM-CP and SHRM-SCP.
That decision sparked unrest among some members, many of whom held PHR and SPHR accreditations from HRCI and professed confusion about the difference between the two. In the three years since, SHRM has certified 101,000 applicants and aims to increase that number to 300,000, said Alex Alonso, SHRM senior vice president of knowledge development and architect of the competency model, in a subsequent press conference.
Jackson said he envisions the SHRM Competency Model “as a vehicle for new level for HR expertise and leadership.”
In his welcome address as well as comments in a press conference later that day, Jackson pointed to his experience as a CPA and business leader, a sore spot among some former board members who felt the SHRM leader should come from and HR background, as a primary driver of his decisions as SHRM’s leader.
The work of HR is more than administration and regulation, he said, and the competency model and SHRM certification are aimed at moving HR certification beyond what Jackson called a “knowledge test” to a competency-based certification during his afternoon press conference.
“You’ll always need those basics [but] I’m a CPA – when I came to SHRM I knew that much of my success was because of the people around me,” Jackson continued. “Why wasn’t there a higher standard of certification? It took several years to convince board to do it.”
During his tenure, Jackson also said SHRM has raised its profile among lawmakers and policymakers in Washington on a number of issues related to employers and the workplace, highlighting the association’s ongoing work on workplace flexibility and immigration.
Jackson said the focus of his time at the helm has been to lead HR beyond a partnership model to focus on change in the workplace and operating as the bridge between the organization’s mission and results.
“It was all about leading change,” he told the audience. “I am proud of where the HR profession is today. We have laid the groundwork for the future. We have changed the conversation about what HR leadership looks like.”