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It is no secret that today’s Human Resources, or Human Capital, industry made its way onto the scene as The Personnel Department. In a time long before sophisticated networks housed human resources information systems, when employee information was maintained on 3×5 index cards in a file cabinet down the hall, we were signing and cutting physical checks for payroll, walking through rows of offices and cubes distributing typewritten memorandums, and a variety of “other duties as assigned” (aka, the admin work no one else wanted to do).
Wow, how far we have come! We have worked hard to change how HR operates, shifting from the transactional world of administering and filing paperwork, to being sought after for our input in organizational and business strategies.
You and I, and many of those who came before us, have contributed to the transformation of our industry with hard work and through the use of the many resources generated through the Society for Human Resource Management. If not directly through SHRM, through the network of colleagues and friends we’ve gained as a result of our involvement with the Society. Just like our profession, SHRM has gone through an evolution too. Founded in 1948 as The American Society for Personnel Administration (ASPA), was an entirely volunteer run organization and held their first Annual conference in Cleveland, hosting a grand total of 67 attendees! Fast forward to 2015…SHRM employs 350 people, is represented in 140 countries and the Annual Conference hosted over 16,000 attendees. Progress.
While attending this year’s annual conference, I had the opportunity to support Joel Peterson with a project of his. (If you don’t know Joel, seek him out. He is a smart, creative guy with a magnetic personality. And a great resource if you are an HR Department of one). He was on a mission to ask 45 SHRM15 attendees 45 random questions and stream the interviews via Periscope (who would have ever guessed in 1948 that attendees would be live streaming interactions!!) One of the questions Joel asked was, “What does SHRM stand for?”. Well, the obvious answer is the Society for Human Resource Management. A day or two after the conference, still on “conference high”, I reflected back on the conversation. While most HR practitioners know what the letters S-H-R-M stand for, I wondered if we ever think about what the Society really stands for. What it means to us? Professionally? Personally? For me, they are much more than letters.
Based on my experience, SHRM stands for:
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- Extended family
- Professional development
- Personal growth
- Advocacy (No – seriously. Do you know how many people on Capitol Hill have HR experience? You can count them on one hand. And these people are making decisions on regulations and laws that impact our work.)
- Career advancement opportunities
- Resources and tools
Through my interactions with SHRM and the volunteer work with my affiliate chapter and state council, I have acquired skills that have helped me at work, and gained countless friends who can help me with situations one day and laugh with me the next. All of which have helped me advance in my career. So for me, SHRM is much more than an acronym or a building on Duke Street.
With this, I challenge you to think differently. Next time you are asked what you do, or what your company does, don’t spew the tag line from your website. Tell them what you really do. If you find yourself at a loss for words or identify that you’re working for acronym that is meaningless, it’s time for you to find an environment where you can advance and thrive.