You Can Live Without SHRM, Trust Me…

I talk a lot of junk about SHRM – and there are plenty of reasons to make jokes (if you care to, revisit some of the reasons by going here, and here, and here). But this isn't about poking at the SHRM beast with my little dagger. Let's stop and have a quiet moment of reflection. What do you get from SHRM? And you can't answer "it's to be a member of a tribe" – the tribe has 250,000+ members. Really, what do you actually use SHRM for? And if you were to stop your membership, how would you do without? Would you miss your monthly HR Magazine?

I've been membershipless for about three years now. Your HR life won't end if you abandon SHRM – trust me. Here's where I'm currently getting my fill and how I'm doing without…

Community + Networking
  • To bounce ideas off of one another and exchange best practices, jump into social media to build your community and relationships. The best turnover tool and lesson I've ever received was from the HR Capitalist himself. If you're reading the FOT blog, that's a great starting point. 
  • Everyone loves a good conference for networking, for the escape, for the fresh charge of energy… no doubt your travel budget may be in jeopardy right now though. Attend free webinars or conferences being put on by your legal counsel or other talent management communities. I've attended both free and paid webinars by the Conference Board and Human Capital Institute. There are always other great offerings by vendors and smaller organizations. My FOT colleague, Kelly, wrote about a local group she joined in the DC area. Do a search on the web to see what else exists in your 'hood. Besides… how was your last conference experience? Personally, the big ones for me have always been so vendor-centric… and certainly that has a place, but for actual learning, I gain so little. 

News + Information

And these are just some of the places I turn to in lieu of SHRM. My firm is also testing out a membership with the HR Leadership Council through the Corporate Executive Board. I don't have an endorsement yet, but we're playing with the service and I'm seeing some value thus far for its white papers, case studies and endless samples/templates. And as for more specialized areas of HR? SHRM isn't the place. Drill down with folks like ERE, ASTD, and World at Work

There are some services that SHRM provides that will never be replaced – HRCI will always be there to certify you as a PHR, SPHR or GPHR… and I don't need or want a replacement. That has its place. And when you are first starting out in HR, I wouldn't quite recommend throwing out your little SHRM membership card. Learn the fundamentals there; master the basics. But, once you've stretched your wings and have gotten some of that down pat, once you've gotten your PHR and are ready to think critically about your role in the HR world beyond the fundamentals, consider stepping away. And once you've made that leap? I would issue this challenge to you – can you learn some great lessons from non-HR pros about how to do your job? 

(PS: Check out some thoughts on that tip from my FOT colleague, William - staying current in your profession, regardless of what you do.)

FOT Background Check

Jessica Lee
Jessica Lee is a VP of TA at Marriott International where she leads a team that enables the company to think big, broad and boldly about all things talent acquisition and in effect, keeps them relevant and ahead of the curve in how they attract and acquire top talent. Don't be fooled by that fancy pants title and description though, she's still an everyday HR gal in the trenches at the core. SPHR certified, a decade and a half into trench HR life... she can whip up a corrective action plan or source for your purple squirrel in a heartbeat. Talk to Jessica via EmailLinkedInTwitter or Facebook... See Jessica's riffs and rants on Fistful of Talent here...


  1. RMSJrSPHR says:

    I’ve been a member of SHRM now for ten years. Spent six years as a PHR before accomplishing the SPHR upgrade last year.
    SHRM is stoogy in some modern respects. Why don’t they have any blogs per se? And HRTalk, as a professional community, is severely dysfunctional.
    In all of my professional endeavors, as with my financial investments, I prefer diversification. SHRM is not the only game in town.
    I have only recently moved into the HR blogshpere and find myself being impressed daily.
    Will SHRM be going away? Not anytime soon. That does mean that they alone have the sole franchise of the information, ideas and issues we need to tend to and address to advance the profession.

  2. Mike Coffey says:

    I agree that SHRM is in the dark ages (mid-90’s anyway) with regard to community and communication (but then again, so are most HR departments). And I can really see where senior level HR pros or specialists (especially recruiters) have trouble finding value in their offerings.
    I get most of my HR-related news from great blogs like this one, updates from law firms, the business media, and HR sites and publications like Workforce.
    However, I have been a SHRM member for years and will continue my membership for one big reason: Their legislative influence. SHRM does a better job than anyone else representing the interests of employers when scary legislation rears its head. I don’t always agree with their positions but more often than not they are a positive force.
    Apart from SHRM, there isn’t a high-profile HR voice out there. And because I believe the profession benefits from legislative efforts, I’ve maintained my SHRM membership.

  3. Bob Corlett says:

    Ouch. A painful truth, plainly spoken. I’m a news hound and really enjoy the same sources of information you mention. Yet news junkie that I am, somehow I never open my HR magazine – it goes straight to recycling. Hmmm.
    I rarely glance at the SHRM emails – and when I do, it irritates me to enter my membership number just to read a boring recap of a news story that appeared elsewhere for free – what state secret is that protecting?
    I like SHRM members, I often speak at SHRM events, I’ve served on the board of a local chapter, and when there is an interesting topic, I like to stop by chapter meetings to network from time to time.
    But sadly, your post is spot on. SHRM, are you listening?

  4. jessica lee says:

    thanks for swinging by folks and sharing your thoughts.
    mike – i agree about SHRM and their legislative influence. they have the ear of the DOL and have shown to be effective at lobbying efforts… but some of their efforts come a little too late or are non-existent. for example, their work to move members to act on the Paycheck Fairness Act was so slow… and on the Employee Free Choice Act, they have been so quiet – and these are important pieces of legislation. they generate a huge amount of revenue via dues – i just want to see them being put to work.
    bob – they are listening… but i dunno if they really have any incentive to change… they have a place, they are an institution, and people will always pay those dues… mediocrity at its best.

  5. Bryan says:

    Just a suggestion: if you’re looking to join a group (or just abscond with information) devoted to employee assessment, check out the (newly renamed) IPAC:
    One of my problems with SHRM is they seem to lack an appreciation for evidence-based practice when it comes to assessment (although I think they recognize this). IPAC fills that niche.

  6. Erika Lamont says:

    I participated in the Onboarding Talent Conference last week in Atlanta and really liked your presentation about Gen Y onboarding. Just curious, what did you think of that conference?

  7. I just started my own blog and tackled a “weeknight version” of this salad tonight. Thanks again for the motivation and the great reads!

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