Would You Sign This Petition? STEM, SHRM and the Body of Knowledge

sign the shrm petition

This is going to sound crazy. Wait for it… wait for it… wait for it… I want to change HR.

Seems a bit premature… story of my life. (We’ll have to delve into that with another blog post.)

When folks outside of the ecosystem of HR think of HR, they think of:

  • Personnel and Staffing
  • Compliance
  • People People

That’s about it. Trust me on this… talk with a commoner… unaided recall… when I say HR you think X…

Did that make you happy or sad?

HR pros and folks within the ecosystem think of HR way differently. Because of the curriculum in higher education institutions, the Body of Knowledge approved by HRCI, content via SHRM through their website, webcasts and/or conferences, and/or blogs like this one, etc. Our collective perception of what HR is all about is 80% the same. The weird part is where this collective perception comes from. Me thinks the Body of Knowledge is at the core of this perception. Those not familiar, the Body of Knowledge contains six chapters:

  • Business Management and Strategy
  • Workforce Planning and Employment
  • Human Resource Development
  • Compensation and Benefits
  • Employee and Labor Relations
  • Risk Management

I don’t really have a problem with this list explicitly. Everything on it makes sense and, truthfully, it’s what practitioners live and breathe on a day-to-day basis. The short story is… I want to add to this illustrious list. In particular, I want to add a seventh chapter to the Body of Knowledge.

I know you’re curious at this point. Right?

STEM. Yep, I want the seventh chapter of the Body of Knowledge to be Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

Why? Well, it’s easy for me to explain… our continued value to the organizations we serve will be directly linked to our mastery of STEM, as well as, the other chapters of the Body of Knowledge. We have to raise our game and, imho, that’s not just about knowing HR better than anyone else in the firm… it will be about… real connections to the hard sciences.

Think about all the HR content you consume in any given year. Reading articles & white papers, listening to podcasts & webcast, attending conferences, etc… almost ALL of that content can be traced directly back to the current Body of Knowledge. That’s great if we want to incrementally be better than last year. But, imho, that won’t bring real change to our beloved profession.

Folks, the warning signs of change are all around us… big data, little data, metrics, analytics, standards, mathematics, measurement, predictive, coding, SaaS, cloud, mobile, social… on and on, and on, and on, and on. We’re being bombarded with hard science related words on daily basis. And, the encroachment of the hard sciences won’t stop. It didn’t in marketing 15 years ago… it won’t stop in HR either. We’re better with the hard sciences than not. Combining what we know… via experience, intuition, anecdotal, etc, WITH mastery of the hard sciences, we, as HR professionals, would be unstoppable.

Think of it like this… what if next year you attended a SHRM conference and had the option of concurrent sessions like:

  • The FUNdamentals of HR Math
  • Talent and Engineering… Kissing Cousins?
  • My Programmer Runs HR
  • Internships… Quantifying the Petri Dish

You get the point… hell, you’re probably eating fusion food while you read this post. You get it… blend HR with STEM, make STEM relevant to the world we already know.

And, btw, taking a random community college courses won’t really fix the dilemma we all face. That might be good for you, but it doesn’t really help us. You self-centered bastard… okay, that was a bit harsh. Anyhoo.

We need to undergo an augmentation… a procedure of sorts. I think it starts with the Body of Knowledge. Continuing education credits equals cat nip. Everyone cares about getting HRCI credit hours… as well they should. If we can add STEM to that… it will proliferate everywhere else… towards academia and towards the front line of HR.

Smart people work for SHRM and HRCI. That’s a given. I’m also a homer when it comes to these organizations. You should be as well.

I don’t even know how we would go about changing the Body of Knowledge but I make this pledge to you. If 1000 people sign (via comments below) this petition… I’ll create a committee and try to bring this initiative to both HRCI and SHRM. If most of you think I’ve taken one too many Ambien… then I won’t. I’ll just quietly be ashamed of our profession… for not having the courage to embrace the hard sciences.

Sign the petition… you don’t have to say anything clever… just say you’re in…

FOT Background Check

William Tincup
William is a Co-founder and Principal Analyst at KeyInterval Research. William is one of the leading thinkers on the intersection of HR and technology. William has been blogging about HR related issues since 2007. He’s a contributor to Fistful of Talent, HRTechEurope, Human Capital Institute, Human Capitalist, LinkedIn Talent Blog, and HRExaminer and also co-hosts a daily HR podcast called DriveThruHR. Tweet him @williamtincup and check him out on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn. Not up to speed in the social media game? Reach out via email. William serves on the Board of Advisors for Hyphen, Bevy, Happie, Good.Co, Insynctive, Causecast, Work4Labs, PeopleMatter, SmartRecruiters, Blackbook HR, Talent Tech Labs, The Workforce Institute, and is a 2015 Council Member for The Candidate Experience Awards. He also serves on the Board of Directors for TDn2K. William is a graduate of the University of Alabama of Birmingham with a BA in Art History. He also earned an MA from the University of Arizona and an MBA from Case Western Reserve University.


  1. Jenny says:

    I would sign this petition – I cannot do my HR job today without understanding STEM fundamentals. HR has to step outside the core functions to be strategic within their industry.

  2. Andrea Clinard says:


  3. Michelle Todzy says:

    I’ll sign.

  4. Becki says:

    I’m totally in………..

  5. Loretta says:

    I’ll sign.

  6. Ann Marie Johnson says:

    I’ll sign.

  7. Emma says:


  8. Susan says:

    William – As always, great thought-provoking blog. I would be in for sure. While there are some alliances between academic associations and SHRM, the opportunity to strengthen the scholar-practitioner relationship would be a great asset to the HR function.

  9. 6 down, 994 more to go… share with our network(s)…

  10. Amanda Clancy says:


  11. Kris K says:

    I will totally sign. I’m an HR Manager married to an Enterprise Software Architect. I have know a little STEM just to have a conversation with my husband. I imagine the need-to-know will continue to grow. I will share too.

  12. Stephanie M. Barnett says:

    Sounds like a plan…

  13. Today’s college students enter their freshman year, training for jobs that yet to exist…

    When they graduate, what they learned in freshman year as well as part of their sophomore year will be outdated…

    Our schoo systems as well as colleges need to learn to teach our children HOW to think, and not WHAT to think.

    This carries into work as well — especially any field affected by the rate of change of technology…

    Continuing education will most likely become ano imperative — already 80% of our own audience attend at least 1 reaining session a year with 40% attending 3 or more…

    Maintaining that knowledge we will need is another area that will require focus, discernment, and probably mistakes along the way as well.

    SHRM’s decision to embrace thuis endeavor is very welcome news to our grouop — and we are more than happy to assist in what we can to promote and expose this mission.

    Now, hopefully everything is typed here correctly as I don’t have my glasses, I’m mobile right now, and the font on my smartphone is about 1px… :-). So my apologies if sonething is amiss here, but you get the heart of this matter… We’ll be promoting this on our social media as wel…

    Now where are those darn glasses…

  14. Jeracah Lawless says:

    Let’s do this!

  15. Meg Bear says:

    In with two feet.

  16. Tim Douglas says:

    It is SO important for HR pros to be able to think for themselves, rather than copy and adopt what others are doing. The basic skills of STEM are essential for understanding the markets their organisations operate in, the competitive and operational pressures they face, and figuring out how best to push or pull the many levers that impact employees’ engagement, capability and performance – even to create the new levers that are needed. When they start to do this well, more organisations will embrace HR as a business partner that adds value to the critical business decisions

  17. Larry Cummings says:

    Without STEM their is no humanization of the algorithms of talent selection!
    Our Metrics Can’t Demonstrate Our Values Without STEM Available To Show Our Work…@Chief_Connector

  18. Jennifer Forster says:


  19. Chris Gould says:

    I am in

  20. Kara Emerson-Hoyle says:


  21. John Sumser says:

    I’m in, of course. Will you get the ball rolling if I sign the petition 950 times or do they have to come from different people?

  22. D T Holden says:

    In !!!

  23. Dan says:


  24. Mike R says:

    I’m all in!

  25. Heather says:


  26. shana says:

    This absolutely needs to happen if HRCI wants to provide a relevant certification. I’d love to see STEM in favor of a bit less labor relations since that’s the way the trends in the workforce are going.

  27. Qiana says:


  28. Gina says:


  29. Stacey says:


  30. Scott says:

    This is desperately needed within HR. Sadly, many of my HR colleagues are functionally STEM illiterate.

  31. Cara Carroll says:

    Understanding software, design, databases, etc. makes me so much better at my job. Seeing as I hire Web Developers and Designers it is nearly essential as a recruiter that I know my audience. I’m in!

  32. This is a great idea, William! I fully support.


  33. Leo Daley says:

    You know, you’re pretty impressive when you go all “thought leadership” on us…

  34. Mark says:

    I’m in. I lead the development of talent management process, but started my career with a mechanical engineering degree. It’s a perfect marriage– focus on processes, use of valid and objective data, emphasis on integration. Engineering has made me a much better HR practitioner.

  35. Michele Newman says:


  36. Debbie says:

    Makes great sense. Exciting and challenging,a good thing for all of us.

  37. Srinivasa says:

    I am IN


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