Close Range

by Matthew Stollak on Thursday, December 9, 2010

I was perusing my alma mater's student newspaper when I came across this article:

"Re-posting on WikiLeaks could affect job prospects."

The reporter, Summer Ballentine, writes:

For some students, posting links to WikiLeaks on social networking sites might be another hurdle to landing a job in an already competitive job market.

WikiLeaks, an organization working to provide government and leaked information to the public via the Internet, released additional confidential government documents to numerous media organizations last week, and has since sparked a worldwide debate.

Students planning to find work or internships in the federal government after graduation were recommended not to post about or comment on WikiLeaks on social networking sites by college career advisers across the country — including at MSU.

Jaimie Hutchison, field career consultant for James Madison College, said an e-mail was sent Friday advising MSU students against posting statements on social networking websites about WikiLeaks.

However, the information in the e-mail is not based on any official James Madison College or MSU policies, she said.

Although the decision is up to students, they should be aware of possible implications of their actions, Hutchison said.

“I don’t know what the outcome of this will be — I just want students to have a heads up,” she said.

“The important thing for me as a career adviser is to make sure students have the information I do.”

The statement was influenced by a similar letter sent to some students at the University of California, Berkeley, Hutchison said.

A couple of thoughts:

1. The article gives opponents of social media yet another reason to strike fear into the hearts of those who use it. It once again signals that using social media can be an unwise careful what you post or you won't get a job.

2. Are recruiters/HR managers really using postings of a political nature by candidates to influence their decisions? Are career advisers going overboard in expressing their concerns to students about such postings?


by Matthew Stollak on Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The use of social media sites, such as Twitter and Facebook, in the classroom is growing, as is student time spent on exploring such sites. However, little research has been done to examine the impact on grades. Does actively participating in social media (Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, blogs, YouTube, etc.) impact one's academic performance? Is social media usage impacted by the ownership of smart phones?

This fall, a colleague, two students, and I attempted to answer these questions. An online questionnaire asking students about social media, and its usage, was sent by e-mail to all students (approximately 2,100) at a small, liberal arts college.

The following hypotheses were posed:

Hypothesis 1a: Students with smart phones are more likely to be involved with social networking than students without smart phones.

Hypothesis 1b: Students with smart phones will spend a longer amount of time on social networking than students without smart phones

Hypothesis 2: Social media use will differ based on class standing.

Hypothesis 3: Social Science majors will utilize social media more than Natural Science or Humanities and Fine Arts majors

Hypothesis 4: A negative relationship exists between social media use and grade point average.

What did we find?

Of the approximately 2,100 surveys sent, 430 were received (20.47%). The primary respondents were freshman (42.5%) followed by sophomores (21.6%), seniors (19.8%) and juniors (14.8%). Gender was queried, but more than two-thirds (69.6%) chose not to answer. A significant majority (83.4%) had a grade point average (GPA) above 3.00, with 45.1% self-reporting a GPA above 3.50, 38.3% with a GPA between 3.00 and 3.50, 13.3% between 2.50 and 3.00, 2.7% between 2.00 and 2.5, and 0.5% below 2.00.

31.7% of students were able to access at least one networking site on their phone, with 98.5% able to access Facebook, 72.7% able to access YouTube, 58.3% able to access Twitter, 49.2% able to access MySpace, 45.5% able to access blogs, and 34.8% able to access LinkedIn.

Of the 430 respondents, 97% use one or more of the following social networking sites: Twitter, YouTube, blogs, Facebook, LinkedIn, or MySpace. The largest percentage of respondents used Facebook (95.4%), followed by YouTube (90.7%), reading blogs (27.6%), Twitter (17.6%), LinkedIn (7.2%) and MySpace (3.9%). Given the small sample size for MySpace, we chose not to include it in our analysis.

The time spent on the social networking sites echoed the order listed above, with 78.3 % indicating they spent the most time on Facebook, followed by YouTube (58.4% ranked it 2nd), reading blogs (41.7% ranked it third), Twitter (26.3 % ranked it fourth), and LinkedIn (43.0 % ranked it last).

How much time do students spent on social networking sites? Students, for the most part, spend less than 15 minutes a day on most social media sites. However, Facebook is the exception. A significant majority of students (77.2%) spend more than 30 minutes a day on Facebook.


There was general support for hypotheses 1a and 1b. Students who have smart phones were more likely to both access social media tools and spend time engaging with others. From an educational standpoint, this means there may very well be a “digital divide” between those who are making connections with others, and those who might be left behind. Similarly, professors may have to be wary of assigning projects involving social media to students as some may have an advantage in completing the work than others.

There was partial support for hypothesis 2. Juniors and seniors were more likely to use Twitter and LinkedIn, and read blogs, then their younger colleagues. However, other than Facebook, there was no significant difference in the amount of time spent accessing these sites. As expected tools such as Twitter and LinkedIn have more relevance to older students as they try to connect with others in their job search or find work. Similarly, perhaps younger students use Facebook longer as they are building their social connections, whereas older students already have a well-established network of friends and colleagues.

There was also minor support for hypothesis 3. Social science majors were more likely to use LinkedIn and spend more time on Facebook. However, it was the Humanities and Fine Arts majors who were more likely to use Twitter and read blogs. Perhaps the difference lies in the emphasis placed on the written word, and Tweeting and reading blogs has more appeal to this group.

Finally, there was little support for hypothesis 4. GPA did not play a role in the use of any of the major social networking tools, and minutes spent on several of the sites did not differ. The major difference lay in time spent with Facebook, which did show a negative relationship between time spent on the social network and one’s grades. As noted in table 1, while most students spent 15 minutes or less accessing that particular tool, Facebook was the only social networking site where a majority of students spent more than 30 minutes of their time accessing. Students and teachers should be concerned about its impact on learning.

Vicious Streak

by Matthew Stollak on Wednesday, December 1, 2010

As a culture, we have always embraced the bad boy, the anti-hero.

In the 1950s, Marlon Brando was a consummate bad boy in “The Wild One. When asked “What're you rebelling against, Johnny?” he replied “Whaddya got?”

In the late 1960s and 1970s (heck, even today), Jack Nicholson captured this role in several films, such as “Carnal Knowledge” and “Five Easy Pieces.” Just look at this scene when he tries to order toast.

Today, you turn on the TV and look at the protagonists we are suppose to root :

Walter White on Breaking Bad? Producer and seller of methamphetamine.

Don Draper on Mad Men? A man who leaves the Korean War by assuming another man’s identity, often drinks to excess, and cheats on his wife.

Omar Little on The Wire? This breakout character was a renowned stick-up man of drug dealers.

….the list could go on…and this is just fiction. Look at reality TV: Simon Cowell, Gordon Ramsey, Russell Hantz, Omarosa, etc.

How about in books? The most compelling character in years is Lisabeth Salander - an antisocial hacker - in the Steig Larsson trilogy. Team Jacob and Team Edward in the “Twilight” series? Ummm…they are a werewolf and a vampire.

The movies? We watch “The Dark Knight,” not for Batman, but for Heath Ledger’s Joker.

So, given the fascination we have with the dark side, what has prevented HR from becoming the same bad boy? What will transform it from a perceived villain to that anti-hero that the public loves?

Slow Jam

by Matthew Stollak on Wednesday, November 17, 2010

These have not been the best of times for SHRM. Departures from the C-Suite. Blogger peanut gallery. Rival factions. SHRM is so under siege, I half expect Steven Seagal to be elected next CEO.

Yet, the highlight of the SHRM year (at least that is what they have said at each of the previous 10 opening sessions) is the descent of the SHRM volunteer army attending the SHRM Leadership Conference. Presidents, President Elects, Core Leaders, and District Directors will be at the Marriott Crystal Gateway in Arlington developing professionally, networking and sharing best practices.

So, what will be the reaction to the recent SHRM hubbub? I have two theories:

1. It will be the centerpiece of the conference and SHRM will attack it full force. A defensive tone will be taken by Robb Van Cleave in his opening remarks at Thursday's opening session. An agitated volunteer group (already hypersensitive after passing through a series of TSA agents to get to DC) will take out their frustration by prodding and poking the SHRM staff demanding satsifaction. An uprising will occur at the SHRM Breakfast and Annual Meeting as concerned constituencies want more transparency. Jose Berrios will wonder what he got himself into as his presents his closing remarks.

2. Mere murmurs in the corners. There will be silence on the issues on the part of SHRM . There will be some at the hotel bar pontificating into the late hours, but all of this intrigue is too "Inside SHRM" for many. But, most of the volunteers attending will be ignorant or apathetic about the issues being discussed and simply want to know how to do their volunteer job better.

While #1 would be much more interesting, my hypothesis is that #2 will be a more likely outcome.

Primitive Notion

by Matthew Stollak on Monday, November 15, 2010

The Voice of HR site has been running an excellent series of blogposts offering suggestions to improve SHRM entitled "2011 SHRM Strategic Guidance." My contribution was published Sunday morning and I am reproducing it here. Go check out Voice of HR for more interesting thoughts.

One of my favorite movies is Terry Gilliam’s “Brazil,” which tells the story of a lonely bureaucrat (Sam Lowry) railing against the system in the hopes of winning the heart of his true love. As a long-time SHRM volunteer at the local, state, and national level, dealing with SHRM can often make me feel like Sam Lowry (though love rarely had anything to do with it).

I currently serve in the role of District Director for the WI SHRM State Council. In May and October, we held chapter president forums to discuss general state council expectations as well as the strategic role of SHRM. Using quotes from the movie, “Brazil,” I will highlight the good, bad, and ugly of SHRM from the perspective of our local leaders.

Jack Lint: “This is information retrieval not information dispersal.”

This is a mixed affair. On the one hand, SHRM send a TON of e-mail. In October alone, I received over 20 e-mails (not including several duplicates) from the SHRM Store, HR Week, SHRM Education, SHRM Express Requests, etc. As a District Director, it is expected we pass along a lot of this information. However, it is often difficult to separate the signal versus the noise; the relevant from the non-relevant.

On the other hand, SHRM gathers a lot of information, which is not necessarily shared. All chapters and state councils are required to fill out a Chapter Leadership Information Form (CLIF), which provides SHRM with information about who is involved in the various roles. However, this information is rarely conveyed back to the chapters and state councils themselves. Core Leadership Directors are often left to fend for themselves to determine who fulfills the College Relations or Government Affairs role for a chapter. Similarly, SHRM holds on to the at-large list of members like it was gold, and getting access to it is more difficult than a camel going through the eye of a needle.


  1. Limit the e-mails, or at the very least, give me the option of choosing when to receive them (daily, weekly, etc.). We have the option to opt out of receiving e-mails, but not the choice.
  2. Once the CLIFs are received, send out the list of chapter leaders to the respective Core Leadership Directors
  3. Free the at-large list. Trust the state and chapter leaders to use those lists with discretion.

Harry Tuttle: Listen, this old system of yours could be on fire and I couldn’t even turn on the kitchen tap without filling out a 27b/6… Bloody paperwork”

Sam Lowry: “Sorry, I’m a bit of a stickler for paperwork. Where would we be if we didn’t follow the correct procedures?”

Harry Tuttle: Listen, kid, we’re all in it together.”

Collaboration amongst chapter leaders is highly encouraged, but carried out ineffectively. A prime example of this involves recommended and HRCI-approved speaker lists for chapter meetings, state conferences, and the national conference. It is rare for a chapter leader in Green Bay to know what quality speakers have served at other chapters in the state, let alone across state lines.


  1. Create a national database of HRCI-approved programs. Chapters can look at the HRCI website and select a speaker that meets their demands
  2. Shift the burden for becoming a certified program from the chapter to the speaker, and expand the Approved Provider program. Any speaker who wishes to speak to a SHRM chapter should have to get approved by HRCI. As speakers get recognized, their topics would be added to the database.
  3. Recruit past state conference programming co-chairs to serve as panel members to review RFPs for the SHRM Annual Conference. While this duty is currently performed by SHRM staff, the experience of these volunteers would improve the quality of programming at the national level.

Dawson: “I’m glad to see the Ministry’s continuing its tradition of recruiting the brightest and best, sir.”

While Dawson’s quote is intended to be sarcastic, one of the best aspects of SHRM is its volunteers. Hundreds take time out of their busy schedule to serve the organization. However, as expectations of volunteers have grown, the sheer number of meetings, webinars, and conference calls are turning many away, particular in this tough economic climate. Those that do volunteer are not recognized. As one member put it, “It used to be that SHRM sent out a constant reminder that it is a volunteer organization. That message no longer is stated and many volunteers no longer feel that appreciated.” Perks are offered at the local chapter, but it is not enough to attract volunteers.


  1. While the current discount for registration at the SHRM Annual Conference is $55, is that significant enough to truly recognize the hard work of volunteer leaders?
  2. Create SHRM Pinnacle Volunteer Leader Awards. While SHRM recognizes the significant and innovative work that chapters perform with the Pinnacle Awards at the SHRM Leadership Conference, why not recognize the significant volunteer work at the SHRM Leadership Conference and at SHRM Annual.

Charlie, Department of Works: “Bloody typical, they’ve gone back to metric without telling us.”

Of late, it has been felt by several chapter leaders that there has been too much emphasis on SHRM membership. To some, it gives the perception that there is a problem at SHRM. Are many members no longer renewing? Further, the percentage growth for SHRM membership in the SHAPE document was too demanding, especially for only one year. Some felt it was unfeasible, particularly in today’s economic environment. Further, it focuses too much on numbers instead of the substance of services to members.


  1. Lose the tote bag promotion. If you need to attract members by offering a tote bag as a lure, something is amiss. If you have to offer an incentive, why not offer a discount to the SHRM book store or an additional discount to attend a SHRM conference?
  2. Lower the percentage growth rate for chapters.

Brazil, where hearts were entertaining
We stood beneath an amber moon
And softly murmured someday soon
We kissed and clung together

Then, tomorrow was another day
Morning found me miles away
With still a million things to say

Now, when twilight dims the sky above
Recalling thrills of our love
There’s one thing I’m certain of
Return I will to old Brazil

Music by Ary Barraso/English lyrics by S.K. “Bob” Russell

With the suggestions made above, there’s one thing I’m certain of….Return I will to old SHRM!

Turn My Way

by Matthew Stollak on Thursday, October 21, 2010

Benjamin McCall has put together an invaluable guide to training and development with the release of his e-book, "What We Teach/How We Learn."

The e-book contains:

  • 32 pages of articles around engagement, presentation tips, encouraging and empowering individuals to learn and in the workplace approaches to learning.
  • Approaches and tips on increasing the way we deliver and facilitate to our employees.
  • Reaction sheets after each article for the reader to "react" to what you wrote and jot down some ideas on how they can use it and act.
To provide this information, he went out, scoured the country, and found a number of great contributors (myself excluded):

Check it out now.

Someone Like You

by Matthew Stollak on Wednesday, October 20, 2010

At the HREvolution Unconference last May, I was challenged by a certain Trench HR professional, despite my Ph.D. in Human Resource Management and SPHR certification, that my credibility in the field was limited since I was not a "true" HR professional. Shhh....I have a secret....

I have been practicing HR in my job as a professor for over 15 years. How so?

Recruitment and Selection - As an advisor to the student SHRM chapter, I am always trying to find new members to join the organization. In addition, I have served on several faculty and staff search committees.

Managing Turnover - Unlike many organizations, my turnover rate is highly predictable. Students WILL graduate. As a result, I have to repeatedly build and rebuild our SHRM student chapter as new members of the e-board join the group.

Training - Through the design of appropriate curricula, I facilitate the learning of job-related knowledge, skills, and behavior by students. Syllabi try to meet the ADDIE model.

Performance Management - Through the grading of exams, papers, and other work, I am constantly providing feedback and knowledge of results to students throughout a semester. In addition, syllabi have to be clear with regards to performance standards.

Career Development - I meet regularly with students to help prepare them for their future career. Our college devotes two days a semester for advising students not only on their next semester's schedule, but on their plans post-college. In addition, I serve as the graduate school advisor for our department

Counseling Employees - Its not uncommon to receive e-mails and in-office visits throughout the day and into the night from students requesting help to deal with sickness, injury, and even death. Similarly, I have to deal with poor performing students and try to help them improve.

Benefits - For the past 7 years, I have served on the college's Benefits Advisory Committee. We assist the college in making decisions regarding health care, insurance, retirement, and other benefits. In addition, I serve on the wellness subcommittee as the college looks to improve employees' health.

Harassment - I have also served on our college's Harassment Resource Committee. This committee assists the college in dealing with harassment-related issue and helped form the consensual relationship policy

Mediation - I have served as chair for the Faculty Mediation Committee. The function of the Faculty Mediation Committee is to mediate individual complaints against behavior and decisions arguably inconsistent with the Faculty Constitution and the Faculty Policy Statement.

In sum, my job IS human resources

60 Miles an Hour

by Matthew Stollak on Monday, October 11, 2010

Last week, I finally got to meet the HR Capitali$t himself, Mr. Kris Dunn, as he was the keynote speaker to close out the WI SHRM State Conference. We were able to chat before his presentation, and the conversation turned to the many individuals we have been able to meet over social media. It occurred to me that there is no one I haven't met and maintained a relationship with on the various social media mediums that I haven't liked. So, it begs the following question:

Is likeability a necessary precondition to success in social media?

Anyone who is reasonably successful and gains a lot of followers on Twitter and/or Facebook must be worthy of being followed. We rarely maintain a relationship or follow someone who ends up being mean, hateful, etc.

So, it follows that if likeability is a necessary precondition to success in social media, why, then, are people reluctant to get involved in social media (beyond the artificial barriers placed on social media tools by employers)? Do people feel that the Social Media world is much like Heathers and they feel like they will be picked on like Martha Dumptruck? Where does the fear derive from?

This is all prologue to the plug I am making for the Social Mentoring project being put together by Ben Eubanks and Victorio Milian. If you fear getting involved in social media, or need help getting started, this project is for you! Don't hesitate in joining, either as a mentor or a mentee, as everyone involved is truly likeable.

Get Ready

by Matthew Stollak on Thursday, October 7, 2010

This past Monday, I was fortunate to appear on Bryan Wempen's daily blog talk radio show, "Drive Thru HR," to promote the Wisconsin SHRM State Conference, currently going on in Appleton, WI. The conversation turned to the topic of social media.

Of late, social media has become a growing component of the conference experience. The 2010 SHRM Annual Conference had their first annual blog squad to highlight conference activities, and a social media lounge. Illinois SHRM, HRFlorida, and Ohio SHRM had bloggers and heavy activity on the Twitter stream. As expected the HR Technology Conference was rife with social media experience with a number of bloggers and the HR Happy Hour. HR Southwest is starting up soon and it, too, will take a stab at carving up a part of the social media pie. You even see wonderful companies staking out a claim in this area, such as the Stelzner/Ruettimann powerhouse, "Voice of HR."

However, two major state HR conferences are going on this week, with relatively little fanfare: the 2010 Michigan SHRM Conference and the aforementioned 2010 WISHRM conference. While I can't speak for Michigan, WISHRM10 has over 1100 attendees, exhibitors, speakers, and guests....all with limited promotion on social media avenues. No major social media sessions....a relatively quiet Twitter stream.

So, I posed a number of HR bingo-type questions on Bryan's show: What is the return on all this social media activity? Is it creating a buzz? And is this buzz creating increased revenue to the state council? Are more people attending? Is it creating interest for future years of the conference? What is the bottom line of this activity?

Wisconsin SHRM enters its first full day of conference activity today. 1100 individuals will be busy enjoying the activities and learning, oblivious to the social media world's comments.


by Matthew Stollak on Monday, September 27, 2010

Last Wednesday, I had the opportunity to sit in on the SHRM Membership Core Leadership Area webinar, "Social Media for Chapters and State Councils: The Rules of Engagement" (powerpoint here; membership may be required), led by SHRM's Manager of PR & Social Media Relations Curtis Midkiff. As described,

Learn how to use social media tools like SHRMConnect, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn to engage your members and recruit new members. If you are new at using social media in relation to promoting and communicating information about your chapter, you won’t want to miss this webinar. SHRM's Social Media Manager Curtis Midkiff will provide an introduction to these tools and how they can assist you in reaching your goals.
The session was repeated on Thursday and over 270 people attended one or both sessions.

It is apparent that SHRM is taking a step forward in adopting Social Media, as evidenced by the hiring and work of Curtis, the creation of the SHRM Blog Squad and Social Media Lounge at the 2010 SHRM Annual Conference, and webinars such as the one presented above. However, if SHRM really "knows next," the next step is to make social media a critical component of SHAPE.

The SHRM Affiliate Program for Excellence, or SHAPE, is SHRM's volunteer centerpiece, ensuring that chapters and state councils align and engage with SHRM's overall objectives, as well as focus on activities and initiatives which are more strategic in nature. In addition, "SHRM depends upon each of its affiliates to operate in a professional manner; effective manage its finances; maintain affiliation standards; communicate with members, the community and SHRM, and promote SHRM. (italics mine)" Adopting social media with SHAPE would seem to be a strong fit with these objectives.

So, what would it take to make social media a component of SHAPE?
1. Top Management Commitment - SHRM has already shown some commitment to social media as already mentioned. Let's hope it continues.

2. Creating a Core Leadership Area (CLA) - SHRM already has a number core leadership areas to support the mission, including:
*College Relationship
*Government Affairs/Advocacy
*Workforce Readiness
*SHRM Foundation
*Diversity & Inclusion

While each of those areas could have a social media component (i.e., promoting membership initiatives locally and nationally, highlighting a SHRM Foundation silent auction, bringing attention to a particular piece of legislation), a Social Media CLA could spearhead, as well as support, each of those areas.

3. Adopting social media at the chapter or state council level for SHAPE- This would require:
  • having a volunteer person on the chapter or state council board, or as a director, responsible for advocating social media
  • creating and maintaining a Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn page at the chapter level
  • creating and maintaining a Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn page at the state council
  • ensuring that all chapters have a Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn presence (if the person is at the state council level)
  • this volunteer person would participate in SHRM-sponsored conference calls, SHRM-sponsored live webinars, state-council sponsored conference calls, and share best/successful practice discussions with CLA peers
4. Adopting a number of initiatives to support the chapter or state council - these could include, but are not limited to:
  • conducting, hosting, or sponsoring a social media seminar, conference, or social media-focused event
  • Contribute to an article or write and submit an article on the topic of social media
  • Maintain and write a chapter or state council blog
  • Be a speaker at a student chapter event
As evidenced by the 270 people attending the webinars last week, there is a demand for an increased social media presence for chapters and state councils. As it was geared to Membership CLA individuals, it does not come close to the number who might have attended but had time conflicts, or were simply unaware of the session. Given this demand, and the growing importance of social media in contributing to chapter growth, it only makes sense to make social media a required component of professional chapters and state councils.


by Matthew Stollak on Wednesday, September 22, 2010

RESOLVED: The HRCI Certification process for chapters is broken.


The primary reasons HR professionals attend chapter meetings are networking and earning recertification credits toward their PHR or SPHR. People do enjoy talking with another and seeing what is going on in the HR world in their little neck of the woods. Yet, it is the quality of the session/topic being offered that is the primary driver of attendance. If the topic is poor or the speaker is of low quality, the networking is simply not strong enough to devote 2.5 hours of one's time to a SHRM chapter meeting.

The Problem

Finding quality speakers is a difficult process. Chapter volunteers have to go out and find willing speakers (at no or reasonable cost) to provide a compelling hour or more of information to attendees. As anyone who as attended several meetings, the quality of the speaker can be hit-or-miss. Complicating matters is getting a chapter program to be certified by HRCI.

Having been involved with chapter boards and state councils for a number of years, working to get a meeting or conference is a constant challenge. Chapters have to submit a program a minimum 4 weeks to get approval for credit. Even then, it is a battle back-and-forth to finally get the needed approval. Anecdotally, I have heard of several instances where chapters have taken programs and/or speakers that have previously been successfully approved (when offered by another chapter), only to be turned down when submitted for a second time. HRCI even notes that a program should be "re-submitted every calendar year, even if the activity does not change from year to year." Simply, it is a lot of jumping through hoops.

The Solution
1. HRCI should create a national database of pre-approved programs

*There are more then 575 chapters, a significant number of state conferences, and the national conference
*Most chapters have 9 monthly meetings a year (as most take off summer months), with most of these meetings offering certification credit

Doing the simple math (575*9) tells me that is a total of 5,175 sessions approved per year. If we go 3 years back, that is a total of 15,525 different sessions. Let's say that 25% of those are repeats from another chapter or conference,and we add in all the state and national conference speakers, and we are talking over 11,500 sessions that HRCI has approved.

STOP THE MADNESS! Create a database listing all of these sessions by state, topic, speaker, credit amount (i.e., 1.25 hours), and certification level (PHR, SPHR, GPHR, etc.). Make it easier for the chapter volunteer to find the topic and speaker of choice.

2. Shift the burden for becoming a certified program from the chapter to the speaker; expand the Approved Provider program

If #1 above is accomplished, there might be concern that topics might become stale or out-of-date, and the 11,500+ programs would quickly decrease. Surfing the HRCI website, I discovered that HRCI offers an Approved Provider program:

The Approved Provider Program is for organizations that offer multiple HR-related continuing education activities per year. Approved Providers are awarded a three-year contract in which all your qualified HR activities that you submit to us are pre-approved for recertification credit. After three years, you can continue your Approved Provider status when you renew your contract.
Let's expand this program. Any speaker who wishes to speak to a SHRM chapter should have to get approved by HRCI. As speakers get recognized, their topics would be added to the database.

3. Create a public feedback mechanism for speakers and programs.

Before going out and buying a product, I like to read Consumer Reports. If I am traveling, I like to check out to check the quality of hotels before making my reservation. If I am going out to eat, I might check out Yelp or Urbanspoon, before trying out a new restaurant. A similar offering should be available to chapters looking for speakers. Most information sharing about speakers is word-of-mouth. Let's increase the amount of data available.


1. It eases the burden on chapters

As SHRM is fond of reminding us, they are a volunteer driven organization. Yet, more and more volunteers are feeling pressed for time, and chapters are finding it more difficult to find those willing to serve. This would be one way to ease their burden.

2. It makes for more timely presentations

Some chapters have their programs laid out a year in advance, in part, to ease the process of getting programs certified. Yet, what might have seemed fresh a year ago may quickly be out-of-date. With the menu of pre-approved programs, it shortens the time between selection and presentation.

3. It improves the SHRM brand

Let's face it, why would SHRM want a potential customer to attend a program at a local chapter meeting and come away unimpressed with the product? Over the past 10 years, the gap between at-large membership and chapter membership continues to widen. What was once a 60-40 split of at-large/chapter members has grown to 66/34. What better way to get people to join local chapters if they knew that each session that was delivered was recognized as a quality topic worthy of their time.

4. Speakers get the HRCI seal of approval

Getting identified and recognized as a HRCI-approved speaker may increase the number of sessions the speaker might be offered.

So, let's get to it HRCI. Make the change!

NOTE: I recognize the hard work that HRCI does each day. Trying to certified 575 sessions a month, along with state and national conference sessions, is an arduous undertaking.


by Matthew Stollak on Monday, September 20, 2010

Pardon me while I go "Inside SHRM" for a bit.

We are currently in the heart of conference season for many SHRM State Councils. Illinois had a successful conference last month. Florida and Ohio just wrapped up their strong events. Wisconsin and Texas are about to embark on their conference adventure. For most state councils, the state conference is THE primary mechanism for raising dollars to support many of their state HR activities. For many local SHRM chapters, conference support is a strong economic driver.

For my state, Wisconsin, this is definitely true. The state council receives 50% of whatever profit a state SHRM conference generates. The remaining 50% gets split up in a variety of ways. The co-chairs each get 20%, which goes to the professional chapter they belong to, committee members each have a certain percentage that goes to their respective chapters, and a certain percentage gets shared with the chapters based on the attendance of their chapter at the conference. All in all, some significant dollars exchange hands.

This all serves as prologue to a Twitter conversation I had with the inestimable Steve Browne over the weekend. He was making a valiant effort to try to bring state conference volunteer community together over Twitter, writing, "After a successful #OHSHRM, would like to personally connect w/ folks who are w/ other State #SHRM conf so we can promote each conf, DM me." I replied, saying it ought to be SHRM directing this effort.

In a little under two months, I will be attending the SHRM National Leadership Conference in Arlington, VA. for the 11th straight year (You'd think I would know more about Leadership after all this time, but I must be a slow learner). As always, it is an excellent opportunity for various state and local chapter leaders to get together and learn how to benefit their respective groups (and Dave Ryan does a fine job discussing it today). In exchange for their dedication, a significant number of leaders get to attend for free, and SHRM has always been commendable in their efforts in this arena. However, one group is conspicuous in their absence - State Conference Liasions and Conference Co-Chairs.

I've served in a variety of roles on the WI SHRM State Council (Foundation Director, College Relations Director, District Director), and have served on our state conference planning committee for the past four years (including a stint as co-chair). SHRM does an excellent job in bringing together similar Core Leadership Areas together to share best practices in those areas. However, in my 10 years attending the SHRM National Leadership Conference, I recall very little time or energy being dedicated to building a successful state conference. Even with sessions dedicated to high performing state councils, the voice of the state conference liaison or conference co-chair was seldom heard.

I understand that the SHRM National Leadership is already significantly large. I also understand that the Volunteer Leaders' Resource Center has a number of items to help organizers put together an excellent conference. But, is it time to provide the similar support that is given to Core Leaders to those that provide the biggest economic impact to the State Councils and professional chapters - the Conference Liaisons and Conference Co-Chairs? The call for support and community is there.

ADDENDUM: One point I didn't emphasize enough earlier is that the entire conference committee is made up of VOLUNTEERS. It is volunteers who put together the programming slate. It is volunteers who work with exhibitors and vendors to fill the exhibit hall. It is volunteers who help put together the conference publication. It is volunteers who work with the hotel and convention center to make sure rooms are correct.

As Mark Stelzner suggested in his excellent piece on "the Conference Economy," costs are often exorbitant, and you may have volunteers who are new to the committee trying to negotiate and work deals out with the host site. In Wisconsin, one has to have served on the conference planning for at least a year before taking the reins as co-chair (though more time on the committee is preferred). It is also hoped that you have some staggered terms on subcomittees (such as exhibits), so that there is someone experienced in a support position, and there is continuity, but this does not always occur.
We hold a transition meeting every December, but is that sufficient? Where is the training and support from SHRM to help in the process?