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?

Times Change

by Matthew Stollak on Monday, September 13, 2010

Today we have a special guest post from my beloved father, Gary Stollak. Dr. Stollak, a Professor of Psychology at Michigan State University from 1967 until 2009, has written many journal articles and is the author of several books on marriage and child rearing, including "What Happened Today; Stories for Parents and Children," and "Until We Are Six: Toward the Actualization of Our Children's Human Potential." He is fond of Stanley Kubrick movies, corned beef and pastrami sandwiches, and ice cream...sometimes even at the same time.

Most of us understand that it is necessary to receive many years of education and many hours of supervised practice (possibly, according to many, approximately 10,000 hours) for almost all careers demanding complex skills.

On October 19th 2007, Mitt Romney, at that time a candidate for the Republican nomination for President, stated in a speech at a Values Voters Summit in Washington DC, that “Parenthood is the ultimate career for which all other careers exist.” For many commentators “Learning how to be parents is perhaps the most important task facing the human race.”

There is another, equally important, complex, and evolving “career” that demands great skills—hopefully accumulated before becoming a parent—being a committed friend, partner, and spouse.

Skills in adult-adult relationships and in parenting include, among many, being accessible; being empathic and accepting of the validity of the other’s needs, wishes, and desires; being cooperative in activities and in decision-making; and able to resolve, via negotiation and conflict-resolving skills, the inevitable conflicts of living together sharing time and space.

In these, as in many others careers, one needs to have an enduring commitment to learning motivated by passion. With practice and mentoring, there will be confidence in the knowledge and skills accumulated. Yet very few of us received any long-term formal and structured education, training, or mentoring in developing peer social skills and those relating to child caregiving.

Assuming we have acquired (and are continually increasing) knowledge that contributes to the acquisition of skills in intimate relationships and child caregiving, should we not have required K-12 education for both of these ultimate careers “for which all other careers exist”? And if we make such a commitment as a society, do we not have an obligation that educational systems have methods to assess knowledge and skills in these roles, along with the current focus in our nation on a student’s acquisition of knowledge and skills in reading and mathematics through the school years? Should there also be an equal government responsibility for such assessment, as we do for learning to drive a car or cut and shape hair, and for myriad number of other careers—including those in human resource management—demanding a diploma before licensing and before allowing practice in the career, before a couple can receive a license to marry? Should a government require prospective parents and parents of infants to participate in several year-long child caregiving education and mentoring programs that would facilitate the positive and optimal physical, psychological, and social development of their young children? The state could, at the very least, provide those participating parents a diploma…and maybe, someday, a license to parent!

Young Offender

by Matthew Stollak on Friday, September 10, 2010

Last November, I wrote about ways on influencing behavior in my statistics class, and issued a challenge to the esteemed Paul Hebert to respond. Being the mensch that Paul is, he responded with a series of posts that you can read about here and here. I took Paul's suggestions to heart and not only raised the grading scale, but also asked students about their grade expectations and how they were going to achieve it. The grading scale was published in the syllabus, and a short survey was to be completed and submitted within the first two weeks of class asking the following:

1. What specific grade is your goal for the class?
2. List 3 action steps you will take to achieve that grade
3. At what time and location will you study and work on statistics homework? Be as specific as possible.

We are in the second week of the semester, and I repeated the above exercise with my 2 sections of statistics class. As I pored over the surveys I received I decided to look back and see how students met their expectations from the previous semester.

In section A:
11 students stated their specific grade goal was an "A" (4.0)
5 students stated "A or AB" (which I counted as 3.75, though we do not offer an A/AB grade)
13 students stated "AB" (3.5)
2 students stated "AB or B" (3.25)
3 students stated "B" (3.0)
none listed a grade below a "B"
The average expected grade was thus a 3.63

Did students in this section meet or exceed their goal?
3 exceeded their grade expectations
4 met their grade expectations
27 fell below their grade expectations (with 17 receiving a full grade or more below their expectations)
The average grade received was a 2.60

What about section B?
18 students set their goal as an "A"
11 students stated a goal of "AB"
2 students stated a goal of "AB or B"
3 students stated a goal of "B"
Once again, no student listed a grade below a "B"
The average expected grade was 3.71

Once again, did students in this section meet or exceed their goal?
0 students exceeded expectation
12 met expectations
22 fell below expectations (with 13 receiving a full grade or more below their expectations)
The average grade received was a 2.91

What do I glean from this info?
1. Students have really high expectations. In a course such as statistics, where students aren't exactly beating down the door trying to get into a section, I would have thought grade expectations would have been a bit tempered.
2. Are goals and expectations the same? Is the student goal the same as what they expect to receive? Should I have also included a question about what grade they expect to receive?
3. Was an opportunity missed? Like most schools, we don't publish average grades given (let along performance evaluations) of a professor. Students rely on the grapevine to tell them about the quality and difficulty of a class. While I publish and talk about the impact of missing class and completing homework on grades, I have never published the overall average grade of the class. Would having that information have led to students lowering their expectations?

As mentioned, students were once again required to state their grade expectations for the semester. What is the breakdown across the two sections?
30 stated their goal was an "A"
9 stated their goal was an "A or AB"
12 stated their goal was "AB"
3 stated their goal was a "B"
1 stated his/her goal was a "C"
In sum, 75% expected to earn an AB or better, with the average grade expected a 3.75.

If this semester was anything like the last, many are in for a rude awakening.