Don’t Just Adapt to Change – Lead It


What a difference a decade makes. In 2007, the most pressing issues for HR were succession planning and leadership development. HR analytics was in its infancy, and we were still feeling our way through the metrics. Annual reviews were the norm, as opposed to the constant feedback employees expect today. And social media was viewed by management as a threat to productivity, not the essential business tool it is today.

But between then and now, the Great Recession intervened. Organizations—and HR departments—were decimated by staffing cuts and budget reductions. By the time I stepped into the CEO role at SHRM in 2010, unemployment was still close to 10 percent, even while companies struggled to fill highly skilled jobs in all industries.

Everyone was trying to do more with less, and there was a lot of fear and pulling back. It would have been understandable for HR professionals to hunker down and accept lower expectations. And we could have successfully adjusted to diminished circumstances. But that wasn’t good enough for us.

You see, the real winners today—individuals and businesses—don’t simply adapt to change. They get ahead of it and shape it. They lead it.

Years ago, SHRM chose to prepare, purposefully and intentionally, for an indeterminate future. We knew the time was coming when organizations would need the direction and expertise of HR as never before. We could see on the horizon that workforce issues were positioning HR professionals to be leaders in business. 

So SHRM went to work, laying the strongest foundation possible, so we could steadily shape the workplace of the future and cultivate a profession of leaders. We developed the SHRM Competency Model and launched new and sought-after professional certifications, the SHRM-SCP and the SHRM-CP . We expanded our resources and research, created key global partnerships, dramatically expanded membership, and launched national campaigns advocating for our profession.

Now, a decade later, we face some of the most uncertain times we’ve known. But because of our willingness to lead and grow, HR is ready. We have become influencers and trailblazers. We have helped leaders understand that people—and therefore HR—are the bridge between mission and results.

It is always enlightening to look back, but it is vital to look forward. As we prepare for the next round of challenges together, let’s make sure we do more than adapt. We must lead.



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