When I joined the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) as its Chief of Staff in January, I trusted that I would enjoy the work, but worried I wouldn’t develop a passion for the work. I was wrong.
I discovered almost immediately how meaningful this work is, and why it is so loved by the people who do it. In my old world, I spent years advocating for access to higher education. HR professionals open that next door. They provide access to employment. Both are so important.
And then, I recalled how many HR professionals positively impacted my life. I held down a full-time job while working my way through graduate and law school. The recruiter who gave me a temp job at Duke University told me to keep checking in with her and that she’d keep looking to find me something permanent. Eventually, she was responsible for me getting my first and last permanent jobs at the University. The skills I acquired there, the relationships I still treasure, all came about because she took a chance on me. I owe her so much.
This is what SHRM CEO Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., means when he talks about HR as a force that changes lives. I want the world at large to see what I see—the real, life-changing impact our profession makes every day in the workplace and beyond.
But we must be honest: Misconceptions and old-fashioned views persist about who HR is and what HR does. As a lawyer, I hate it when people speak critically about the legal profession. I’m sure you feel the same about HR.
That is why it is so important that SHRM, and everyone who practices HR, work together consistently to elevate the profession in the eyes of our organizations, our stakeholders, our legislators and especially our critics. It is time they—and we—fully recognize and embrace the monumental impact of HR on the lives of millions of people and on the economic and social health of this country.
Our influence is especially obvious in the talent sphere. We control to a large extent who can access work, how they are compensated for it and how they are treated while doing it. We create economic opportunity for individuals and businesses by recognizing overlooked talent and giving non-traditional applicants a fair chance to succeed.
We break down barriers that keep people from getting ahead, and we design more equitable processes for evaluating, hiring and promoting people. We set the agenda for educating the future workforce based on future needs.
Those are just a few examples of HR as a positive social force. I know each of you accomplish many things in your daily work that raise up your communities and the people you serve. And like me, each of you has a story of someone whose life you affected positively. I hope you will share your experiences with SHRM and with each other, and I will continue to share mine in this blog space. Telling our stories is one important way we elevate this profession we love.