(Editor’s Note: The Republican National Convention will be held in Cleveland, Ohio on July 18-21, 2016. The Democratic National Convention will be held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on July 25-28, 2016.)
Before you move past this post because of its political nature, I hope you’ll hear me out. I know a whole lot of people are tired of politics. Especially this year’s politics. Several of my Facebook friends have declared they are taking “news sabbaticals” because … well, I’m sure you can guess why. But I’d challenge us to view the upcoming political conventions with a new outlook – an HR outlook.
During this past Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) Annual Conference, I had a chance to ask keynote speakers Paul Begala, political consultant and former advisor to President Bill Clinton, and Tucker Carlson, political news correspondent and editor-in-chief of The Daily Caller, why HR professionals should pay attention to the upcoming conventions. All joking aside, and they said the same thing: that freedom of speech is important and we can learn by listening to others’ point of view.
I will admit, sometimes this isn’t the easiest thing to do. Today’s post isn’t to tell you what convention to watch, what television network to watch, or what candidate to support. It’s for us to remember that being engaged with the political process is important. So I asked Mike Aitken, vice president of government affairs at SHRM, if he could give us an education about the upcoming political conventions. Luckily, he said yes.
Mike, it’s been a while since my high school civics class. Can you briefly describe a “political convention” and what happens during it?
[Aitken] A political convention is held every four years in the United States by most of the political parties that will be fielding nominees in the upcoming U.S. presidential election. The formal purpose of such a convention is to select the party's nominee for President, as well as to adopt a statement of party principles and goals that reflect that party’s public policy priorities. This document is also referred to as the platform.
Let’s take this next question in two parts. First, why should individuals be interested in what happens at the conventions? And second, why should HR pros pay attention to what happens during the conventions?
[Aitken] One thing is certain: This year will be a landmark year for our country, and one of the individuals who is nominated to be President from the Republican or Democratic convention will be sworn in as President on January 20, 2017. The President’s public policy agenda will affect every person in the country and it’s important to understand their policy proposals to address issues such as the economy, tax reform, immigration and health care reform to name a few domestic issues. It’s important to tune-in and be an informed voter.
From the HR professional’s perspective, workplace issues are front and center of the debate during this already-lively presidential and general election season and we expect that to continue during the conventions. The HR voice needs to be part of the local, state and national conversation in the months ahead and that includes at the conventions. SHRM believes so adamantly in the power of the HR voice being part of the conversation that SHRM advocacy will continue to be a major focus of the organization this election year.
As an HR professional, when working to comply with all the various federal and state laws and regulations, how many times have you thought, “What were the policymakers thinking when they enacted this law?”
As we look to welcome a new presidential administration and prepare for a new Congress in 2017, we at SHRM, and you as HR leaders, need to come together through advocacy. We need to collectively educate candidates and potential future leaders on the evolving nature of the workplace, and work together to address workplace developments in Washington. That work starts at the conventions.
SHRM has a history of attending both the Republican and Democratic conventions. Since SHRM is a non-partisan organization, why be there? And what are SHRM’s goals during the event?
[Aitken] SHRM will be on the ground at both the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Pa. As mentioned above, workplace issues have been at the forefront of discussion of the presidential campaign and we expect that trend to continue at the conventions.
As a result, participation in the conventions gives SHRM a unique opportunity to showcase the HR profession and our thought leadership on these key workplace issues; participation also allows us to build and enhance relationships with elected officials attending the conventions; and finally, participation by SHRM ensures that as the only organization representing the HR profession at the national conventions, the HR voice is heard.
In addition, SHRM will be hosting member activities and events with our SHRM State Councils in Ohio, Pennsylvania and New Jersey and our local chapters at both political conventions, as a way to showcase the breadth of the local network, and to raise awareness of SHRM and its members.
We also will be sharing with elected officials at the conventions our recently released Principles for a 21st Century Workplace. These Principles focus on three key public policy principles that are fundamental to the workplace in the 21st century. These principles are:
· Fair and,
These Principles are based on SHRM public policy positions outlined in our 2016 Guide to Public Policy Issues and cover policy solutions on workplace flexibility, compensation equity, modernizing labor-management relations, employer-sponsored benefits, improving health care, closing the skills gap and reforming immigration. The Principles can be found at advocacy.shrm.org and on Twitter, using the hashtag #21CenWork.
Will the SHRM Advocacy team (aka A-Team) be sending out any special updates during the conventions to keep us updated on what’s taking place? How can I stay on top of the news?
[Aitken] SHRM will definitely be sharing its experiences at both national conventions this month. In the meantime, if you need inspiration this election season, check out this post by SHRM A-Team Leader Hector Moncada of California titled, "'Why Should I Vote?' HR Needs to Have Say this Election Year."
SHRM’s state partners and A-Team leaders will continue to share best practices about how to engage before Election Day in November. In addition, for all A-Team volunteer leaders, as part of the quarterly webinar strategy sessions through the program, the October 4th Quarter A-Team webcast will focus solely on how to make a difference as a constituent and as an HR professional this fall and beyond.
Last question. Not exactly related to conventions, but to the election process. I came across an article about the Bipartisan Policy Center working with organizations to mobilize their employees to register to vote. Starbucks and Marriott are on board with this. Does SHRM offer any resources for learning more about employees and voting?
(Aitken) According to new research from SHRM, 86 percent of HR professionals indicated their organizations allowed employees either paid (53 percent) or unpaid (33 percent) time off to vote. Voting is a right and privilege in the U.S., and it’s important.
As we near the 2016 elections, consider treating current lawmakers and candidates like you would a new hire. Provide them with all the information, resources and support possible as they look to serve you and your state. And know that SHRM is here to offer you the support you need to be an effective SHRM A-Team member. Please take a moment to visit SHRM’s HR Policy Action Center online at advocacy.shrm.org/elections for all the resources you need to cast your vote as an HR professional this election year.
My thanks to Mike and the rest of the SHRM Governmental Affairs team for the work they do. Regardless of your politics, we need to play an active role in the process because we really can impact change – change that matters to our profession. You can stay in touch with the SHRM A-Team by following them on Twitter at @SHRM and @SHRMATeam or check out the hashtags: #21CenWork and #AdvancingHR.