Last June, national SHRM organization hired a new CEO to replace the retiring Hank Jackson. A SHRM article interviewing Johnny C. Taylor, Jr. shortly after joining the organization outlined two main priorities: engage HR executives and work with policymakers to enact effective workplace policies. In February’s HR Magazine, Mr. Taylor wrote an article entitled “Why HR Needs to Lead with Advocacy.” Then during the March Legislative Conference, Mr. Taylor talked to reporters making it clear that SHRM would be more involved in advocacy moving forward. It’s clear he has a strong focus on making our HR voices heard!
As HR professionals, we are at a unique intersection often of taking care of the employee (our number 1 asset at any company), but balancing what’s in the best interest of the organization. So who better to advocate for laws impacting our workplaces and our employees than us? The HR profession “can be a social force, capable of sparking monumental impact,” says Mr. Taylor.
Already SHRM was at the table to draft the Workflex in the 21st Century Act. But more needs to be done to show both sides of the aisle that this is something that works for employees AND employers. In addition, we have a plenty to say on the matters of immigration, employer health plans, and equal pay, to name a few.
Now, we don’t expect to make monumental strides overnight (especially during an election year when not much happens legislatively). But, there are actions you can be taking now to build relationships with our local legislatures so you can be seen as the expert on the subject of workplace policies so when there is an opportunity, there is someone to help educate them on the subject. Remember our legislators very often do not have a HR background, but are expected to become educated on every subject matter for which they are voting on. So having others to lean on becomes important to help inform their decisions.
Another key point is that timing is everything. So even if nothing happens this year, the work you put in now is still making progress. No one has a crystal ball (well except fortune tellers?) and so we don’t know when something might become a hot topic and give SHRM an opportunity to make a difference. So having those relationships now can help us mobilize and reach our legislatures so much more effectively when the “iron is hot.”
So how do you develop those relationships with our legislators?
· Follow your members of Congress or state on social media
· Attend telephone or in person town halls
· Invite legislator to your workplace
· Schedule a meeting with your legislator’s local office (or when your legislator is in District) to introduce yourself and touch on issues that are important to our profession
· Write a note to introduce yourself and offer your expertise