HR management association meeting needs of members

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Published: November 27,2006

Human resource managers are so much more than someone to plan the company picnic. That’s part of the message members of the group’s professional organization want to promote.

The Mississippi state council of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) was chartered in the mid 1980s as a council of the 200,000-strong national organization.
There are approximately 500 members in Mississippi who are affiliated with eight chapters across the state. Volunteers from each chapter serve on the state council and that group elects a director each year.

Danny Avery currently serves as director of the state council. “The mission of SHRM is to serve the needs of human resource professionals by providing the most comprehensive resources available to support their professional endeavors,” he said. “That’s through research, career development, information on various issues, legislative monitoring and an annual conference.”

SHRM’s Certification Institute is a free-standing affiliate that oversees professional certification for HR managers.

Three levels of certification are designated as: senior professional HR, international professional HR and a generalist HR certificate.

“These levels are based on experience, education and a rigorous examination process,” Avery said. “Continuing education is required every three years to retain the certification.”

He said many members are attaining the international designation as more companies are engaged in global business.

Cynthia Burnett, HR director for Coast Electric Power Association, will take over as state council director in January. “I think the networking that SHRM affords to the membership is very good,” she said. “That’s where you can talk to other members and get suggestions.”

Connie Otts of 4-County Electric Power Association in Columbus agrees that the networking is beneficial. She serves as president of the Golden Triangle Chapter. “A lot of chapters are very active and productive,” she said. “That makes them useful to their communities and employees.”

Avery, who does HR consulting in Columbus and is currently helping to initiate a federal workforce training grant for East Mississippi Community College, lists SHRM’s core leadership areas. They include government affairs, college relations, diversity, certification, workforce readiness and the SHRM Foundation that provides research.

This year instead of having a statewide legislative reception in Jackson while that state body is in session, SHRM opted for a different approach. The council is encouraging each chapter to have an event at the local level.

“We want chapter members to have ongoing dialogue with state legislative members,” Avery said. “We have good relationships with the legislators. They come to us for information and we want to keep that going.”

During the 2007 session, he said the organization will keep its eyes on any attempt to establish a state department of labor, a measure that has been introduced for three or four years.

“We don’t think it’s in the best interest of anyone,” he said. “Everything they do is already being done. Also, some things could surface in workers’ compensation, and we will watch for any other issues that come up.”

Avery, who grew up in a family-owned business and spent 20 years in the U.S. Navy before becoming an HR professional, believes SHRM has its pulse on the direction that things are headed in the realm of human resources.

“There is more emphasis on ongoing education, the benefits of having a diverse workforce and the ways to gain the greatest benefit of employees,” he said. “We look at how capable someone is and take a more systematic approach to employment. We’re having good feedback from people.”

Additionally, he says SHRM is seeing an employment trend that family-friendly policies in the workplace matter.

“It’s not just salary anymore,” he said. “The best workplace environment is becoming more important to employees.”

Avery recalls when the name of his field of work changed from personnel to human resources. “There is so much more to human resources than personnel, employee training and benefits,” he said. “We believe HR is effective in planning and executing a company’s strategy. Today, we must have the right people with the right preparation to accomplish a company’s goals.”

He goes on to say that all areas are so very important. “The name was changed to reflect the purpose and scope,” he said. “The name changes the perspective and gives a different way of looking at things.”

In that vein, Avery says another name change may be coming down the pike as some companies now refer to HR as human capital. “Resources may be used up but capital is an investment; something companies invest in that grows,” he said. “People are an asset and are not used up. I haven’t heard that the name will change but that term is being used more.”

Contact MBJ contributing Lynn Lofton at llofton656@aol.com.

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