Category Archives: SHRM

Military Cross-Cultural Issues

There’s a big push during the SHRM conference this year — rightfully so — on hiring veterans. As the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan seem to be winding down, there may be many military personnel looking for work in the civilian world. Should the economy ever truly recover, companies may even be able to hire some of them.

Should that happen, HR leaders should consider that the civilian leadership/organizational structure just doesn’t speak to many people trained by the military — most of whom were young when they entered the service and may not have held another real job beforehand.

And that lack of understanding leads to disillusionment and turnover, says Emily King, president of, who works with companies to help them better onboard vets.

“It’s like going to another country,” she says. “You don’t know the language.”

Part of the problem is that in the military, the mission is simple, straightforward and understood by everyone. In private organizations, it’s often just the opposite  — with the mission becoming more diffused as it filters down the ranks.

Vets have an abundance of positive abilities to share, she notes, including leadership and loyalty, but those traits are not free and have to be earned by the organization.

By the same token, it’s really the vets that need to change — to learn how to fit within the organization.

“Trying to push back against an entire organization doesn’t work,” King says.

Globalizing HR

That fact that 100 or so HR professionals at the SHRM conference woke up in time for a 7 a.m. session on Building a Global HR Dream Team is indicative of the growing importance of globalization in today’s world. 

Even the presenter, Manjushree M. Badlani, chief HR and administrator officer of Jhpiego, said she “didn’t expect so many people here.”

After talking about the four typical types of global HR organizations (centralized, decentralized, regionalized and divided between headquarters and country), she split up the audience into groups and asked them to select the competencies and attributes required for each of them.

The attributes, developed by SHRM, were credible activist, culture and change steward, talent manager/organizational designer, strategy architect, operational executor, and business allies.

“All of them” was the common response — although each group selected a few and ranked higher than others, depending on which type of HR organization was being discussed.

When drilling down to discuss specific attributes, Badlani suggested a few she think may more be more important than others when working in cross-cultural situations: humility, good listener, customer focus, agility, unafraid to go beyond one’s comfort zone, and unflappable.

A sense of humor doesn’t hurt, either. “You have to laugh at some of the absurdities and some of the demands that people put on us,” she said.

From Cradle to C-Suite

You can never get started too early when it comes to building the workforce of the future.

Certainly that premise is at the heart of SHRM’s decision to join a business coalition, managed by the Pew Center, to study later this year what steps employers should be taking to prepare the nation’s infants and toddlers so they’re able to lead tomorrow’s businesses. The initiative was mentioned during a press briefing held on the conference’s opening day.

“One of the things we’ve learned is that meeting the needs of the workforce of the future means meeting the developmental needs of children today,” explained Deb Cohen, chief knowledge officer of SHRM.

A SHRM brochure describes the challenge as follows: “In order to compete, U.S. employers must attract and retain a team-capable, job-ready workforce that can spur and maintain continual innovation. The foundation of skills required to achieve that end is built in the earliest years of life—between birth and age 5—yet we do not give our young children the early educational, health and social supports they need to get there.”

Repeal of Healthcare Reform Unlikely

As unpopular as the healthcare-reform bill is with a majority of the public, it’s unlikely it will be repealed, says Mike Aiten, director of governmental affairs for the Society for Human Resource Management.

He says some technical changes may occur through the regulatory process to deal “with some of the challenges,” but that, no matter how well the Republicans do in the mid-term elections, it’s doubtful they will garner enough seats to override a presidential veto if they go ahead and repeal the law.

At the same time, SHRM’s polls of HR professionals found that only 2 percent of employers plan to drop their healthcare  coverage as a result of the new law. Nearly half (46 percent) of those surveyed said coverage would not be dropped — and of them, one-third made that decision without even doing any analysis.

Deb Cohen, SHRM’s vice president of knowledge development, says the knee-jerk decision was due to employer fears of lower morale and lower job satisfaction, the need to be competitive with other employers and an unwillingness to have workers think that their employers are not concerned about their health.