his 7-year-old daughter. She accompa-nies him on overseas business trips and
attends a Chinese language immersion
school, where she has been studying
Mandarin since age 4. “Mandarin is the
language of business for the future,” he
You were president of SHRM’s board of
directors in 2005 and 2006. How do you
view that role relative to becoming CEO?
I like being engaged 24/7 in the day-to-day business of the organization. When
you’re a board member, your focus is
on high-level strategy about once every
quarter. As a staff member—even a
CEO—you live, eat and breathe the
issues every day.
How do you think your time on SHRM’s
board will inform your work in your new
It may scare people to hear this, but I
don’t think there is a whole lot I can
bring from a decade ago. The workplace
and the profession have changed dramatically. The concepts of predictive and
people analytics didn’t exist back then.
DACA [the federal Deferred Action for
Childhood Arrivals program] wasn’t
an issue. Diversity and inclusion were
about black and white. Now they’re
about black, white, brown, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, et cetera. When I
was on SHRM’s board, we talked about
defined benefit plans; they essentially
don’t exist anymore.
What would you like to focus on as CEO
that you did not have time to accomplish
while on the board?
My top issue is to continue to engage
the HR executive segment of our
profession. We’ve got to find a way
to ensure that these leaders appreciate the potential value of partnering
with SHRM to shape the future of the
Secondly, how do we get policymakers to more fully understand how
critical SHRM’s contributions and
voice are to enacting effective workplace policies? They don’t move without hearing what AARP thinks about
the Affordable Care Act, for example.
SHRM is the organization to turn to
for all matters related to employment
and people, and that needs to be better known.
In that vein, we’ve got to continue
to make industry and employers recognize how our association represents them on policies related to the
What’s HR’s biggest challenge today?
Changing the perception that we are a
SHRM must somehow raise awareness around why HR certification matters. And not just among HR practitioners. It’s important that those in the
general public should see the value of
HR certification as well.
What do you think is the biggest misperception about HR?
That it’s easy. People think anyone can do
it. Everyone thinks HR is intuitive, and,
as we know, so often it’s not. It’s as much
science as it is art, and it takes time to
learn it and become proficient.
What advice do you have for someone
starting out in the field today?
Become an expert. There are many
occupations you might choose if you’re
a people person. So why HR? Someone starting out in the profession must
consider how to impact the workplace
in a meaningful way; when you can
articulate that to an employer during an
interview, you’ll get the job every time.
It’s so compelling to be able to tell what
you are going to bring to the table in an
HR role and how you will help grow the
What about getting HR certification
when you’re new to HR?
Certification is incredibly important and
necessary. Ideally, after getting a year or
two of experience under your belt post-college, new HR professionals should
obtain the SHRM-CP designation. It
says to an employer that you understand
the SHRM Body of Competency and
Knowledge and can use that to help the
organization implement a high-impact
human capital strategy.
What can you tell us about your personal life and interests?
The most important thing I will ever do
is be a good dad. It’s what I am proud-est of and where I put most of my attention. It’s just my daughter and me in
this town. I empathize with how single
parents must balance everything. With
a very demanding lifestyle, being a dad
puts everything in perspective.
Kathy Gurchiek is an associate editor on
SHRM’s online news team.
SHRM is the organization to turn to for all matters related to
employment and people, and that needs to be better known.
LIS TEN to new SHRM CEO Johnny C. Taylor Jr.’s advice
about how to increase HR’s visibility among executives.