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SHRM Chapter Involvement Can Develop Your Skills, Benefit Your Organization

Shelli Nelson knows a thing or two about being involved with the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). She has been Chicago SHRM chapter president since June 2016 and a member of the chapter board since 2011. The 900-member chapter is spearheading volunteer efforts at for the 2018 SHRM 2018 Annual Conference & Exposition, to be held in its city June 17-20.

Nelson has served as senior manager of talent acquisition at computer software company Relativity since 2017. Prior to that, she was vice president of professional development services at Think IT, a technology consulting firm in the Windy City. She has been heavily involved in her chapter during her career. 

Shelli Nelson

"My employers have been incredibly supportive of my involvement with Chicago SHRM over the years," Nelson said. "The support I have received reflects the value that organizations place on professional development, continuous learning, employee referrals and employer branding opportunities." 

Dorie Blesoff, chief people officer at Relativity, backs Nelson's involvement, which can sometimes take her away from the workplace.

"We expect leaders to be accountable for their priorities and the development of their teams, and continue to set and accomplish their own professional development goals. Being a leader of a respected professional association such as SHRM can benefit Shelli, her team, our company and the development of our profession. It's a win-win-win-win," Blesoff explained in an e-mail. "We rely on Shelli to balance her attention and focus on her work responsibilities along with other areas of her professional life."

Her advice to employers on how to support their staff who are leading SHRM chapter activities?

"Make sure priorities and accountabilities are clear in the work setting and then let the talent on your team deliver in the most effective way," Blesoff said. "The best way to ensure a win-win is to check in on how work responsibilities are going as well as what is being learned from the professional development experience and what can be shared to help the whole team develop." 

Getting Buy-In 

Getting your organization's support starts with being transparent about your own commitment to SHRM chapter involvement, Nelson said. Be upfront that you are, or want to be, involved in your chapter. 

Secondly, know your audience. Nelson advises putting together a presentation that highlights how involvement helps both you and the organization to grow. For example, if your chapter is hosting a talk on talent acquisition that would benefit your organization, point out the learning benefits to your supervisor.

Third, consider inviting your supervisor to a chapter event, but be strategic so that the supervisor finds the time is well- spent and, as Nelson noted, "can see the caliber of talent we are bringing in" to chapter-sponsored events.

Fourth, point out how your involvement benefits your organization in the following ways:

  • Professional development. Chapter activities may include attending luncheons to hear speakers addressing business topics, participating in panel discussions, and organizing and coordinating meetings and events such as job fairs and workshops. Running a chapter's board is no different from running a business: It requires presentation skills, cultural effectiveness, and business and leadership acumen—which can be pointed out to supervisors, Nelson said. 
  •  Networking resources. Being active in your chapter is a great way to learn about best practices, job candidate referrals and resources. 

"I can pick up the phone any time and reach out to my [chapter] network and find out what are the cutting-edge practices in the marketplace. That's powerful," Nelson said.

  • Employer branding opportunity. Chapter involvement is a way to extend your employer's brand as you become involved in chapter activities, Nelson said. For example, Matt Garvey, director of talent acquisition at Relativity and Nelson's direct supervisor, is scheduled to speak on a Chicago SHRM panel at an upcoming state SHRM conference. Those opportunities give HR professionals and others at your company the chance to be brand ambassadors.  

Garvey has been Nelson's direct supervisor for the last year, and he said the knowledge she gains from her SHRM involvement "is priceless."

"If we stay in our workplace bubble, we don't know what is going on out there" in the rest of the world. Nelson's involvement, he said, "builds our brand in the marketplace and helps her develop as a thought leader." 

When she comes back and shares her experiences with those around her through formal presentations and day-to-day work processes, "I think we all learn from that," he noted.