Get more out of your SHRM chapter membership

get more shrm membership

How can SHRM chapters and members get more out of membership? Read on for a few ideas. This post is a part of the SHRM Chapter Leadership Guide.

HR Barbie, AKA Tamara in Ohio, asks the following:

I am so glad I found your site.  It is so important for the newly minted HR Professionals, like me.

It was extremely hard for me to transition into HR, and like you, I did not find an HR position until I began attending CSHRM meetings (Cleveland chapter).

My problem with SHRM in general, is that it is directed more towards the management side.  For professionals new to HR like myself, who only implements policy and is not a policy maker, it can be very off putting or in some cases a waste of time to attend.

I really want to join / attend on a more regular basis.  Perhaps in one of your next posts you can write about how we can make chapter SHRMs benefit all levels of HR.

I’ve heard from others like my buddy Tamara here, and I know it isn’t a local problem for her. I don\’t know if these chapters are expecting the national chapter\’s offerings to make up for their lack of value or what, but it seems pretty silly to me.

What can SHRM chapters do?

SHRM chapters offer a discounted monthly meeting rate for joining. What good is that really? Why not offer some benefits beyond the ordinary?

Just a few ideas off the top of my head:

  • Offer online audio/video copies of monthly meetings (can you imagine the value in that?).
  • Have more general leadership/business oriented options.
  • Create a chapter mentor program to bridge the experience/knowledge gap.
  • Develop an in-house course solely for members (contact me, I’d love to help!).
  • Deliver programming on things like social styles, trust, ethics, building credibility, managing up, professional development, leadership, integrity, and a thousand other things not completely dripping in HR.
  • Encourage more small group “sub-events.” I learned at HRevolution that the small groups far outstrip large ones when you’re looking for real communication. The smaller the group, the more people interact. People still talk in large sessions, but they really make things happen when in small groups.

The whole audience isn’t made up of just HR directors or VPs. Sure, they make up a part of the audience, but you have way more people on the other end of the scale.

What can SHRM members do?

Members have a limited amount of options. If the chapter stinks, then there\’s not a whole lot you can do. Sure, you can join a committee and try to make a difference from the inside out, but that’s not going to work for everyone. And being a member should mean that you’re getting some benefits, not working your tail off as a benefit.

Chapters, give them something more. They are paying you an annual fee. And for what? To get a discount if they go to monthly meetings.

That’s your benefit? That’s your value proposition? How about offering something more permanent or intimate or interesting?

Another interesting value-add for SHRM chapter members

Creative Commons

I don’t want to cripple your ability to fend for yourself, but why not rely on the amazing free advice and information found on Creative Commons licensed blogs? As long as you give attribution and don’t directly charge for the information, you can use it to supplement a chapter newsletter, start a monthly discussion series, or share as a bonus with people who come to meetings. Want to make the content sharing extra special? Tell the writer that you’re sharing their work with a new audience. It will thrill them to no end.

And you want to know something pretty cool? You could probably talk one of those writers into coming and speaking for you, too. See? I just opened a whole new pool of potential speakers for you.

Save me a little time, will ya?

We’re all busy. We don’t have a lot of time to filter information. If you can sift through some articles and find one you know will be popular, then that’s a value-add right there. Anyone can throw 50 pages of junk at someone. It takes some effort to whittle that down to 7 really solid pages of helpful information.

If that’s too vague for you to grasp, try this exercise.

  • What’s your topic this month? We’ll pick wellness just for kicks.
  • Look for free supplemental resources. Well, lookey here seems there’s a few great resources on wellness from Fistful of Talent, Compensation Force, and HR Web Cafe.
  • Grab the link or print out the article. After the monthly meeting, share the link via email or the print version by including it in everyone’s packet.

Was that so difficult? And it is just one tiny thing that separates your chapter from a dozen others.

I’ve said it before. Some SHRM chapters suck at marketing. It’s not that you don’t care about members. HR people aren’t natural sellers or marketers. But if you can take some ideas like this seriously, then maybe you can take the short and simple (yet very powerful) step to help your chapter mean something more for everyone involved.

14 thoughts on “Get more out of your SHRM chapter membership

  1. Penina Sachs

    Ben, I have shared this with the current Board of my chapter and plan to share it with my Membership Committee. I always enjoy reading your posts and your positive perspective.

    1. Ben Post author

      Hey, Penina! I appreciate the gesture. It’s definitely something I feel strongly about, and I’m glad you found it valuable enough to pass along. Let me know if they need any convincing. :-)

  2. Chris Frede

    Ben, great post. I have been a SHRM member for many years and never participated in any of the local chapter activities – I don’t even know if they have activities. Guess I assumed over the years they would contact me – wrong attitude! Your post inspires me to take the initiative, find our local chapter and get involved. Thanks for the ideas.

    1. Ben Post author

      Glad I could give you an idea, Chris. Some chapters are really worth your effort to join and interact with. Some are not. I hope you have a great one!

  3. Chris Ferdinandi - Renegade HR

    Ben, excellent ideas here. I particularly love your suggestion that they record and archive meetings. SO easy to do with a cheap digital camera. Even better than that, though, the mentor program. I would have loved something like that a few years ago!

    Tamara, I feel your pain. I can remember being there. My one piece of advice is that “policy influencer” stuff is more useful than you may realize. I would have loved to have had more tactical info early career, too. But if you can absorb the strategic stuff and figure out how to implement it tactically, you’ll be a better HR pro now AND in the future.

    Best of luck, and if I can help you with anything, please don’t hesitate to reach out!

    – Chris
    .-= Chris Ferdinandi – Renegade HR´s last blog ..Paul Hebert on Incentives and Motivation =-.

    1. Ben Post author

      Hey, Chris (#2 :-) ). So many simple ideas, yet it seems like it’s so difficult to make a change. It’s a big reason I’m a proponent more for the local chapters than for the larger national organization.

      And thanks for sharing the insights with Tamera. Good stuff.

  4. John Jorgensen

    Ben, Great post, with excellent points for both chapters and members. I am sharing it with both members and leaders of the Illinois State Council of SHRM LinkedIn groups as well as my home chapters group.

    Loved the post on mentoring also and have shared it with the same group. Keep up the good work. A quick note is that it is easier for SHRM at-large members to find chapters than vice-versa at times. All at-large members should check out the SHRM web site to find chapters near them and investigate those chapters. A great addition to the national membership and better for networking opportunities.

  5. Robin S

    As a former chapter leader and long-time SHRM and (affiliated-chapters) member, my primary piece of advice Tamara is DON’T GIVE UP! This is organization that represents your profession and I believe it is important to be connected with SHRM. National benefits vary greatly from chapter benefits, and both add value in different ways.

    Just as you work to FIND value from your chapter membership, chapters often struggle with finding a way to provide value to a very diverse audience of members. My chapter, for example, has recent grads/new HR pros such as well as “very-seasoned” HR pros/VPs/Directors with 30 plus years experience. And this is not just a struggle at the chapter-level; SHRM constantly works to address this issue.

    Personally, I have adopted Ben’s approach over the years; “change from within.” Easier said than done sometimes, but if it works for you and your chapter, I strongly encourage it. Ben has some great suggestions for adding value – some other ideas might be suggesting to the volunteer leaders of your chapter that they create some “Special Interest Groups” such as a book club, or SIGS based on HR core areas: ER, Recruitment, Benefits, etc.

    Stay involved and before you know it, YOU will be the SR HR Pro serving as the “welcoming voice” to new chapter members/new HR pros.

  6. Chris Ferdinandi - Renegade HR


    I’d like to pick your brain, as someone who’s been very involved with SHRM, on something that’s always bothered me about the “change from within” mindset.

    SHRM charges me money to be a member – Shouldn’t I expect to receive services that are relevant to me? And if SHRM doesn’t provide them, why is it MY responsibility to help get them in place? If I’m going to be doing all the work, why not just start my own HR organization and charge people who want the same things I do to be members?

    Can you imagine if for profit organizations operated with that attitude? “You’re a customer and you’re not happy with our services? Why not become a member of our company and implement the services you want!” They company would be out of business faster than you can say “liquidation sale”!

    Would love to hear your thoughts!


    .-= Chris Ferdinandi – Renegade HR´s last blog ..Paul Hebert on Incentives and Motivation =-.

  7. John Jorgensen


    I am not sure how Robin will answer the question, but I am going to take the liberty of tossing my 2 cents in. Like Robin, I have been a long time SHRM member, both on the National and local chapter level, a leader both on the chapter and state level, and before that a student chapter member (can you say ASPA?). While I agree with Robin that changing it from the inside is a great concept and I encourage all those who want to be involved on the local leadership level to do so. It is very rewarding and a great way to build or improve on leadership and project management skills.

    That being said, I agree with you that it is not the individuals responsibilty to make the chapter relevant to their membership. It is the responsibility of the chapter leadership to make it so or people will vote against them with their dollars and lack of membership. Local chapter leaders need to continually get feedback from members and prosepective members, and act on the feedback, to make it a place where HR pros can receive value and continue to be members. Local chapters have numerous places to turn for help in this area (both National and State). If they don’t, like you said “liquidation sale”, which I have seen happen.

    Great statement on your part and I am looking forward to Robin’s answer.

    John Jorgensen
    Director, Illinois Statet Council of SHRM

  8. HR Barbie

    Hi {waving at all my new HR comrades}

    Ben, first, thanks you for tackling this issue. For the longest time, I had given up on attending my local chapter\’s SHRM meetings. I felt I could not justify asking my supervisor to cover the cost of meetings with topics that were truly out of the scope of my duties. Perhaps, now if I were to submit some of your ideas to the local chapter, plus a few of my own, I\’d have a reason to attend.

    Chris, thanks for helping me see the bigger picture. I totally understand what you mean about the “policy influencer stuff”. I know it is not a true waste of my time, but I would like to learn something now to help me build towards later. My learning style has been to build upon what was learned previously. Also, thanks for the invitation of assistance, I have visited your blog and the Buzzwords Bingo is a blast. I may suggest it for our next Team Building Meeting.

    Robin S., thanks for your words of encouragement. I have not attended a meeting in over a year because as I said to Ben I could not justify asking to attend. Come to think of it, I could not justify asking my supervisor/the company to cover the costs of becoming a member. I constantly go to the website to see what conferences are being offered, but to no avail… However, I see that as my job grows there seems to be more topics that I may be able to learn something from e.g. the upcoming workshop on Metrics.

    BTW, Chris, great point about the organization being relevant to my needs. I await Robin\’s response.


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