University of Wisconsin–Madison

SHRM: Creating Better Workplaces for a Better World

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) is the world’s largest association for the human resources profession with over 300,000 members worldwide. Its purpose, mission and vision is to elevate the HR profession (purpose), empower people and workplaces by advancing HR practices and by maximizing human potential (mission), and build a world of work that works for all (vision).

There are many ways for HR professionals at UW–Madison to get involved with SHRM as a national member, local chapter member, volunteer leader, certified professional, and/or event attendee. This month, we talked with Jeff Palkowski, Workforce Relations with DoIT HR, who shares his experience.

Jeff: I have been involved with SHRM for nearly 20 years at all of these levels and wanted to share with you some of my experiences to show you how you too can get involved with SHRM to help enrich your HR career.

National SHRM Membership

I joined SHRM in 2003 as I was wrapping up my Master of Human Resource Management degree to start a new career in human resources. What began as a way to simply add “SHRM” as another line on my resume has evolved into a lifelong partnership with an organization that has given me so much in terms of resources, tools, knowledge, networking, and professional development.

I access many of the toolkits and resources that SHRM provides on their webpage on nearly a daily basis. Throughout the pandemic, SHRM has provided timely information about the ever-changing laws and other impacts on HR professionals and their employers.

In 2021, I had the opportunity to share my “SHRM Story” nationally along with two other SHRM members as we talked about our experiences as SHRM members in a short, two-and-a-half-minute promotional video:

Local Chapter Membership

Along with the benefits you can receive as a national SHRM member, there are nearly 600 affiliate SHRM chapters located across the US that bring HR professionals together to “localize” the SHRM experience for a specific region.

Each local chapter provides professional development, programming, and networking opportunities that are unique to their region, which compliments the benefits of a national SHRM membership with interactions with HR professionals located in your local region.

You do not need to be a national SHRM member to join a local chapter, and many HR professionals find local membership as a great way to initially get involved with SHRM.

Here in Wisconsin, SHRM has 19 affiliate chapters. I currently maintain a membership in two chapters—Blackhawk HRA in Rock County and the Greater Madison Area SHRM chapter here in Madison.

Volunteer Leadership

One of best SHRM experiences for me has been the opportunity to “give back” to the HR profession through a number of volunteer leadership roles with SHRM. After previously serving in roles on the chapter boards for my local chapters, I have served on the Wisconsin SHRM State Council for the past three years and currently serve as Director of Communications/Social Media, as well as District Director—assisting four local chapters in South Central Wisconsin.

Besides enhancing my leadership skills and networking with HR professionals from across the state and country, my volunteer roles with SHRM have allowed me to attend many state and annual conferences at no cost. Volunteering in service has saved my employer (and me) thousands of dollars in professional development fees over the past few years.

SHRM Certification

SHRM offers HR professionals the opportunity to pursue two professional certifications—SHRM-CP (Certified Professional) and SHRM-SCP (Senior Certified Professional). A SHRM certification helps both HR professionals as well as aspiring HR professionals to demonstrate their commitment to the HR profession, acquire new skills and knowledge through the testing preparation, and maintain current and relevant knowledge through recertification activities.

I earned the SHRM-CP certification when it was first rolled out in 2015, recertified several times, and earned the SHRM-SCP certification in 2020. Maintaining my certification with educational and learning activities has been a great way to stay current in the HR field. If you are interested in pursuing a SHRM Certification, you will find more information here:

SHRM Events

Professional development events are a great way to hear from industry professionals, learn new ideas and information, and connect with other HR colleagues. There is something for every HR professional from local networking events, legal updates, workshops, and multi-day conferences.

Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to attend many SHRM and SHRM chapter events. Regardless of size and scope, each provided new insights and opportunities to connect with others. The largest event (by far) that I have attended is the SHRM Annual Conference & Exhibition. Pre-pandemic, you could expect over 20K attendees from around the globe and hear directly from many well-known HR experts and authors whose books line my bookshelf including: Brené Brown, Adam Grant, Cy Wakeman, Dave Ulrich, and Steve Browne.

In 2021, SHRM held its annual conference in a hybrid setting which allowed a number of our UW–Madison colleagues to attend virtually. Here is some of the feedback from several attendees:

Beth Gelhar, SHRM-CP (Compensation Analyst – OHR)

  • What did you enjoy most about the conference? As a specialist, I seek opportunities to broaden my HR experience/knowledge.  It’s good to know what challenges HR is facing in not only other specialties, but also in the private sector.  The conference/speakers also motivated me to think about ways I could change what I do in my day-to-day work to make more of a positive impact for campus.
  • Favorite speaker/session that you heard/attended, and why? Hard to pick! Johnny C. Taylor’s (SHRM President & CEO) keynote (which I would define as a “call to action”) stands out.  It was just a really motivating speech that reminded me why I got into HR in the first place.

Ann Bradshaw, SHRM-CP (Divisional HR Manager – Division of Enrollment Management)

  • What did you enjoy most about the conference? I enjoyed the online format as well as the number of sessions that were available to pick from.
  • Favorite speaker/session that you heard/attended, and why? Michael Phelps (Olympic gold medalist). The topic of mental health is so important and just how honest he was about his journey was inspiring.

This year’s Annual Conference & Exposition will be held on June 12-15, 2022, in New Orleans and online with a theme of “Cause the Effect.” I hope to again work with SHRM to secure a group discount for any UW–Madison employees who wish to attend the event—either in-person or virtually—at a reduced rate. Look for more information about the group registration options by March.

Getting Involved

I’ve shared a few examples of how I have chosen to get involved with SHRM, but the experience is different for everyone, depending upon interests, professional needs, and availability. I have found my experience to be very valuable as I continue to receive so much knowledge, encouragement, and energy from the HR colleagues and friends that I have made globally through SHRM. I would encourage anyone who is looking to enhance and engage further in the human resources field to check out some of the resources that are available and decide for yourself if and how you might want to make SHRM a part of your path for professional growth.


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