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HR AdministrationSHRM Announces the Retirement of CEO Hank Jackson

Jackson, the Society for Human Resource Management’s sixth president, has made many noteworthy contributions to HR in his tenure.

Henry “Hank” Jackson has been leading SHRM since 2010. Credit: SHRM/Chris Williams

Henry G. “Hank” Jackson, president and CEO at the Society for Human Resource Management, will retire Dec. 31, announced SHRM on Jan. 19 in a press release. Executive search firm Spencer Stuart has already begun the recruitment process for the next CEO, and SHRM’s board of directors will choose Jackson’s successor from the candidate list created by the search firm.

Jackson, 65, has been leading SHRM since 2010. His colleagues value the contributions he’s made to SHRM and the HR profession, according to the press release. And his work is not over, said Coretha Rushing, chair of the SHRM Board of Directors and corporate vice president and CHRO at Equifax. “During his final year, he will continue to lead SHRM and ensure that the goals set out in its strategic plan are met. Come December, we will wish him well in his retirement. He will be greatly missed,” she said in a statement.

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In the years that Jackson has led SHRM, the HR association grew to a record 289,000 members, the release stated. His tenure also marks the most popular SHRM annual conference in 2015 in Las Vegas. Almost 16,000 people attended. It also marks increased HR interest in the younger generation, as SHRM saw student membership rise to 23,000 in his tenure.

Kris Dunn, the chief human resources officer for Kinetix and a Workforce contributing editor, said SHRM played it safe when tapping Jackson as president and CEO in 2011.

“SHRM thought Hank Johnson was a safe, responsible choice,” Dunn said. “Turns out they were probably right, but the fact he wasn’t a former HR leader left many in the membership a bit jaded and questioning whether SHRM believes top HR leaders are incapable of running an organization with a mere $100 million in annual revenue. Expect them to course correct this time around, locating a champion/leader within the profession rather than a professional manager with a CPA.”

Sharlyn Lauby, president of consulting firm ITM Group Inc. and previously a member of SHRM’s Membership Advisory Council, said Jackson’s background in finance helped the association. Before becoming CEO and president, he served as the chief global finance and business affairs officer.

“As a human resources professional, we hear a lot about the need to understand the business and the numbers,” she said in an email interview.  “Hank was able to show the value by bringing his finance expertise to his role as CEO, not simply saying it was important. SHRM benefited and as a result, so did HR.”

Scott Washburn, vice president of human resources at Tree Top Inc. and former SHRM board member from 2014-15, said Jackson had a lot to do with the growth of the association, both from a membership perspective and a financial stability perspective. He also helped expand reach both globally and domestically.

“He led some pretty hard decisions, some high-level strategic decisions around implementation of the new competency programs and the new certifications, that were met with different types of responses from different people, but I think they absolutely were the right decisions,” said Washburn.

Moving forward, he added, “I think the board of directors will be looking for a strong leader who can continue of the path that Hank has helped forge. At the same time, they’ll want somebody who has an idea of what that next level of performance looks like for the organization and where the HR profession is going and help lead the association there.”

Carol McDaniel, president of the HR Florida State Council, a state affiliate for SHRM, also admired Jackson’s work with the SHRM certification model.

“That took courage and a strong sense of what was to be the future of our industry,” she said. “While the beginning may have been somewhat rocky, the communication, talking points and his ability be steadfast supporter of the new competencies will a big part of his legacy.”

Sheryl Simmons, chief human resource officer of Chicago-based Maestro Health, said SHRM has prospered under Jackson’s leadership and is grateful for his contributions to the organization, including the new certification program launched under his watch.

“Despite a rocky launch, the introduction of a new certification provider has helped to elevate the HR industry overall,” Simmons said. “Looking ahead to the future of SHRM, the organization needs an individual with strong leadership skills, C-suite strategic talent and deep knowledge of the HR industry. While this doesn’t necessarily need to be a career HR professional, SHRM needs a leader who understands the challenging and evolving world of HR. Between ever-increasing competition for talent, the shifting benefits landscape, and complex regulatory and compliance requirements, the role of the HR professional has grown tremendously, and SHRM must continue to evolve with it.”

Hilary Constable, principal consultant at Constable HR, saw Jackson’s hiring six years ago as a logical one given his background as a CPA.

“I think that there is potential for the field of HR to learn from the developments in our peer organization of finance over the last few decades,” said Constable, who is certified as an SPHR from HRCI and SHRM-SCP from SHRM. “SHRM added their own HR certification system, in addition to the existing HRCI system, to address business as a whole rather than only HR topics, but they missed the mark.”

Constable is eager to see where SHRM’s as-yet unnamed replacement for Jackson takes the profession.

“I’m excited to see where HR will go from here and how we will build on the progress we’ve already made, from being thought of as the ‘girl in HR’ or the ‘Benefits Lady’ to having the credibility to lead business initiatives that add real value to the bottom line and improve our workplaces for the people in them.”

Andie Burjek is a Workforce associate editor. Editorial director Rick Bell contributed to this article. Comment below, or email at aburjek@humancapitalmedia.com. Follow Workforce on Twitter at @workforcenews.