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Meisinger Resigns as Head of Largest HR Professional Group

January 9, 2008
In the midst of a major internal reform effort, the largest human resources professional organization is losing its chief executive.

Sue Meisinger, president and CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management, announced to her staff on Tuesday, January 8, that she is leaving—just as SHRM is launching a strategic assessment and six months after it rolled out a rebranding campaign.

In an internal memo, she wrote that she sought to “balance the demands of my role at SHRM … and my desire to attend to some family member health matters.”

Meisinger, who has been SHRM chief executive since 2002, cast her resignation as a retirement. She indicated that she would remain in place until her replacement is selected.

“I’ve concluded that this would be a good time to step back, before SHRM undertakes its strategic review, to take some time for myself and my family—to take a sabbatical,” she wrote in the memo. “I suspect that at some point I may rejoin the world of work for the next phase of my life.”

During her 20 years at SHRM, Meisinger has been COO, senior vice president and vice president of government and public affairs.

William Maroni, SHRM chief external affairs officer, said Meisinger intends to take a "planned retirement" beginning in June.

Meisinger’s departure surprised Lori Golino, president of SHRM’s Washington chapter.

“I’m shocked,” said Golino, senior vice president of HR at Social and Scientific Systems in Silver Spring, Maryland. “I know she really got a lot of momentum going on this rebranding effort and she’s been doing a really great job.”

There were no indications of friction among the SHRM leadership that may have forced Meisinger out, according to Golino. SHRM hired a new COO, China Miner Gorman, in August.

“They all seemed to be working well together,” Golino said.

While Meisinger takes the next step in her career, the organization that she leaves behind is undergoing a transformation. At the SHRM annual conference in Las Vegas in June, Meisinger unveiled a branding campaign designed to help SHRM communicate better with its 233,000 members.

Meisinger told the Las Vegas audience that communicating with its far-flung membership would require SHRM to plug into online devices like BlackBerrys, Treos and iPods.

“We’re using technology so that SHRM can be with you wherever you go,” she said.

In her memo Tuesday, she said the accomplishments of her term included increasing membership by 63,000, increasing revenue from $70 million to $107 million and reserves from $62 million to nearly $160 million. The organization has said it is accumulating the large reserves to allow it to continue to operate during severe economic downturns.

Meisinger also touted SHRM’s increased information resources and professional development opportunities as well as its new China and India offices.

Mark Schoeff Jr.