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SHRM Looks Outside Organization for New CEO

When it replaces outgoing chief executive Susan Meisinger, SHRM will not promote from within, the group’s COO says. A decision is expected by August 1.

June 24, 2008
In selecting a new chief executive, the Society for Human Resource Management will not promote from within its own ranks.

China Miner Gorman, SHRM chief operating officer, will become acting CEO when Susan Meisinger steps down on June 30. In an interview with Workforce Management at the SHRM Annual Conference & Exposition in Chicago on Tuesday, June 24, Gorman indicated she is not a candidate for the top position.

“The board was going in a direction that took them outside of the SHRM organization,” she said. The board is expected to make a decision by August 1.

Gorman was appointed COO in August 2007. She was previously president of DBM North America, a human resource management consulting firm. Before that, Gorman was president of Lee Hecht Harrison, a national human resources and outplacement company.

There is precedent for SHRM elevating its COO to the top position. Meisinger served as COO before she was named president and CEO in 2002.

Meisinger, who has served in various SHRM roles for more than 20 years, announced her retirement in January, saying she needed to spend time with ill family members.

The COO role was left open until Gorman arrived. Gorman said she is not disappointed to be staying where she is.

“I’ve got the best job I’ve ever had,” she said.

She has plenty on her agenda. Membership services, professional and business development, professional knowledge, publishing and new media, and external affairs report to Gorman.

“The number of moving parts at SHRM has really, really grown,” Gorman said. SHRM, the world’s largest HR organization, has 245,000 members. In 2007, it generated $105.4 million in revenue.

In the six weeks or so that she will be acting CEO, Gorman says she will not make any changes.

“I’m a caretaker,” she said. “We won’t be starting any new initiatives. Sue has built a world-class organization.”

As SHRM looks for a new leader, the challenge will be to find someone with a wide and deep knowledge of the field who also has executive ability.

Mike Losey, Meisinger’s predecessor as SHRM chief, said many HR professionals have made contributions in the C-suite of large businesses, but they didn’t make the final decisions.

“They may have been in the room, but they’ve never run a $100 million organization,” he said.

The new executive also will have to cope with the vagaries of governing a professional association, where board turnover is high.

“The CEO is the link of continuity,” Losey said. SHRM’s effectiveness “requires a strategic plan that is not subject to whimsical changes.”

Losey praised the job Meisinger has done and said her influence will endure.

“The strategic plan is Sue’s plan,” he said. “The fact you hire a new CEO doesn’t mean that you throw the old plan out.”

—Mark Schoeff Jr.

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