Society for Human Resource Management Takes On Workplace Culture

Written by Patricia Barnes Senior Contributor

Johnny C. Taylor, Jr.SHRM

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) wants to change the conversation about diversity.

“I am not convinced that making great laws changed everything,” said SHRM Chief Executive Officer Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., “If it did, we wouldn’t still be talking about sexual harassment.”

Instead of focusing on legal duties and reputational risk, Taylor says employers today should recognize that America is a diverse country with a knowledge-based economy. He said this paradigm shift has made it imperative for employers to create a workplace culture that is diverse, inclusive and respectful to attract and retain top talent.

Taylor said the 72-year-old SHRM, an Alexandria, VA-based association of human resource professionals with 300,000 members in 165 countries, wants to evolve into the authoritative voice for the “future of work.” In the process, he said, the SHRM will establish the “critical value” of its membership in the recruitment and hiring of workers who “are really driving the business.”

Taylor said highly-talented workers today do not plan to - nor have to - remain with a single employer for decades. “It’s long past the time when an employer simply ordered HR to hire three people... HR has a different role today because if you don’t have good people, you can’t grow,” he said.


Taylor said America’s booming economy and low unemployment rate pose a challenge to HR professionals, who will fill more than seven million jobs in 2020. He said employers must think outside the “box” and consider workers who were formerly excluded due to irrational and, in some cases, illegal bias. The SHRM recently released a national television ad called “When Work Works Against You” that urges employers to consider hiring older workers, the disabled, the formerly incarcerated and veterans.

According to SHRM:

Taylor, the narrator, states: “These individuals have been constrained for far too long … Tearing down biases at work is good for people and business. Building workplace cultures that embrace and promote inclusion is the future of work.”

In an interview, Taylor said diversity today is no longer limited to discreet groups like minorities and women but incorporates a broad spectrum of workers, including LGBTQ workers and international workers who come with different religious and cultural practices.

But that’s not all.

Taylor says the SHRM is currently researching the polarizing effect of political affiliation on workplace culture. He said preliminary research shows that employers who proudly proclaim they won’t discriminate on other bases don’t hesitate to say they wouldn’t hire an applicant who supports GOP President Donald Trump or, conversely, Democrat Bernie Sanders. Taylor says political affiliation discrimination is not illegal but represents a major obstacle to diversity and inclusion.

“We want to make people stop and think … to be more intentional to not exclude people,” said Taylor.


One of SHRM’s top priorities is to encourage employers to hire the formerly incarcerated. Taylor says one in every three Americans has an arrest record. He says they should not be prevented from “earning an honest living” because of a past mistake.

According to SHRM research, 74 percent of American workers feel comfortable working for an employer if a few of their coworkers have non-violent criminal records, while 78 percent of Americans are comfortable buying goods or services from a business where the customer-facing employee has a non-violent criminal record.

Taylor said 2,500 employers have signed a general SHRM pledge to hire formerly incarcerated workers and SHRM is now contemplating a next step - to ask employers to participate in a goal of actually hiring 100,000 formerly incarcerated workers.

When Taylor, a former president and CEO of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, joined SHRM in 2017, the organization set about “re-imagining” SHRM, which was then little known outside of HR circles. After much research and discussion, Taylor said SHRM decided it was the logical entity to bring work-life into the 21st century.

“Human beings spend a third of their lives at work. We want to influence the workplace to make employers more successful and to provide people with better lives,” said Taylor