- The Society for Human Resource Management has canceled its 2020 annual conference, the organization announced May 11.
- The cancellation comes in response to guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the City of San Diego, where the conference was set be held in late June, SHRM CEO Johnny C. Taylor said in the announcement. The conference would have welcomed about 24,000 people, according to the San Diego Convention Center.
- Those registered for SHRM20 have had their registration automatically transferred to SHRM21, which will be held in Chicago. SHRM directed those who cannot commit to the Chicago conference to customer service via an online form.
SHRM will offer members incremental learning opportunities throughout the summer and in the months leading up to SHRM21, a decision that responds to "what the world of work really needs right now in this COVID-19 environment," a SHRM spokesperson told HR Dive in an email. The content — some of which will be available only to registered conference attendees — will debut every second Tuesday of each month.
By opting for "a distributed model of content" rather than a virtual conference, SHRM can evaluate and "respond to the changing needs of the HR community based on the landscape." This marks a change in direction for the organization, after it turned its April talent conference into a virtual event with reports of success. Julie Doyle, state director at Ohio SHRM State Council, said the online event preserved at least two pillars typical of SHRM events: learning and networking.
Doyle said her experience was "very interactive." "I was very pleased with the format and platform they used," she said. "It was easy to get in, sign on and participate." Some sessions were pre-recorded, so participants could watch those at any time. Others featured the speakers live, and participants logged in at a particular time to participate, Doyle told HR Dive in an interview. Some of the live sessions were recorded and made available to attendees at a later time.
Each virtual session displayed a speaker, a visual presentation such as slides and a chat function. At the end of the live sessions, speakers took questions from attendees — another function of the virtual platform. Doyle appreciated this: "That was very different. If you've been to a conference, you don't get to ask questions generally."
Doyle said she missed the personal aspect of the event, but was surprised by how much networking went on. "I connected with a couple people. I had someone connect with me," she said. "It did feel like there was a community participating." This may be thanks to the platform's chat function, which Doyle said was "flying" during the sessions she tuned in to.
The virtual strategy is one many large conferences have adopted. Biotech and produce industry conferences hosted by the same convention center as SHRM20 announced virtual events would replace their June gatherings. Many large summer events in California have been canceled; California Gov. Gavin Newom March 4 enacted a stay-at-home order, and though it is "in place until further notice," he remarked at an April 14 press conference that mass gatherings would not be worth considering until "we get to herd immunity and we get a vaccine."
It's a strategy that hasn't been adopted by the HR community at large, however. Though ERE took its April recruiting conference online, ATD, Deloitte and Workhuman canceled their May conferences.
Much of the content SHRM will release throughout 2020 and 2021 will allow participants to earn recertification credit, SHRM said, a key component of the annual conference. SHRM-certified professionals must earn 60 credits over three years to maintain their certification, the organization says. Professionals can earn a large chunk of the credits they need for recertification through SHRM conferences, said Erin Stevens, a corporate recruiter at MasterBrand Cabinets who is a SHRM-certified professional. She earned more than 27 credits at the last annual conference in Las Vegas.
They may also obtain recertification by taking the certification exam in the last year of their certification cycle. Certified professionals may earn credits outside of conferences, of course; they can collect credits by advancing their education (the category conferences fall under), organization and profession. Stevens said she earns most of her points by going to the national conferences, attending monthly Indiana chapter meetings and volunteering. Members will also be able to earn recertification credits through a new program focused on COVID-19 response initiatives, which will debut next week.
SHRM said it will extend flexibility toward people who are ready to recertify; it plans to work with individuals "on a case-by-case basis," including people who may have been unable to earn the credits necessary to recertify on time.