The Society for Human Resource Management, which represents almost 300,000 members in 165 countries, now has an official chapter in north central Iowa. In September, the Heartland of Iowa SHRM chapter will receive its charter. It is one of nearly 600 SHRM affiliated chapters that help human resource professionals perform an eclectic mix of important roles in a wide array of businesses and other organizations.
In welcoming this new chapter’s creation, Elissa C. O’Brien, SHRM’s vice president – membership, said the society’s local units are key components as it seeks to advance of the HR profession.
“We rely on our chapters to help advance the human resource profession and to lead by example,” she said. “They are the core of the organization, living the society’s mission throughout the country.”
Lynn Pedersen, the local branch manager of QPS Employment Group Inc., is the inaugural president of the Heartland of Iowa SHRM chapter. She said the planning and organizational process for the group has been underway for more than a year. It brings together HR professionals from across north central Iowa.
“Right now, we have seven counties – Calhoun, Hamilton, Humboldt, Kossuth, Pocahontas, Webster and Wright – and we have 54 members,” Pedersen said. “One of the things that makes us unique is that there are so many counties involved. It keeps growing. Now that we are an actual chapter, we’ll push even harder.”
The group’s focus is quite straightforward.
“The Heartland of Iowa SHRM chapter will serve as an important local voice, providing leadership on key business and workplace issues and helping to improve the practice of human resource management within our membership and within the community,” Pedersen said.
To help accomplish that mission, meetings are held on the second Wednesday of the month at the Fort Dodge Public Library from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. At these gatherings HR topics are presented by assorted professionals with specialized subject matter expertise.
“We had one talk about workplace safety,” Pedersen said. “We’ve had a paid speaker on conflict resolution. She’ll be coming back at some point and doing ‘the toxic employee’ for us. It runs the gamut of subjects such as employment law, interviewing – how to do an interview – anything that is related to HR. We’ve had a presentation on new regulations. Each year we’ll have somebody come in and review any new tax laws or anything like that.”
At the Sept. 13 meeting, the value of networking will be the focus.
In addition to presentations by experts, the meetings offer the opportunity for members to interact with one another and share their knowledge and experiences.
“We also do a Table Talk each month,” Pedersen said. “The members break up into groups of four or five and we present them with a topic to talk about. We enjoy that. We get to network with each other and find out how others handle things. It’s been a huge success.”
According to Pedersen, HR professionals handle a wide variety of tasks within the organizations that employ them.
“It depends on the company,” she said. “They could be in charge of training, safety, recruiting, interviewing, hiring, releasing, annual reviews.”
Membership in the local chapter is open to individuals who perform HR roles in businesses and other organizations as well as anybody else with an interest in the human resource field.
“We’re just starting up but a lot of chapters will have college students,” Pedersen said. “We’re in the process of getting anybody who is interested from Iowa Central and Buena Vista. Also it might be a small business owner who needs to know all this information because they do everything themselves.”
The startup committee that brought the chapter into being consisted of a diverse cross-section of area HR professionals. It included Sarah Messerly from Iowa Workforce Development, operations manager; Cathy Nelson-Schoon of Iowa Workforce Development, Workforce advisor-business services representative; Amy Porter, director of HR for Webster County; Julie Pingel, manager of the Fort Dodge Family Credit Union; Amanda Boyd vice president of HR at C&S Products; Alison O’Brion, human resources consultant at Elanco Animal Health, Lon Varangkounh, HR manager at Hy-Capacity; Jennifer Leiting HR at Nestle Purina and Pedersen, branch Manager QPS Employment Group.
As it launches its role as an official SHRM chapter the group’s board of directors consists of Pedersen, Boyd, O’Brion, Porter, Nelson-Schoon and Pingel.