May 2011 brings to a close my term as chair of the Human Resources Professionals Association's board of directors. My experiences have been diverse including various chair roles such as appeals committee, government relations committee, chapter governance and the regulations committee, to name a few. My learning has been expansive and I believe I am more accomplished as a human resources professional as a result.
I cannot stress enough how much HR professionals can learn from volunteering, particularly by serving on the board of an organization. From my personal experience, I have learned that ongoing training in governance helps board members work effectively together. There are different versions of governance principles but there are also some common elements, no matter what style of governance you believe in. Over the years I have been on the board, I have learned that you need to continue to challenge each other on governance best practices because it evolves as the organization evolves.
Just as our association board has evolved, so too does our profession. Today, we are making more complex and far-reaching HR decisions than we did in the past. But there is more to do. When we talk about being thought leaders, we are talking in terms of a futuristic goal. What can we do to make that happen? How do we enhance our careers so we can become thought leaders?
The same goes for governance: If you do not have an understanding of how to be a good governor, you cannot do your job effectively.
Part of good governance is learning how to work with people who have different skill sets. Volunteering on a board can help with that as boards turn over a number of their members annually and you must meet new people, bring them up to speed on the board's activities and strategies and learn to work with them. The challenge is to continually learn from and work with different people who come to the table with different skills and ideas.
At HRPA, we believe so strongly in the role of governance that we have just embarked upon a formalized training program for all members of the board as well as training for chapter boards. There are always new situations and complex issues and if your governance knowledge is current, you can rely on that when undertaking new issues.
Governance training has provided an invaluable opportunity to me that I believe will serve me well in future years both professionally and in other volunteer roles. This is value that money cannot buy—you simply cannot gain this kind of experience by attending courses in leadership.
There is, however, a caveat to all this. Anyone considering board work should be aware that it is a job with significant time commitment and as such, prestige should not be a consideration for serving. The only considerations should be that you have something of value to contribute, you want to be a part of something exciting, you want to help shape the future and are willing to commit some of your valuable time. If that is the case, you will be richly rewarded.