CHICAGO — Just about six months into his new role, the Society for Human Resource Management’s president and CEO hopes to take the industry group in a new, forward direction.

“Since March, there has been a lot we’ve accomplished and a lot more to accomplish,” says SHRM CEO Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., speaking at the group’s annual conference here.

Johnny C. Taylor, Jr.
Johnny C. Taylor, Jr.

“We’ve spoken out,” he added, noting in the past SHRM has taken a less vocal role and worked more behind the scene. “There are positions that clearly require the voice of the profession,” he said.

Looking ahead, Taylor says there are three areas of focus the lobbying organization aims to work on: workplace immigration, hiring of the formerly incarcerated and workplace harassment.

Sexual harassment broke open on the scene late last year, fueled by the growing #metoo movement, and in addition to harassment in the workplace also bubbled up other issues such as pay and gender inequalities.

Taylor says he’s reaching out to partner with industry leaders such as Ellen Kullman, former DuPont CEO and co-chair of the Paradigm for Parity — a coalition of CEOs, including those from corporate heavyweights like Accenture, Bank of America and Coca-Cola, dedicated to addressing the leadership gender gap in corporate America — to find an answer in addressing the issue.

The CEO says he is working also with lawmakers to find solutions on harassment in the workplace across the board. For example, in California, the state legislature is wrestling with harassment in government, including allegations against politicians. “When you have someone who has been elected they can’t just be plucked out of their job in the context of civil infractions,” he noted.

And while everyone is talking about #metoo, another issues catching a lot of attention is second chance legislation, he said.

HR has historically stayed away from hiring formerly incarcerated, but the fact of the matter is when we have six million jobs going unfilled every year, employers need access to talent, he said.

“We can’t just have a blanket prohibition against the incarcerated,” he added. “we have to find talent from wherever we can find it.”

We all have unconscious bias, he said, but how do we address it? People in HR have a huge bias against people who have been arrested, and an even bigger bias against those formally incarcerated, he noted.

AI is going to help address this challenge, Taylor predicts.

“I am so incredibly excited about what AI can do for us,” he said. “You’ll never eliminate full bias, but you can take some of that away in the decision making process. AI can also show you trends even you don’t recognize,” he added, noting that it’s also important not to take the human aspect out of HR either.

But in the end, Taylor’s vision for the organization is to elevate the HR profession and set up professional standards.

“We as a profession have to know and accept that part of going into this business is there are certain obligations,” he said. “We have to dig deep down and be courageous. I’m not going to work at a company where women can be harassed. If I’m willing to sell myself out for a paycheck, then shame on me.”

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