Advocacy, Human Resources... and Cheese?

2018-03-06 | , Society for Human Resource Management

So, what event brings together advocacy, engaged human resources professionals, legislators…and deep fried cheese curds? If you guessed Wisconsin’s 2018 Day on the Hill, you would be correct!

For the 4th consecutive year, the Wisconsin State Council of the Society of Human Resource Management (WISHRM) has organized one of the premier human resources legislative and advocacy events in the nation, WISHRM Day on the Hill in Wisconsin’s state capitol city, Madison, Wisconsin.

This year’s event, held on February 21, 2018, was built on the success of previous “Day on the Hill” events and provided nearly 70 human resources professionals from both Wisconsin and surrounding states with timely employment law and legislative updates along with the opportunity for attendees to meet with Wisconsin State Representatives and State Senators to discuss current HR-related legislation currently being deliberated in the Wisconsin State Legislature. For many of our human resources professionals, the event served as their first introduction to “advocacy in action.”

Planning and hosting an event of this nature takes months of advance work and could not be done successfully without the work of a team of dedicated SHRM volunteers committing their time and talents as part of a “Day on the Hill” planning committee. WISHRM has been fortunate to have a hard-working committee led by WISHRM Legislative Director, Elise Rommes, and WISHRM Government Affairs Director, Tony Renning, as well as a number of committee members from local SHRM chapters all across Wisconsin.

Along with in-state resources, WISHRM also relies on the expertise of Meredith Nethercutt, Senior Associate for Member Advocacy at SHRM. In addition to supporting us with best practices from other states and updates from DC, Meredith also works with the offices of our state legislators in scheduling the multitude of meetings that take place during the afternoon visit to the Wisconsin State Capitol for advocacy meetings.

This year, Meredith also prepared our attendees by facilitating a pre-conference webinar one week before the event. Attendees were provided with information about advocacy best practices, how to conduct a meeting with elected officials, and information about SHRM’s advocacy efforts. Tony Renning also offered an overview of the legislative issues that attendees would be advocating in support of on behalf of WISHRM.

An evening reception was held the day before the Day on the Hill to provide an opportunity for attendees to network with each other and prepare for the next day events in a casual, social environment.  Several attendees also chose to take a brief tour of the Wisconsin State Capitol and were able to view the Wisconsin State Assembly in session from the Assembly Gallery. The highlight of the evening for many was the “post reception” to partake in a Wisconsin delicacy, the famous deep fried cheese curds, made with locally crafted Wisconsin cheese!

Our event day began bright and early at 8:00am with a special welcome message. I had the honor of reading a welcome letter to our attendees from Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. In his letter, Governor Walker recognized the importance of the human resources profession and our critical role in the future growth and development of the growing Wisconsin economy.

Meredith Nethercutt then provided an informative update, highlighting the many accomplishments of the SHRM Advocacy Team (A-Team) in 2017. These accomplishments included: “reach outs” by policy makers, invitations to congressional and state roundtables, and member testimony before congressional, federal agency and state committees. Attendees were also given an overview of the SHRM A-Team, and how our collective HR voices can make a difference at all levels of government through member advocacy.

The remainder of the presentations included:

  • A legislative update from Chris Reader, Director of Health & Human Resources Policy at Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce (WMC) regarding the issues that we would be advocating for in legislative meetings.
  • Legal updates and the “strangest employment cases of the year” from Attorney Bob Gregg of Boardman & Clark Law Firm and WISHRM Legislative Partner.
  • A ‘How a Bill Becomes a Law” session (for those of you seasoned HR professionals, think “Schoolhouse Rock”, and yes, we did play the video…) conducted by Attorney Tony Renning, WISHRM Government Affairs Director.
  • An Affordable Care Act (ACA) update by Susan Sieger, Senior Compliance Consultant with Employee Benefits Corporation.
  • A behind the scenes look at the Wisconsin State Capitol presented by Jessie Opoien of the Capital Times Press Corps.

After the final presentation, the majority of the attendees gathered for the short walk from our conference hotel, across the street to the Wisconsin State Capitol for our pre-scheduled meetings with legislators.

Each attendee received pre-scheduled appointments to meet with either their elected officials (State Assembly Representative and State Senator) and/or the legislator’s staff. During these meetings, our advocates took the opportunity to introduce themselves as constituents, share information about SHRM and our presence in the state, and then provide information related to several timely issues that are vital to our profession. The issues advocated for with legislators this year were:

  • Harmonization of Wisconsin’s Family Medical Leave Act with the federal Family Medical Leave Act
  • Worker’s Compensation Cost Containment Reform
  • Legislation proposed to ensure consistent, statewide human resources standards, preempting local governments from creating local standards

With the Wisconsin State Assembly in session, representatives were on the Assembly Floor throughout the afternoon but several members took time out to meet with our advocates personally to acknowledge our advocacy issues. Some attendees met with legislative staff to provide information to be shared with the legislator.

Overall, the efforts of our Wisconsin SHRM advocates have made a positive impact upon the legislative process. Several of the issues that were discussed in previous sessions have moved forward and the annual visits and ongoing dialogue with the elected officials has strengthened the relationship between our Wisconsin SHRM members and their elected officials.

For those SHRM members across the country that have not participated in a similar “Day on the Hill” in your state, I strongly encourage you to do so. While it may be a different and unique experience from other human resources professional development opportunities, it is one that can help to open new insights to an element of our profession that can be often overlooked.

Each year we have a mix of new attendees as well as those that return each year. Their experiences have helped our members to learn more about the lawmaking process and provided them with the knowledge and confidence to make their collective voices heard on issues that are important to our employers, employees and the overall human resources profession.

When asked about the solid commitment WISHRM has made toward hosting this event each year, WISHRM Legislative Director Elise Rommes said, “I feel fortunate to be in a state where the SHRM Council invests in a conference like this each year. It is truly a great opportunity to not only provide our members with legal updates, but to help make an impact on key issues affecting business and our human resources profession.”

If your state does not yet host a “Day on the Hill” event in your state’s capital, please reach out to Meredith Nethercutt with SHRM ( to learn more about how your state SHRM members can plan and organize a similar event in your state to provide this valuable experience to your human resources community. Meredith can also put you in touch with our WISHRM Day on the Hill committee, as we would be happy to share our experiences with anyone looking to host their own “Day on the Hill” event in their state.