Why I am Advocating at the 2019 SHRM Employment Law and Legislative Conference

NOTE: Originally appeared on the SHRM Blog 3/5/19

I’ve always lived by the motto of, “life is a participation sport.” What that means to me is, rather than just sit back and “watch things happen”, I prefer to take the initiative to get involved and when possible, “make things happen.” In my chosen profession of human resources, one way that I choose to try and make things happen is to regularly engage in Human Resources Advocacy. Not unique to the human resources field, advocacy is often a part of many aspects of life including politics, charities, causes, and within organizations. Advocacy is simply defined as “support for or recommendation of a particular cause or policy.”

One way that I’ve chosen to become involved in organized human resources advocacy is through my participation in the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) Advocacy Team, also known as the SHRM A-Team. About seven years ago, I learned of the SHRM A-Team and found out that SHRM had developed an organized network of human resources professionals who could join together as a collective voice to help impact and influence the public policy that affects our workplaces. Over the years, the SHRM A-Team has grown to over 10,000 members and for me personally, provides me with an ideal outlet to connect my profession with my need and desire to promote positive change.

For the third time in the past two years, I am looking forward to advocating as a SHRM Advocacy Captain on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. This opportunity will take place as part of the SHRM Advocacy Day in conjunction with the 2019 SHRM Employment Law and Legislative Conference. If you are not familiar with the SHRM Employment Law and Legislative Conference, in summary it is over 600 human resources professionals who gather in Washington, DC to receive public policy updates, hear from individuals directly involved in either reporting or making the news, and are provided with a unique experience for attendees to speak directly to their federal elected officials and staff about workplace issues that are critical to our industry.

While this will be my third visit, a lot has changed since my last visit in 2017. Majority control has changed in the House of Representatives, I now have a new freshman Congressman, and the issues that we will be advocating for on behalf of SHRM have also evolved. I’m looking forward to speaking with my Wisconsin Senators Baldwin and Johnson as well as my Congressman Steil about important workplace issues which include: SHRM’s Getting Talent Back to Work initiative to help give qualified applicants with a criminal record consideration for employment opportunities; the Employer Participation in Repayment Act, which would provide incentives to employers to provide tax-free student loan repayment assistance; as well as other HR issues such as workplace flexibility, paid leave, immigration, and the proposed federal overtime rule.

There is no better motivation for me to get out and advocate than knowing that my voice and the collective voices of my industry colleagues are being heard by our elected officials in Washington, DC. Sharing our individual stories, ideas, and even workplace challenges can be an effective way to help our legislators know that their constituents from their home districts care enough about these issues to come out to Washington, DC to meet with them personally. It is important to understand that advocacy should not be considered a one-time event, but rather an ongoing process to ideally build relationships to continue to inform and engage our elected officials and ultimately encourage their support and action to address issues important to all of us and our workplaces.

“One voice can change a room, and if one voice can change a room, then it can change a city, and if it can change a city, it can change a state, and if it change a state, it can change a nation, and if it can change a nation, it can change the world. Your voice can change the world.” – President Barack Obama


Jeff Palkowski, MHRM, SHRM-CP, PHR is a Senior Human Resources Specialist with the Wisconsin Department of Administration, Division of Personnel Management, supporting the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. He has worked in human resources for over fifteen years and has been involved with the Society for Human Resource Management at national, state, and local chapter levels since 2003.

Jeff currently serves on the Wisconsin SHRM State Council as the Director of Government Affairs, as Director of Government Affairs for the Greater Madison Area SHRM chapter, and SHRM Advocacy Captain for Wisconsin’s 1st Congressional District. In these roles, Jeff has been able to combine his previous experience working as a Deputy Chief of Staff and Policy Advisor in the Wisconsin State Legislature along with his interest and desire to advocate and initiate positive public policy change in the human resources industry.

A SHRM Certified Professional and certified Professional in Human Resources, Jeff received his undergraduate degree from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, earned a master’s in human resources management from the Keller Graduate School of Management and completed additional coursework at Cardinal Stritch University, University of Wisconsin-Madison and Purdue University.

Jeff blogs at HRSushiBar and you can also follow him on Twitter or connect with him on LinkedIn. Jeff will also be blogging at the 2019 SHRM Annual Conference and Exposition in Las Vegas as a #SHRM19Blogger.

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