Our roundtable of experts answer our burning questions.
By The Editors
Following the success of last year’s chief HR officers (CHRO) roundtable, a gathering of CHROs will be taking the stage at the HRO Today Forum to tackle the hottest topics in human capital management today. The conversation is bound to be highly interactive and engaging.
To kick things off, we asked some of our speakers about the areas of HR that we see constantly making news—talent management, workforce demographics, technology, and strategic challenges. Something else come to mind? If so, email the questions you’d like to pose to this executive roundtable to Debbie.Bolla@SharedXpertise.com. We’ll get them answered on stage at the HRO Today Forum.
What is (are) the biggest challenge(s) HR faces today?
John Murabito: The top two issues today for heads of HR in the United States are talent and healthcare. I am always concerned with being able to attract, retain, and develop talented workers to fill the needs of a growing organization. At Cigna, my challenge is that we are a growing company and have been for several years, so keeping up with the needs of key leadership positions is a challenge. We are developing new business here and globally and have new competencies in those areas. They are difficult to fill and hard to fill from within, so we can experience a scarcity of talent of key roles.
As for healthcare, the costs continue to increase in almost every organization. We need to examine what’s the right methodology to control healthcare costs and build a healthy workforce. At Cigna, we feel like an employer-based healthcare delivery system is the best way to accomplish those goals of all companies, but many HR departments are trying to figure out the best approach.
Joe Cabral: The biggest challenge is change and overseeing change management. There has been incredible change in the industry, between mergers and acquisitions, technology, disruptive innovation—and it’s how organizations accept and maneuver change that determines success. Companies have been forced to reinvent themselves in order to survive and thrive. This is forcing HR leaders to be at the forefront to help drive change management. Heads of HR have to be champions of change in order to take the right leaders to the next iteration.
Michael E. Pilnick: It’s a timeless challenge. In order to drive high performance, today’s workforce needs to support sustainable revenue growth and profitability, therefore HR needs to be focused on talent management and employee engagement 24/7. HR needs to be able to deliver on this promise.
How has technology changed the way you manage your workforce?
Murabito: As a resulting of applying a global people system to our workforce, we’ve received more real-time information relative to skills of the workforce. It goes far beyond the basic numbers and gives us a sense of the big picture. We have a much better grasp of analytics due to the tech that is available, and that changes the way we manage.
For example, we are starting to marry our health data with our engagement survey data, and now we can start correlating where we have certain kind of hot spots of engagement with health data. This gives us a better understanding of what might be driving health issues.
Cabral: Predictive modeling has helped us move far beyond traditional HR metrics. Predictive modeling is the result of workforce analytics: What is the data telling me? For example, if your organization has a huge spike in work on a certain day of the week—even at a certain time—the data can help you plan for that time period. It’s critical as we’re evolving to provide services that are high-touch and high-tech.
We are looking at HR workforce analytics to see our cost of operation per unit. We can see what the staff is working on and when so we can leverage them to the best of their talents. This type of technology gives you tons of information to help drive the success of the business.
Pilnick: Technology has the potential to evolve HR from a time consuming, transactional function to that of a strategic business partner. Thanks to technology, HR can spend less time gathering data and more time analyzing it— and it’s through the interpretation of big HR data that that adds tremendous value to the business.
What are the keys to your talent management strategy?
Murabito: Within our talent strategy, we are concentrating on emerging executive talent development that is global in nature. We’ve been using a talent pool concept to identify key people in the company based on certain criteria to develop them to their potential so that they can become leaders. We also have a development course for the set of our highest potential group of leaders to aspire them to the next level and give them more global experience, which is critical to our development.
Cabral: The skill set I will need for my next generation of HR and talent management executives is leadership. We are working on helping leaders become better leaders. Its leaders who are responsible for developing the workforce, and we need those leaders to take responsibility to help foster the talent.
Pilnick: In today’s environment, speed is everything. Being able to quickly move the right people into the right jobs impacts other points in the business. Having a talent management strategy that supports fact-based timely decision-making is crucial.
What impact is the changing demographics of the workforce having on your organization?
Murabito: We are seeing the tail end of baby boomer workers head into retirement years, and in certain areas—like IT—we need to have an increased focus on building a pipeline. We’ve also had to focus more on Millennial workers. For us, these candidates tend to be more mobile and look for the ability to relocate. We have also had to be much more flexible around working virtually and telecommuting. We need a more open mind if we want to attract people that want to live somewhere else. We have to be flexible with our approach.
Cabral: Today 20 percent of our workforce are Millennials, which is a lot. We are hiring at a rate of 40 percent new hires that are Millennials. So we need to think about how they learn and we need to change. We look at our orientation programs, onboarding, the types of benefits they look for, among others. We have to pay attention to their needs or we’re going to miss the opportunity they can have to impact our business.
Pilnick: The impact is both profound and subtle. Digital natives—the newer entrants to the workforce—are accustomed to technology and have a built-in understanding of its role. Boomers might not be as tech savvy but oftentimes they had the earlier benefits of management training long gone due to budget cuts over the years, so they’re able to mentor Millennials on business protocol such as how to manage projects, staff meetings, and the ‘around here-isms’ that enable employees to fit into the desired corporate culture.
MICHAEL PILNICK, executive vice president and head of human resources for First Advantage. Pilnick has a narrow focus on leveraging HR to aggressively grow revenue in existing, emerging, and unsaturated markets for the screening provider.
JOE CABRAL, senior vice president and CHRO for North Shore-LIJ Health System. Cabral works to drive the firm’s business objectives, vision, and values forward in all aspects of talent management and HR.
JOHN MURABITO, executive vice president of human resources and services for Cigna Corporation. Murabito helps drive growth through effective human resources and people strategies, planning, staffing, talent management, and succession processes.
Editor’s note: Carole Slover, senior vice president of human resources for UniTek Global Services, and Jennifer Mann, vice president of human resources for SAS, will also be joining the stage and conversation at the HRO Today Forum, May 5 to 7 in Philadelphia.