CEO’s Letter
Re-Calculating the HR Equation
By Elliot H. Clark, CEO
We just held the 2014 HRO Today Forum in both North America and in Singapore. We are thrilled and gratified at the level of engagement of our audience and thankful for the opportunity to advance the practice of HR. We are also appreciative of the ongoing support of our sponsors, who are the most sophisticated HR services and technology companies in the world. Don’t miss the industry’s only global HR Forum in Edinburgh, Scotland, Nov. 11-13.
The theme for all of the HRO Today Forums is the HR Value Equation. Expressed in this form: Great HR + Great Workforce = Great Business Outcomes
It is an intuitive expression. If you have a great workforce this is due to better workforce policies. Your great workforce will produce better products, give better services, and achieve better business outcomes. Proving this thesis mathematically has not been so easy. And this very issue is changing the practice and executive profile of HR.
HR is now about quantification, return on investment, and analytics. In my opinion, the term “Big Data” is big nonsense. If you cannot turn big data into actionable information, it is just a quagmire of useless cells in a spreadsheet. So the HR executive suite is changing and the composition of its leading professionals is changing. On the first night of the
HRO Today Forum North America, we held our CHRO of the Year Awards (see page 8). Several dozen nominations were narrowed down to a dozen finalists. Awards were given in four categories and the criteria that resonated most seemed to be the selection committee’s perceptions of innovation.
Two of the winners were not individuals who started in HR. They were people who began life on very different professional trajectories. The winner for CHRO of the Year in the For Profit category was Jan Becker, the SVP and CHRO of Autodesk, who started her career with an interest in mathematics and studying higher math. She eventually moved to HR and now leads the HR group at Autodesk as well as corporate real estate, travel, and security. The non-HR functions she manages are significant parts of the employee experience, but usually found in finance or operations. Her ability to measure and quantify and interpret issues like their annual survey and other metrics is part of her success in HR.
The winner in the Non Profit category was Joseph Cabral, the CHRO of North Shore Long Island Jewish Health System, one of the largest healthcare systems in the United States. He is a veteran who started his career in the Air Force doing logistics and load balancing calculations for air force cargo transports, a complex set of mathematical variables to reconcile. He is a self proclaimed “math geek” and also attributes part of his success to his fluency with numbers.
Jill Goldstein, head of the Accenture’s HR BPO practice, actually gave a brief address on this trend in the practice of HR. She interacts with dozens of Accenture large market clients and meets their HR leadership in her daily business. She stressed that the “Geeks are Winning” and not in a critical way. As a former practitioner and now consultant, she sees the changes in the practice of HR and the advancement of measurement disciplines as a significant progression.
This is not a revolution, but a necessary evolution. The more fluent HR gets with quantification, the more it will be able to justify programming and communicate in the language of numbers that CEOs and CFOs and other executives use every day. Being able to measure programming impact and balance against cost parameters is important for all management functions. One naysayer commented to me that HR should be about people and people are not always about numbers. True, but one of the other conference delegates at our table snapped back at the person, “Yes, it is about people, but it is about people producing results for a business.”
HR has always had great value for any organization; we are getting better at expressing the results.

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