By Elliot H. Clark, CEO
This month we preview our annual Chief HR Officer of the Year awards (see finalists on page 10). Modeled after our highly successful CEO program administered by sister publication Corporate Responsibility Magazine, it will feature a dozen finalists selected by our editorial team that is then sent to a panel of judges composed of prior winners. The process is overseen by myself in partnership with Dr. Peter Cappelli of the Center for Human Resources Studies at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. This is a peer-reviewed award for the annual winners. We received many more than 12 nominations so even being a finalist is an honor. The winners will be announced at our CHRO of the Year Dinner held May 4th at the Westin Hotel in Philadelphia in concert with our HRO Today Forum, North America.
What does it take to stand out among peers? Vision, execution, and a willingness to redefine HR services.
A few observations are in order. Once again we find individuals who are now managing HR who spent the bulk of their careers in other corporate functions. We are seeing this more often. Does this mean that HR is not a good career path on the way to the executive leadership team? I don’t think so. I think it suggests that running HR today requires new skills that were not being taught 30 years ago so unless someone picked them up along their HR career path, they may have skills gaps. When I studied HR for my business school degree, we did not have courses in analytics, forecasting, and modeling, and workforce planning was something the CFO did for the budget. Indeed, the demands of the HR department and the CHRO are vastly more complicated than they were 20 years ago. This is the cost of the proverbial “seat at the table.”
Most of the best CHRO nominees took significant risks. One runs customer services as part of HR for a major hospitality company. One redefined the performance review process virtually eradicating the historical model (which I think is an awful process, by the way). One sought a redefinition of mission and culture and pushed the CEO and executive team to get on board. These individuals succeeded at these initiatives, but they could have also failed. Many do not have the willingness to take risk. Not to overdramatize this, but remember that there is one thing that Marco Polo, Galileo, Gandhi, and Mandela all had in common. After all, one was an explorer, one a scientist, one helped found a country, and the other helped reform one so this group has very different life experiences. The common element: At one time, they were all jailed for their beliefs and assertions about the world we live in.
The trip to the executive suite is fraught with risks and personal courage so let’s celebrate those that are willing to make that journey. Today’s successful innovation is tomorrow’s best practice.
Speaking of best practice and innovation, please register for the HRO Today Forum, North America. It is by far the best program we have had yet. We look to recruitment, engagement, and technology. We host the annual iTalent awards, have a Wharton track on analytics, and a Wharton professor will help us “gamify” recruiting. The program features a quick moving format of short presentations with audience participation and networking. We have both Beverly Kaye and Dr. Bob Nelson attending. For our practitioner audience, they will experience a highly personal fireside chat with both of them in an unstructured discussion after Day 1. The event is May 5th and 6th at the Westin Hotel Philadelphia. You can find more information at www.hrotodayforum.com. We are limited in attendance but there are seats left, so register today.