Three CHROs talk shop.
 

By the Editors
 
 
As we enter a new year, the editors at HRO Today were curious to see if some of our optimisim—as well as our concerns—were also on the minds of industry-leading human resources executives. Here’s what we discovered.
 

Gregory J. Besio
Executive Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer
Aon

 
 
1. What was your path to HR and to your current position?
My path to HR was not typical. My perspective on HR, core people, and talent issues comes primarily from my business experiences, including significant leadership roles in business operations, M&A transactions, reorganizations, and change management situations.
 
 
In my role as chief administrative officer for Aon, HR was under my direction, so I am familiar with the core issues around retirement, healthcare, talent management, and HR operations. For instance, I was actively involved in guiding changes to Aon’s global pension programs in 2007 and 2008, helping restructure the program and our investment strategy, and creating related communications for participants, fiduciary advisors, and our board of directors. In 2009, I worked with our HR leadership team to develop the business case for Aon’s investment in a global HR IT solution. In addition, under my direction the integration team developed a comprehensive approach to harmonizing global benefits and compensation for Hewitt colleagues to create consistency in the newly combined organization. As part of the integration work, I was executive sponsor for our newly formed corporate healthcare exchange business.
 
 
While my background is not traditional, I have had great HR experiences as a business leader and the opportunity to work with many HR professionals and HR consultants on critical people policy issues. These experiences and the confidence created by their success, laid the foundation for the transition to my current role as CHRO of Aon.
 
 
2. What challenges/opportunities are most present for your company
in the current market?

Current priorities are improving our performance management and professional development capability across the board, and making it easier for our colleagues to identify and network with firm experts, and to access our intellectual capital.
 
 
3. What has been your experience, positive and/or negative, with
outsourcing? Are you weighing any outsourcing engagements
at present?

We actively access and utilize our firm’s consulting and administration expertise. We are working with Aon Hewitt right now on a comprehensive global HR solutions architecture. We currently have two separate PeopleSoft implementations to combine and are looking to implement global platforms for performance management, learning, and compensation. The key to a great outsourcing program is the right team, good discipline, and great planning. The Aon Hewitt account team is working very closely with my HR team to design and implement a system for us. We’ll keep you posted as we progress.
 
 
4. What are your goals for 2012 and beyond?
We conducted an all-colleague survey early in 2010, and our talent agenda is strongly influenced by the feedback we received. Based on the feedback, we have given even greater focus to our talent agenda as a global leadership team. Our initial focus is leadership skill building, clarifying our career tracks and professional development planning, and improved knowledge sharing. We have a multiyear game plan and good momentum from early implementation. Over the next several years, we will reorient our entire global HR team and resources around this focused talent agenda.
 
 
5. What’s your general sense of the labor market now?
It’s difficult to give a simple answer to the question. In the U.S., there are obviously some structural challenges due to the overall macroeconomic environment. We are fortunate to be growing in our businesses due to new client wins in both risk and HR solutions, and will do a reasonable amount of hiring in 2012, including several programs targeted at veterans. In emerging markets like South America, sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and Central and Eastern Europe, we continue to hire as we grow. In India, we face the same overheated labor market as all multinationals operating there.
 
 
The challenge for Aon in all labor markets is to adjust to local conditions. We will always be challenged to attract and develop the very best talent in very competitive markets, especially for our skilled knowledge positions. In addition, we are constantly seeking to improve employee engagement and retention, since both are critical to driving profitable growth and sustaining our businesses.
 
 
Victor Buzachero
Corporate Senior Vice President for Innovation, Human Resources and Performance Management, Scripps Health

 

1. What was your path to HR and to your current position?
It’s a combination of traditional HR experience and some nontraditional to get to the level I am currently working. HR was my major in college, and for a few years I was involved with restaurant management. Here I gained skills in managing groups of people, as well as hiring and training, which allowed me to get my first job as a manager of employment.
 
 
My role was to lead recruiting. Since there is considerable turnover in restaurants, having management responsibility to hire a large number of people gave me direct line experience. This helped me to advance to management level.
 
 
I took high-risk, less desirable opportunities that most would shy away from. For example, I went to a smaller hospital to be an HR director in a rural location. I thought I had the chance to start something from new and it would give me tremendous experience. I was a quick study and was successful, so in two years, I had the chance to move into a corporate level role, and six years into my career I was a CHRO. My role now is a mixture of operations and HR strategic planning.
 
 
2. What challenges/opportunities are most present for your company in
the current market?

Healthcare reform is something we are all looking at. How healthcare is paid for is unsustainable today and in the long haul. We’ve watched healthcare costs grow rather significantly, so it’s a very complex and emotionally charged issue. People want the best when they are sick but really don’t want to pay for it. Healthcare itself is a very fragmented industry. So what we are facing today is a fragmented industry that needs to consolidate. There are lots of variation because doctors practice differently, and eliminating that variation will be critical to eliminating cost. This will allow us to be able to deliver outcomes that people expect and afford. The challenge to that is it’s a fairly significant redesign. Healthcare by and large is change resistant. What will face us, even though we are trying to cut costs, is the dichotomy that we are going to have a shortage of skilled labor and an aging workforce. As the economy picks up, these babyboomers will be leaving the workforce in record numbers, and I’m not sure there are enough skilled workers to replace them. We are going to see this industry change rather dramatically.
 
 
3. What has been your experience, positive and/or negative, with outsourcing? Are you weighing any outsourcing engagements at present?
We do outsource some things today, and we have brought things in-house most recently, and we continue to look at things to outsource. Much of our benefit administration is outsourced, particularly our retirement plan through Fidelity to our 14,000 employees. More and more are using cloud-based computing versus buying software that we have to host. That’s my preference. We have our learning management system and applicant tracking system outsourced through SilkRoad. We look at where we have expertise, and we try to do it ourselves. Where we don’t have the expertise, we look to others to partner with.
 
 
4. What are your goals for 2012 and beyond?
Healthcare reform. We are going to use our employee health plan as a first group that we will provide accountable care services to. As we prepare, we have formed a group with our physicians to be an accountable care provider. We are going to start with our own employees, which is about 25,000 total. As a self-insured employer, that’s easier for me to do—working with our own group—but it will be a significant project.
 
 
I have significant responsibility to restructure and improve productivity of our workforce. Labor is 60 percent of the expense of a healthcare organization. So managing how we do that is critical. In my mind, it’s much more important to manage that productivity—each year we redeploy our staff or curtail hiring as people leave. Last year we had a productivity improvement of 3 percent.
 
 
5. What’s your general sense of the labor market now?
There is a shift in generations in terms of accountability and how willing people are to be accountable. I’m not sure it’s truly generational, but you have to work on selection much harder. Finding people who are accountable for the results they produce versus just doing a job is becoming harder and harder. Many people want to work and get paid, but we are looking for people to be accountable for the results they produce. That attitudinal shift also goes along with skill sets. That is what people expect from us—be more accountable for how we deliver care in a more efficient fashion. And we should do that. When you come to us, you trust us with your life and expect us to be highly accountable.
 
 
Bill Colbourne
Senior Vice President of Human Resources (HR) and Administration
Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association

 
 
What was your path to HR and to your current position?
I did it the old-fashioned way—I’ve been in HR my entire career. My career has really been HR functional with regional and division jobs. I came to Blue Cross 15 years ago at the highest HR level because I was able to bring all my experience. In HR, you are fully involved in the pulse of organization. You have to be on top of the employee population: the proper skill levels, motivations, incentives, compensations, benefits. As my career has grown, my job responsibilities have been centered on strategy and the development of key people.
 

2. What challenges/opportunities are most present for your company
in the current market?

We do have a concern about skills shortages in coming years because of demographic changes. We’ve put a lot of work into identifying what those issues are around a changing workforce. We are beginning to plan how to address them as they manifest. Retirement will increase as the economy picks up, coupled with unhappy employees who want to leave. We’ll see a lot of turnover and movement. It will come to light that the skills needs for jobs that are expanding will not be there. We have to learn how to better retain our staff, develop skills, and have access to better sources of candidates.
Skills that are in demand are highly skilled technology jobs, jobs that require high-level education, or specialized experience, leadership jobs. We are a mid-career organization—we bring in people who have worked much of their career. This will affect most industries, especially healthcare.
 
 
Management needs to be educated in what the issues are. Managers are put through training for changing workforce demographics, how they might manage differently for retention, and the fact that skills will be short, managers will have to identify candidates through recruiting. We are a bit of an older organization (40 percent or so of our staff is 50 and older), and we have a mature employee retention program. We have very skilled, educated, qualified people—we don’t want them running out the door when they retire. We are doing what we can to encourage people to stay. We have a Blue Bring Back system-wide program that we are in midst of implementing now so that any retiree can register with a third-party provider as a “Blue Retiree.” And if someone wants to move from New Jersey to Florida and wants to work, they can register to join the Florida office when an opening is available.
 
 
3. What has been your experience, positive and/or negative, with outsourcing? Are you weighing any outsourcing engagements at present?
Overall, my experience has been good. I think there is a real role for outsourcing for better quality work, cost efficiency, and high impact on staffing. People can be afraid of outsourcing, because they lose control or the services aren’t provided how they would deliver them. The answer to that is the devil is in the details. You need to establish the process, philosophy, and service-level agreements right upfront. If you do that correctly, you can sleep at night. If you work with a vendor thoroughly, you will get what you want, and it can be a good thing.
 
 
4. What are your goals for 2012 and beyond?
We are going to be taking a good look at the HR function. We have a forward-looking HR function, but need to make sure our compensation program is attracting and retaining the right talent. In that overview we’ll be looking for things to outsource—anything that makes sense.
 

Tags: Benefits, Contributors, Enabling Technology, Engaged Workforce, Learning, MSP / Contingent Labor, Multi-process HR, Payroll, Performance Management & Rewards, Relocation, Screening & Selection, Shared Services, Sourcing, Talent Acquisition

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