By Elliot H. Clark
In this month’s cover story, we profile one of our CHRO of the Year Award winners Kevin Silva of Voya Financial. Kevin Silva is an extraordinary example of a CHRO who owns responsibilities beyond the HR suite and who drives the Voya culture in a unique way. By culture I mean not only HR programming, but also the company’s entire corporate responsibility (CR) program. At HRO Today, we love that idea.
Last year, we divested our ownership of Corporate Responsibility Magazine to a friendly rival, 3BL Media, with whom we had areas of competition and partnership. It was the right decision for the shareholders of SharedXpertise Media LLC, the parent company of HRO Today. However, this transaction did not fundamentally signal a change in our philosophy. There are so many synergies between CR and HR, it is unfortunate that more organizations do not combine these executive roles.
To be sure, HR is involved in many aspects of CR when it comes to employee volunteerism, employee engagement programs, and community involvement. The one area that does not directly intersect with HR is reporting—be it for governmental agencies, ratings organizations, or to internal and external stakeholders in annual reports. However, much of CR’s communication to employee stakeholders runs through HR’s own channels and management.
The combination of these functions also makes sense if you think about the role of HR and its desire to impact the workforce and the local community. Part of an organization’s community involvement and impact comes from diversity programming. I believe it fair to say that most, if not all, leading companies now recognize diversity as a business imperative that involves understanding their customers and their communities rather than an exercise in checking off boxes on an OFCCP report.
Many CEOs are recognizing that HR can play a bigger role and, in fact, should own more responsibility than the traditional “swim lanes” of hiring, retention, compensation and benefits, etc. There’s been growth in “non-traditional” areas now reporting to HR including security, real estate, and communications. We have also seen heads of HR managing customer services for major hospitality or retail outlets because the correlation between employee engagement scores and customer satisfaction is so high that it needs to be embraced rather than ignored.
I have seen some very cynical arguments made in articles that say HR teams are corporate scalp hunters who never take the side of the employee and are never to be trusted. These articles are almost always written by some fringe player with sketchy credentials. Yes, HR needs to consider all aspects of a situation and, in most cases, advocate for the employees’ rights and dignity in the modern world. So, I believe the mission of HR has an inherent nobility.
I am not suggesting it is entirely altruistic. Treating employees with respect and dignity—motivating them in a positive way—is smart business. Protecting the environment, creating more sustainable products, reducing waste, and investing in communities is also smart business. There are host of CR technical and policy specialists who can manage these details and propose programming. The executive role of providing leadership and vision is something that most HR leaders would relish and an excellent extension of the HR mission.
Congratulations again to Kevin Silva on the recognition as one of our CHRO of the Year Award winners and I hope you enjoy the cover feature.