Reinventing Core HR

Winners of HRE's 2013 HR's Rising Stars contest represent a new age in HR-leadership skills -- one that goes beyond process and policy implementation, and is driven more by analytical disciplines and thought processes that better serve the business.

By Kristen B. Frasch

For all their many different talents and strengths, the five winners of this year's HR's Rising Stars contest have a strong commonality: They each have the capability to analyze problems and challenges from a business perspective and apply HR solutions in strategic ways to help their organizations achieve their goals.

Though we've written about this momentum before, it's nice to see living proof that this is, indeed, where the HR profession is going.

Based on the skills and experiences of the winners -- not to mention some of the runners-up in this eighth annual HRE competition -- it appears tomorrow's HR leaders (for our purposes, HR professionals second-in-command to chief human resource officers and heading up specific functions and departments) are focusing on far more than implementing processes and enforcing policies. As noted above, their attention today is honing in on core business issues, and how those issues can be addressed, with HR's help.

Based on this year's very healthy batch of nominations alone, tomorrow's HR leaders seem to understand how crucial top-leadership buy-in is for HR initiatives to succeed; who "get it" that metrics matter and launching a good idea doesn't amount to much if it doesn't align with an organization's business objectives; who recognize that well-thought-out, systemic HR processes win hands down over throwing ideas at the wall and seeing what sticks.

In a recent blog post, Web Editor Michael J. O'Brien highlights the first chapter of Deloitte's Human Capital Trends 2013 report, "Thinking like an Economist." I like to think this excerpt speaks to future CHROs coming down the pike:

"Today, many HR leaders are dealing with more complex, challenging questions than the ones their predecessors faced. Instead of focusing on traditional 'personnel' issues, these new questions address core business issues: Where should we build a plant? Which M&A target will add the skills we need? Where should we locate a new R&D center? Why is our turnover rate in China so high? Answering questions like these require new data and new thinking. Today's HR leader has to think like an economist -- someone who studies and directs the allocation of finite resources."

Indeed, consider the winners. At Informatica, Brad Cook, vice president of global talent acquisition, brings a history in technical services for large global corporations with him, applying his data-centric philosophy to nurturing innovation and making data relevant for recruiting -- such as number of leads generated to real candidate conversion rates. Maxine Cenac, associate executive director of HR for Lenox Hill Hospital, impressed the judges with her strategic approach to driving training solutions that improved engagement, and having an impact on both business and patient outcomes. Brian Welle, Google's people analytics manager and head of the People Innovation Lab, has applied his background in industrial/organizational psychology and research to build up a reputation of trust from Googlers that the people decisions made on their behalf are based on data and meant for their good, as well as the good of the business.

With a background in marketing and information technology, Colleen Blake, senior director of global people operations for Brocade Communication Systems Inc., brings "immense insight into the inner workings of the business, which is a perspective that, often, other HR professionals are lacking," writes her nominator and boss, Lisa McGill, senior vice president of HR. And Emily Tait, senior manager of global compensation for Gardner Denver -- with a background in finance and accounting -- literally thinks like an economist. "In today's environment," writes her nominator and boss, Susan Gunn, vice president of HR, "companies seek talent [with] capabilities not only in their function, but beyond that." Tait, with her advanced analytical, supervisory and project-management experience, personifies that.

Judges for the contest include Charlie Tharp, executive vice president for policy at the Center on Executive Compensation, a division of the HR Policy Association, and former senior vice president of human resources for Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.; Michele Darling, president of Michele Darling and Associates in Mississauga, Ontario, and former executive vice president of corporate governance and human resources for Prudential Insurance Co.; Gregory Hessel, senior client partner with the Human Resources Center of Expertise at Korn/Ferry International's Dallas offices; John Boudreau, professor at the University of Southern California's Marshall School of Business and research director of its Center for Effective Organizations, and Kristen B. Frasch, managing editor of Human Resource Executive ® magazine. For stories on past winners and access to next year's nomination form, visit HREOnline™/HRE Rankings/HR's Rising Stars.


Read these stories about the 2013 HR's Rising Stars:

The People Scientist

A Natural Fit for HR

Cook's 'Secret Sauce'

Tait Finds Art in Analytics

A Great Example for Women in IT

Jul 31, 2013
Copyright 2017© LRP Publications