When HR leaders take the time to nominate someone from their own department, it can say a great deal -- often in great detail -- about the value that candidate brings to a very viable profession.
By Kristen B. Frasch
It's always heartening when a senior human resource leader or chief human resource officer nominates one of his or her own as a possible HR's Rising Star. This doesn't always happen. Some very strong candidates, even some very worthy recipients of the award, have been submitted by colleagues or consultants the candidates have worked with.
But this year, I found it telling -- and a very positive sign for the future of HR -- that all five winners were nominated by their top or supervising HR leaders or, in one case, the founder and chief executive officer of the company. For the record, the winning nominators were: for Nancy Lee at Google, CHRO Laszlo Bock; for Scott Law at Zions Bancorporation, Dianne James, executive vice president and CHRO; for Tegan Trovato at Pinstripe & Ochre House, Sue Marks, founder and CEO; for Tushar Trivedi at Turner Broadcasting, Loretta Walker, senior vice president and CHRO; and for James Sayno at the United States Olympic Committee, Pam Sawyer, managing director and head of HR.
This isn't the first time Bock has entered one of his own, either. He's submitted three winners in all since the contest was launched in 2006, including Prasad Setty, Google's director of people analytics and compensation, in 2010 and Brian Welle, head of the company's People and Innovation Lab, in 2013. Clearly, this speaks highly of Bock and his leadership as well.
Not only is it heartening to see a top HR leader like Bock take the time and expend the effort to make sure his or her HR professional is recognized and lauded for a job well done; it's also very clear in his and the others' winning nominations -- the way they go about telling their candidate's HR stories -- that they fully "get" what makes them so good at what they do, and why they're so valued.
You might say these winning stories stand in direct opposition to the negative reports that never seem to end questioning HR professionals' worth and abilities to truly lead strategically. One such report came from the Economist Intelligence Unit last year, finding 70 percent of 135 CEOs surveyed saying they want HR to be involved at the highest levels of planning, yet only 55 percent actually consider their heads of HR to be key players in strategic planning. Moreover, many of the CEOs said they were also concerned about their HR leaders' lack of business acumen, with 37 percent reporting the head of HR doesn't "understand the business well enough."
Other reports that come to mind include a piece posted on LinkedIn last year by Bernard Marr, a Milton Keynes, U.K.-based author and consultant, titled Why We No Longer Need HR Departments, and a much earlier piece published in 2005 by Fast Company -- the now-infamous Why We Hate HR. Both poke holes in the profession's validity and value, to say the least. The former suggests there is no value.
Indeed, tell that to this year's Rising Stars nominators. I guarantee you'll get far more proof of HR's value, viability and long-term survival. Tell it also to the many CEOs who, late last year, sent letters of recommendation along with their companies' nominations for HRE's HR Executive of the Year contest, which is only open to CHROs. Editor David Shadovitz quoted some of them in his October editorial: "Someone whose influence and effect extends far beyond what's expected of an HR executive" and "a dynamic leader who influences and impacts the highest levels of corporate strategy."
This year's winning Rising Stars nominations were equally glowing, with many references to the strategic initiative and leadership of the nominees, the positive impact they've had on the workforce and HR, and the likelihood they will no doubt be running their own HR organizations one day.
That their senior-most leaders were seeing these strengths and pointing them out speaks volumes to how they're being developed -- as future strategic leaders in a profession they see as robust and forward-moving.
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; 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.
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