Strategic HR – How are We Doing?

As I celebrate another year as an HR professional, I am thinking about how our function has evolved. There is no better time to be part of this group. For decades we have talked about how we “want to be strategic” and how we should have a “seat at the table.”  (Where is that table BTW?) The latest survey from the Corporate Executive Board tells us that “engaging employees, recruiting, developing senior leaders, and identifying and developing high potential employees are the top investment priorities for head of HR.” It’s all about talent. In my own non-scientific-only-anecdotal-but-still-real-research from conversations with a diverse collection of current CEOs and C-suite leaders, the demand for HR to play at a higher, more strategic level has never been quite so strong. My big question is – are you ready?


I read a lot of the same news and research that you do. We are well aware next year millennials will be largest generation in the workforce. Take it from someone who used to refer to herself as a “generation X wanna-be,” we have been preparing for the coming of new generations of the workforce for a long, long time. It is not new. The difference is – this one is a WHOPPER. S

So while we have been reading and thinking and talking and thinking some more, how much have we done to learn about and prepare for the new ways people can and want to get work done? Do we really understand the environment that attracts the best people these days? Do we really know what tools people need to ramp up and be successful?

When I joined Sitrion, I wrote my very first blog called How to Love Your Job. Back then I warned “Social is changing everything about how we do business” (it still is – but now I think we have to be even more prepared to be mobile – not just social) and “If we in the people business (aka HR functions) don’t lead, we will surely follow” (this is still true!).
Yearend is upon us. If you have not already set aside some time for your own personal and professional development in your 2015 business plan go back and do it right now! It is simply imperative that we spend more energy learning about new ways to work with special emphasis on technology and the mobile workforce. Talk about a strategic initiative to attract, engage, retain, and develop your talent – if you are not taking a serious look at how work gets done in your company, you really do risk losing, or not even getting, the amazing talent of this new generation.

A Quick Story in Closing

I will finish with a quick story I shared with a group of 100+ HR leaders at an event in New York City this year.
One of our customers is a financial services firm. The CAO had a really awesome MBA intern one summer and wanted to hire the guy full time post graduation. The CAO sits with the intern at the end of the summer and tells him the great news – WE THINK YOU ARE AWESOME AND WE REALLY WANT YOU TO WORK HERE!! The intern is beyond gracious in telling the CAO that he appreciates the offer, but doesn’t want to work for the company. When pressed for the reason why – the intern responds “YOU DON’T HAVE THE TOOLS HERE THAT I NEED TO BE SUCCESSFUL.”  After a few more questions, the CAO begins to understand that the intern views the place as too far afield from what he wants in terms of an organization where it is easier to navigate, learn, make connections, and hit the ground running. Without being impolite, he was saying the place was simply not current. Tired technology, outdated structures and processes – too much precious time wasted trying to figure out how to get stuff done. Fast forward – after some very good listening and thinking and probably some tossing and turning – the CAO goes back to the intern and asks him to lead a project to change the organization to make it the kind of place he wants to work. Voila – the guy becomes the head of collaboration at a premier financial services firm. Today it is a much different place and enjoys a great employer brand among this new generation of workers.
Nice job on the part of that CAO to do a quick save and get the talent his organization wanted and needed. BRAVO. But look at what else he did – he gave the new hire the opportunity to literally change the organization. Good for you if you are willing and able to make that happen! But I don’t want to lose sight of the point here. This terrific MBA was going to pass on a great offer to join a top-notch firm because it did not have the tools he needed to be successful.
OK here comes the BIG Punch Line – a story like this is not unusual. In fact this is becoming fairly common. If we in HR don’t get our arms around this phenomenon; if we don’t understand what this MBA meant by the “tools to be successful,” if we don’t work with urgency to understand and embrace new ways of working, we will be left behind.
I will close with my usual offer. I am here to help and am always happy to connect with you and exchange ideas. @NancyGillHR
Oh and PS: I still love my job.


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Nancy Gill, Chief People Officer

Nancy came to Sitrion after leading the HR function for the Investment Bank at JPMorgan Chase, with a global team of 300+ supporting over 28,000 employees around the world. That job marked her return to JPMorgan Chase after seven seasons at the National Football League where she was the Senior Vice President of Human Resources, responsible for establishing and leading the League's strategic HR functions. Nancy's passionate about empowering leaders to achieve greater levels of success. She is an avid student of social and loves to Make Work Better as a member of the Sitrion team.


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