HR Leads Business

Feb 17, 2017 | Barry Lawrence, HRCI Staff Writer

C-Suite Leaders Challenge HR to Step Out of Comfort Zone

C-suite leaders, including Chief Human Resource Officers, told a gathering of about 300 HR professionals on Thursday to embrace new technologies, lead with proactive HR innovations, and improve analytical skills to align measurable people results with improved customer service and external goals ― not just internal goals ― of organizations.

Empathy, creativity and human skills are more important than ever, making HR the difference between success and failure, said keynote speaker Josh Bersin, Principal and Founder of Bersin by Deloitte, at InterconnectHR: Moving People and Business Forward. The event was co-sponsored by HR Certification Institute® (HRCI®) and Top Employers Institute. The one-day event was held at the Fairmont Hotel in Dallas Texas.

HR must design organizations and jobs that empower people and the customer experience, said Bersin at the one-day event held at the Fairmont Hotel in Dallas, Texas Bersin. “If we’re not helping improve productivity, we’re probably getting in the way of the organizations we’re serving.”

Rapid advancements in technology, including artificial intelligence, is a major factor, including many new tools that will make HR initiatives more strategic, data-rich, and seamlessly connected to day-to-day team functions and business outcomes. While old HR tools require employees to stop what they’re doing to provide data on performance, something they are often reluctant to do, next-generation HR tools will “look more like social media applications than clunky EAP systems,” Bersin noted.

Bersin provided examples of breakthrough technology that is already here, such as video software that analyzes a job candidate interview to determine truthfulness. Team-centered feedback software is also available to take the immediate pulse of employee engagement and provide peer-to-peer coaching that is positive, honest and in real-time.

“There is a lot of disruptive HR applications now available that is “reinventing the HR software market,” Bersin said. HR managers need to be aware of the trends, he said.

A New Era for HR

"We are entering a new era requiring contemporary HR capabilities and best practices that are highly linked to business performance," HRCI CEO Amy Schabacker Dufrane, Ed.D., SPHR, CAE, told the HRCI blog. "The new HR is a reliable business partner, an effective strategic counsellor and a contributing member of executive boardroom. This is HR’s time."

The event opened with an energetic video on HR’s call for more strategic results. Following the video that featured leaders from PNC,, Goodwill Industries, 3Pillar Global and Telemundo, the first of two C-suite panel discussed the HR challenges that keep them up at night. The panels were moderated by John Reaves Whitaker, DentalOne’s Vice President of Talent Acquisition, with his own blog, HR Hardball.

“It’s HR’s day-to day responsibility to not lose site of the business process at the end of the tunnel,” said Angie Cordova, an HRCI Board Member and the Head of HR Control and Compliance in Mexico for Citi. Metrics are essential, and must be used to find the right balance to create great workplace cultures, mitigating risks and maintaining a great corporate reputation, she said.

Bill McNamara, Chief Financial Officer for Ziosk, a maker of interactive dining kiosks, said HR was one of his first hires for the expanding company. “I need a pulse on HR, the heart of my business,” he said. “It was the first hire and best hire I’ve ever made.”

Creating a positive work environment is about making employees feel valued, noted Rob Robinson, District President of Robert Half. He believes the C-suite plays a substantial role in creating great cultures. Cultures that foster innovation and openness are driven by business leaders who demand that feedback is “not only fostered, but expected,” Robinson said.

Moving Up the HR Ladder

Cordova and others urged HR leaders to reach for greater business impact. “If you don’t put yourself out of your comfort zone,” it’s never going to happen, she said.

Greg Hewitt, CEO of DHL Express in the U.S., thinks of his HR head as a consigliere that he leans on for strategy, advice and guidance. HR teams are essential, he said, to let the C-level know if the company is “doing the right things to develop the business.” He asks HR leaders at DHL to “push more of the administration into the field,” speak “intelligently with data,” and focus on ensuring the company has the right talent, organization-wide training, systems and tools.

To get the job done, Emily Markman, Vice President of People at WeddingWire, said she looks for HR professionals with diversified backgrounds outside of HR. It’s something she did herself, when she took a reprieve from HR early in her career to take on an operations role at a computer technology firm.

“I did not realize, at the time, how much of a strategic move that was,” Markmann said. “It’s helped me rip off the traditional HR stigma – that I’m not just an HR professional, but a strategic business advisor.”

This is the second InterconnectHR conference held by HRCI and Top Employers. More than 200 HR practitioners gathered in Washington, D.C., last year to share HR best practices. Plans are in the works for future events. In the weeks ahead, look here for expanded coverage, including video replays of the InterconnectHR proceedings.

“InterconnectHR is about looking beyond HR,” said Top Employers CEO David Plink. “As HR professionals, we must push ourselves forward as strategic business planners.”

Thank you to all the speakers and participants who made the Dallas event a huge success!