Monthly Archives: March 2017

Why More Executives Should Be Considered Being CHRO

If you’re a business leader looking for an opportunity to have real impact on your company — and position yourself for the top job — which career path is best? CFO? COO? CMO? What if we told you that the CHRO role might be the best job you could ever have, with real opportunity for reshaping an organization? That the CHRO role, although at first it may look career limiting, can have more impact than any other position reporting to the CEO?

That’s precisely what we found. We interviewed search professionals, CEOs, and CHROs with nontraditional backgrounds to find out what happens when business leaders outside of HR move into the role. We confirmed that CEOs are well aware of the importance of talent, rating finding the best human capital as a top challenge, but that business leaders without an HR background can be reluctant to take the CHRO role, because of their negative perception of HR, their fear that the role won’t have an impact, and their concerns about lacking necessary functional knowledge.

Lucia Luce Quinn is Chief People Officer at Forrester Research. Earlier in her career, she left a position as SVP of business development and emerging businesses to join Boston Scientific in a senior line job. Upon arriving, she flatly refused the CEO’s offer of the CHRO role. He had to ask her four more times, including once on a conference call with the whole executive team, before she finally relented.

Phil Johnston, an executive search leader at Spencer Stuart, confirms that Quinn’s initial reaction wasn’t unusual: “When a CEO asks a business leader to run HR, the most frequent response is ‘What did I do wrong?’ It’s not seen as a desirable role; it’s seen as punishment. Of course, they haven’t had a chance to think it through, but that’s the first reaction.”

Yet business leaders who took the CHRO role, including Quinn, report it is the most impactful role in their career, and many would not accept an organizational leadership position that didn’t come with the CHRO role.

And many CEOs we talked to, like Owen Mahoney of Nexon, agree that the CHRO is one of the most strategic roles someone could have: “Businesses grow or die based on the quality of their people, so the human resource executive role is arguably the most strategic in the company. If I weren’t the CEO now, I’d probably want to be the CHRO.”

According to those we interviewed, there are four reasons why “outsiders,” as opposed to those with a traditional HR background, succeed in the role:

Their focus on business results, not only people outcomes. Nontraditional CHROs see outcomes like engagement or retention as paths to business outcomes, while traditional HR might view such goals as ultimate outcomes. Jacqueline Reses, a former private equity investor who became Yahoo’s CHRO, said, “We should drive HR like a product organization that finds the most critical use cases of our customers and then builds products to solve those needs. We shouldn’t execute programs that don’t serve the business. A lot of HR professionals think in terms of the functions activities, such as, ‘We need to change the organization structure’ or ‘We need to run a training program’; I think in terms of the business outcome I want to get to, then figure out how I’m going to get there.”

Their role in pushing fellow leaders, not just supporting or serving them. Second, nontraditional CHROs see their role as pushing leaders, but they have often found that traditional HR thinks in term of partnering with or serving leaders. As Reses said, “I look at every leader and decide if they are right for the job. I push leaders. I drive them to higher performance.” When Quinn accepted the CHRO role at Boston Scientific, her HR organization planned to implement a program even though they knew it probably would not work. Why? Because organizational leaders wanted it. Quinn insisted that her HR team devise a program they believed would work, and she pushed organization leaders to adopt HR’s better alternative. If you would be the kind of CHRO who thinks in terms of driving success instead of supporting leaders, then you could have a huge impact across the organization.

Their desire to embrace opportunity, not only reduce risk. Third, nontraditional CHROs embrace risks to generate opportunity where traditional HR might exclusively focus on reducing risk. These leaders don’t just tolerate risk; they hunger for it, in the form of important challenges where risk comes with potential upside opportunity. Rick Jensen, who left a big job in marketing to become SVP, Chief Talent Officer at Intuit, recalled a lesson he learned in marketing: “Fall in love with the problem.” Traditional HR leaders might feel compelled to offer conservative solutions, rather than risk trying an unconventional approach to unknotting a problem.

Zabeen Hirji, CHRO at the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), grew up in retail banking and operations management roles before moving into HR. She says she applies a little self-test: “If I’m not presenting ideas that get turned down by the top team, I know I am playing it too safe. My job is to push the envelope.” One recent example of taking on risk she could easily have avoided was setting up a company-wide online “jam” to involve employees in defining RBC’s purpose and resetting its values. The live event could have failed in many ways; the safe thing to do would have been to back off the project. However, Hirji’s eye was on the potential upside, so she went ahead with the jam. Employees responded enthusiastically (there were over 20,000 participants), but the lesson is not that she got a big win — it’s that she was willing to risk failing.

The personality that embraces risk is best illustrated by Reses. She changed industries from private equity investing to technology; she changed geographies by moving from New York to San Francisco; and she changed functions from M&A and investing to HR. Interestingly, Reses would argue that as an investor she was the ultimate HR lead, as she helped CEOs invest in the right resources and people to build a business. If you find that this kind of challenge fills you with excitement, then a cross-functional leap into HR could be a great career move.

Their application of diverse business skills to the role. Fourth, nontraditional CHROs approach HR with skills and frameworks that reflect a variety of business disciplines, while traditional HR leaders might rely too exclusively on function-specific HR disciplines. “I was surprised by how much I personally enjoyed running the HR function versus taking on a CFO role,” said Reses. “HR was a position where I had a view across the biggest challenges of everyone’s business — leadership issues and how to allocate people across teams. It was vehicle for changing the growth trajectory of the company.”

Quinn said, “I don’t love telling people I’m in HR, but I love leading HR. Many leaders experience HR as administrators who can be barriers rather than enablers. I discovered that HR doesn’t need to be like that, and as CHRO I use every skill I ever learned.”

Our interviews, not surprisingly, also suggest that transformational HR is not the sole province of nontraditional HR leaders. It can be achieved by those with traditional HR backgrounds, too, with the right view of results, relationships with fellow leaders, attitudes toward risk and opportunity, and diverse business skills.

HR, like all professions, requires specialized talent and knowledge. Nontraditional CHROs emphasized that their transformational role was only possible with the support of HR leaders with deep traditional knowledge and capability.

Often underutilized and overlooked as a lever for business impact, a shift into the CHRO role — done correctly — can be a great career move.

Americans Spend At Least $ 900,000 Per Month

An Australian millionaire sent the Internet into a tizzy earlier this year when heused avocado toast as a symbol of millennial irresponsibility and excess, saying that choices such as “buying smashed avocado for $19” were making it hard for young people to afford homes. While the nuances of the housing market and the life choices of millennials may be fodder for endless debate, new data fromSquare makes one thing clear: the avocado toast business is booming.

Square, a tech company that helps businesses process credit card payments, crunched data from sellers around the U.S. and found that Americans are spending nearly $900,000 per month on crusty bread topped with mashed green fruit. That’s a huge increase from what the company was seeing in 2014, when Square’s sellers were only moving $17,000 worth of avocado toast per month.

 Courtesy of Square 

Though that’s a drop in the urn compared to the amount people spend on coffee, for instance, the hard figure for how much Americans are spending on such toast is certainly much larger, given that the Square data does not include the many avocado-toast-offering restaurants and food trucks and fast-casual counters that are not using Square’s services. And the jump remains proof of how hot the commodity has become. The company says the increase in sales has far outpaced Square’s growth in sellers.

So what of millionaire Tim Gurner’s claim that millennials are spending $19 a pop for this green-and-creamy brunch fave? Based on data from hundreds of Square sellers, the company found the average cost to be $6.78, with the cheapest avocado toast going for $2 and the most expensive going for $18. Given that the Australian dollar is weaker than the U.S. dollar ($19 Australian = about $15 U.S.), Gurner was within Square’s range. The average price was highest in Los Angeles, at $8.50 a pop, and lowest in D.C., at a mere $4.

Avocado toast consumption levels in U.S. cities vary, as do creative local spins on the item, which Square sellers are hawking in varieties like grilled cheese avocado toast and avocado toast lobster rolls. Per Square, the highest consumption per capita is (predictably) in San Francisco, followed by Honolulu, Nashville and Portland, Ore.

Long before smashed avocados were raising haunches, the City by the Bay was grappling with another great debate over the price of browned bread. Tensions over inequality have risen in San Francisco in recent years, and in 2014 stakeholders zeroed in on the fact that people were purchasing $4 toast as evidence that one-percenters were fueling an affordability crisis.

Back then, the small business offering the $4 toast had options like whole-wheat-sesame-poppy bread with butter. These days, millennials can get an “avocado mash” on toast at the same spot for twice the price. But, as many pointed out in the wake of Gurner’s comment, it would take a lot of toast to make a real difference in one’s housing situation. In fact, a person would have to save the equivalent of 475 of those mashes just to afford one month’s rent on theaverage San Francisco apartment.

Google Hire Helps to Recruit Small Business communities

Google Hire is ready for business. The search giant launched Hire today (July 18), its new recruiting and job applicant management app. Designed to work with G Suite, Hire aims to help small and midsize businesses recruit top talent more effectively and efficiently.

“Hire makes it easy for you to identify talent, build strong candidate relationships and efficiently manage the interview process end-to-end,” said Berit Johnson, senior product manager for Google Cloud.

The service integrates with Gmail, Google Calendar and other G Suite apps, presumably making it easy to use and letting businesses access all candidate information and communications in one place. Hire should also help with logistics, such as scheduling interviews and collaborating with hiring managers. [See Related Story: Best Recruiting Software for Small Business]

Hire also aims to help businesses quickly come to hiring decisions, instead of wasting time and money by leaving positions open for long periods.

“According to a study by Bersin by Deloitte, it takes an average of 52 days to fill an open position and costs about $4,000 to interview, schedule and assess each candidate,” Johnson said. “At the end of the day, that adds up.”

As a central hub for the recruitment process, Hire will likely help businesses cut the hiring time with the following capabilities:

  • Keep a database of hundreds of candidates
  • Share candidate information, such as resumes, qualifications and notes
  • Track interview progress and where candidates are in the recruitment pipeline
  • Get feedback from interviewing team and discuss hiring decisions
  • Communicate with candidates using Gmail
  • Use Calendar to schedule meetings and add notes to meeting invitations, such as interview questions and candidates’ contact information
  • Analyze and visualize candidate and hiring data in Sheets
  • Sync data across G Suite

It also offers an intuitive user interface with a clean layout, making it easier to use and train staff compared to clunky recruitment software and apps. And because it’s designed for small businesses, it isn’t bloated with features small businesses don’t need.

Hire is now available for businesses that use G Suite and have fewer than 1,000 employees. The app can be used to recruit all types of positions, from part-time help to full-time and upper management positions. For more information and to try Hire, visit Businesses can also request a demo at

Google is not revolutionary in this new release. Hire joins a fairly big field of recruiting apps such as LinkedIn Recruiter, JazzHR and Zoho Recruit.

What do factory employees really think about automation in the workplace?

Despite popular perception, most U.S. workers aren’t worried about being replaced by a robot, new research finds.

The study from Randstad US revealed that more than three-quarters of employees aren’t scared by the prospects of an increased amount of automation in the workplace.

Many workers are actually embracing the influx of automation. The research shows that 30 percent of the employees surveyed think automation will make their jobs better. In addition, as long as they are being paid at least their same current salaries, more than half of U.S. employees are more than happy to be retrained to learn the skills needed to work in tandem with automation.

Linda Galipeau, CEO of Randstad North America, said the study’s results should come as good news for companies that are trying to implement more automation in order to spur on productivity and innovation.

“It is evident from our research that not only are workers not afraid of losing their jobs to automation, they are more than willing to retrain to leverage the efficiencies and benefits of artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics in the workplace,” Galipeau said in a statement. “As we have known for quite some time, the success of organizations in the future will depend greatly on their ability to strike a balance between valuable human insight and interaction with technology.”

Despite the belief that automation will push many workers out of a job, the vast majority of executives disagree. Just 6 percent of the company leaders surveyed believe increasing automation will have a significant impact on workforce planning and shifting the talent needed. [Looking ahead? The job skills you’ll need in the future]

To ensure that their jobs don’t get replaced, Galipeau says employees need to make sure their skills complement the automation being put into place.

“It has become necessary for today’s employees and job seekers to continually cultivate, develop and update their skills to work successfully alongside AI and automation,” Galipeau said. “In conjunction with retraining and upskilling efforts, workers should focus on growing unique human skills that AI and robots are unable to replicate, such as strategic and abstract thinking, complex communications, creativity and leadership competencies.”

Many organizations are looking forward to seeing how increased automation can improve their operations. Nearly 85 percent of executives believe AI and robotics will have a positive impact on the workplace in the next three to five years.

Automation and robotics have already taken hold in a number of businesses. Nearly half of the executives surveyed said automation and machine learning has either transformed or had a positive impact on their businesses over the last year, with 45 percent saying the same about robotics.

Galipeau said the reality is that automation and AI are not only here to stay, but will grow substantially in the coming years.

“As business leaders invest in digitization, automation, AI and other emerging technologies in the workplace, they must continue to evolve their workforce alongside these advancements,” Galipeau said. “While the productivity and efficiency benefits of automation are unequivocal, the need for skilled humans to operate, utilize and advance technologies is equally unmistakable.”
The study was based on online interviews with 5,300 U.S. residents between the ages of 18 and 65.