What Should CEOs Expect From HR?

By John Boudreau

The dilemma facing human resources’ constituents is captured in a vignette, a chief human resources officer once told me that described their first meeting with their leadership team chaired by the CEO.

The CEO introduced each member of the leadership team, including top finance, operations, marketing and information officers. For each one, the CEO articulated how that function would contribute to the organization’s success. The CEO then turned to the new CHRO and began to describe their expected contributions and paused, realizing that he had no specific idea about what those contributions were.

Instead, he said, “Why don’t I ask our new CHRO to say a few words about how HR will contribute to our strategic success?”

This CHRO is not alone. Edward Lawler and I have reported the results from our 20-year longitudinal study of HR, where we surveyed HR leaders in hundreds of organizations worldwide. We’ve noted that HR’s relationship to corporate boards of directors is traditional — the function most frequently advises on executive compensation and succession. Such a traditional mindset risks missing important future contributions and roles for HR.

How did a sample of top C-suite leaders and board members articulate their wish list for a future HR profession?

My October Talent Management  column described the work of more than 30 top HR officers engaged with “CHREATE,” the Global Consortium to Reimagine HR, Employment Alternatives, Talent and the Enterprise. This column shares the findings of the CHREATE teams that investigated the expectations of CEOs and board members.

The teams interviewed 22 CEOs, C-suite officers and board members in large U.S. and global companies. Those interviewed worked with some of the most celebrated and successful CHROs in the world and have developed some of the most advanced and emulated HR systems. One might expect their perceptions to be uniformly positive, yet even this elite group described a vital need for HR to evolve.  Here are a few actual quotes:

“HR strategy is one of five strategic pillars of business strategy along with financial, acquisition, geographic and product” innovation.

“CHRO needs to understand the world of work, trends, new approaches beyond the organization and stimulate change internally. Bring strategic insights. Translate what is happening in the world of work to business leaders.”

“Understand the cultural nuances of operating in emerging markets, vs. ‘old economics.’ ”

“A better performance management system — FAST feedback, greater variability on rewards, quicker exit.”

These CEOs and board members saw great future potential in the HR profession. They foresaw future roles for the HR profession:

  • A chief operating officer of organizational culture.
  • A leader of a board-level committee on culture and innovation.
  • Mastery of the principles that drive a new workforce that delivers business strategy, considers emerging employment and work styles, drives purpose and engagement, reflects changing organizational boundaries and is much more diverse.
  • The ability to unearth the value that lies “in between” organizations where partnerships are formed, and bring science to cross barriers between companies, with suppliers and customers.
  • Use of the cloud to bring Amazon- and Google-like insight and responsiveness to the domain of work.

CEOs, boards and other constituents often grasp at the latest “shiny object” that gains press coverage or popularity, such as big data, holocracy and neuroscience. Each can create very real and tangible value, but also carries the danger of needless disruption. The difference lies with an HR profession that brings evidence-based principles and discipline to the evaluation and adoption of such ideas.

HR’s constituents seem ready to articulate and build such a profession. Can HR leaders join them?

John Boudreau is professor and research director at the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business and Center for Effective Organizations, and author of “Transformative HR: How Great Companies Use Evidence-Based Change for Sustainable Advantage.” He can be reached at editor@talentmgt.com.


Content Curation Strategies for Corporate Learning

In a previous article, Your New Role: Learning Content Curator, I underscored the need for corporate learning professionals to begin to let go of content creation and start nurturing a content curation mindset. According to global marketing strategy guru Rohit Bhargava, a content curator is someone who continually finds, groups, organizes, and shares the best and most relevant content on a specific issue online.

As content curators for corporate learning, we are tasked with providing context and filters for learning content that not only guide learners to the appropriate formal learning opportunities, but also furnish timely informal assets their peers and managers develop and publish.

By donning the content curator hat on top of a strong foundation in instructional design and performance consulting, we open doors to a new incarnation of interactive online learning. We begin to break through the traditional boundaries previously imposed on learning content. Content curation requires that we move away from delivering corporate learning as a loose collection of independent e-learning courses. It requires new learning strategies and technologies.

But if cramming a corporate LMS full of new courses isn’t the path to the future of learning, where do we start?

You’re Probably Already Curating Content

If you actively use social media, you likely already have participated in content curation. Any time you share a link to content you have not created, you are a content curator. You are providing a filter, directing your readers to a specific target in a sea of information clutter. You also are providing context—that is, the understanding of why the link may be meaningful to your audience at that particular point in time, especially if you add a few words of explanation.

Curation makes information mining much more efficient than unguided search and allows readers to focus on digesting the provided content under the assumption it already has been vetted as worthy of their time and attention. This is no more or less true if you are sending a link to an article by an industry guru or a fresh service bulletin to your internal business team…or forwarding that video of a cute Jack Russell Terrier to your fellow dog-loving Facebook friends.

If you have ever developed learning content, you are wired for content curation. Consider the types of links you have shared in the past. You may recognize that curation skills are similar to those we have used for years in supporting traditional classroom or online learning content:

  • Notating a research paper
  • Creating a recommended reading list
  • Requiring a course reading assignment
  • Establishing a resource “share drive” on the corporate intranet

These activities all exercise similar content curation muscles:

  • Filter down to just the right content
  • Provide appropriate context
  • Share a link to the content

Content Curation in Corporate Learning

Now you’re ready to put content curation into practice at your workplace. Where do you start? Here are a few content curation strategies we’ve implemented at Media 1 to give you inspiration:

Resource Page

A simple solution that can offer high value: Offer a curated Resource Page containing links to additional reading at the end of your next e-learning course, along with a few descriptive lines to provide context. If you are concerned about maintaining links within a course, provide a single link to a resource page on your intranet for easier updates.

Be sure to consider internal or external blogs or podcasts that you know consistently provide helpful content, and while you have their attention, don’t forget printable job aids or worksheets.

Course as a Portal

Blackboard or Moodle users, consider setting up a “course” that is a reference portal to organized, curated resource links for a department or job function. In essence, use the framework as a content management system for your curated content.

Smart Portal

To avoid unruly “data dump” portals, enlist SharePoint logic and workflows to help further filter large amounts of curated content by subject or relevance. For example:

  • Guide new hires to instructions and resources for completing common tasks in the first weeks on the job
  • Drive learners to a group of courses in your LMS that are most relevant based on their role, region, or self-selections from a drop-down menu
  • Provide salespeople with the ability to sort and filter podcasts by managers on targeted selling or product announcements
  • Assign curator(s) to periodically seek out new content links from within your organization and register them in the appropriate portal(s)

Moderated Learning Community

Develop a moderated Community of Practice, enlisting dedicated mentors or guides to curate content in their area of expertise. Consider the model of the moderated learning community Mahlo.com:

Mahalo is the world’s first human-powered search engine powered by an enthusiastic and energetic group of Guides. Our Guides spend their days searching, filtering out spam, and hand-crafting the best search results possible. If they haven’t yet built a search result, you can request that search result. You also can suggest links for any of our search results.

As a bonus, offer moderated discussion boards to encourage learners to share ideas around curated content. Or, scale back and set up a series of moderated wikis for a simplified approach.

Curated Blogging

Educate your blogging managers and subject matter experts (SMEs) on the art and value of high- quality content curation around a theme that is meaningful to them and valuable to the continuous growth of your learners. Targeted curation eases the burden of always having to work through completely new ideas and allows busy writers to scaffold on the foundational ideas set forth by others.

At the same time, it builds organizational knowledge by personally directing learners to relevant content that is already available but may otherwise be overlooked.

Closing Thoughts

Throughout each of these strategies, the running theme is to enlist yourself and other knowledgeable and

passionate SMEs to filter and provide context to the resource materials that they value the most—trusting that your knowledge also will provide value to others interested in the same subject.

Over time, through competent content curation, the communities and portals we develop and support will become sought out as trusted sources of sustainable learning and performance in their own right—despite the learning content not being delivered as a formal course.

About the Author:


Chris Frederick Willis is CEO of Media 1, a consultancy specializing in integrating people, technology, and performance to drive Human Capital Improvement (HCI). Willis is passionate about melding the best practices of multiple disciplines and the power of SharePoint technology to support integrated learning and talent management—developing innovative solutions for onboarding, sales, and leadership.

Reprinted from Training Magazine Network

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