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Hosted by Greg Morton, CEO, NCHRA
"Industrial Relations," "Personnel," "Human Resources," "Human Capital" -- it seems as if the terms are always changing! This blog spotlights those individuals who are shaping the science around people and their purpose, in an unparalleled intersection of technology and humanity.


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Conversation with David Swanson, EVP Human Resources, SAP Americas

Posted By Greg Morton, Tuesday, April 26, 2016

I recently met up with David SwansonSPHR SHRM-SCP, EVP Human Resources, SAP Americas. With over 25 years of human resources management experience, David Swanson is currently the executive vice president of human resources for SAP. He is a panelist and keynote speaker on the Future of HR focusing on how HR can make an impact in the business through analytics and big data, not just activity reporting. David is also an adjunct lecturer with the University of California, Santa Cruz Extension, and works with the Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM) and the Northern California Human Resources Association (NCHRA) as both a presenter and facilitator. Some of you might have attended David's HR West 2016 session, "Key Differentiators of High-Growth Companies." So in keeping with our HR West theme, "HR in the most innovative place on earth," David has offered and continues to offer (as you will read below) some exciting insight into how HR leaders can implement data-driven initiatives in order play an even more important role in the overall success of their organizations.

How is the role of the CHRO changing in today’s business environment?

In my role, I have the opportunity to talk to a number of CHROs across many markets both public and private, large and small. One of the common themes I hear is that, for many heads of HR, the expectation of the executive team is for HR to be able to measure the impact of the HR programs -- not just the activity. Meaning, HR must now get more comfortable with using analytics in order to show how a leadership program or a new hiring training will improve productivity, retention and customer satisfaction. The days of just reporting on number of people hired or how many managers were trained are behind us. HR must now be able, like our marketing and finance colleagues, to predict outcomes!

For example, at my company SAP SuccessFactors, we are measuring the hiring effectiveness of our people managers. We want to know who consistently hires people who get productive faster and promoted sooner, are identified as top talent, where we can measure (such as a call center), have higher net promoter scores from our customers. Then we want to know what they do differently from average hiring managers and try to incorporate those skills into all of our hiring managers. The expectation is that we will see an increase in retention as employees who are engaged and successful are less likely to leave their organizations, as well as provide an increase in customer satisfaction. The data we are using is not perfect, but it can tell a story.

If we don’t get comfortable with this approach to HR programs and strategies a troubling trend could increase! That trend is that more and more CHROs coming from outside of HR, to include finance, operations, or sales-- because they understand how what they do impacts the organization’s bottom line!

We continue to read more and more articles on big data and analytics. Why is this so important for HR to understand?

The new currency in business today is data. Those who figure out how to use their data for a competitive advantage will survive, but those that don’t will get acquired or disappear. In HR, we generate phenomenal amounts of data yet we rarely take the time to use that data effectively. Disparate systems, dirty data, and lack of data analytics capabilities in many organizations are roadblocks to success. The reality is that the data will never be perfect, there are systems that can connect disparate data fairly easily and there are experts in data analytics that can help out to jump start a data driven HR organization.

Organizations that I have worked with have started small, taking a well-defined pain point and using data to seek trends or hot spots. Recruiting is a good place to start. Many organizations would like to improve the quality of candidates or focus their marketing in those areas that have shown results. Unfortunately, many organizations keep going to the same sources for potential talent hoping for a different outcome.

Taking the time to understand the effectiveness of sources of hire can help HR focus efforts and potentially provide a higher quality candidate pool. Doing this could seem cumbersome, but there are simple ways including using both HCM software or just good old manual data crunching. I tell people to first pick a role that you hire for consistently, that way you should have more data to review. Then ask managers who their best people are, or review the last calibration data and identify top performers. Now go back and find out where those top performers were sourced from. Was it through internal referrals, job boards, or some other identifiable source? You will likely find that there are one or two sources that consistently produce the best talent. You might also find that some of the sources you are spending a significant amount of money on are not producing candidates who stay and outperform their peers!

So how can organizations start on a data-driven HR journey?

I have mentioned a few ideas already. The key is start small and build on success. There is a great quote I learned from a consultant, Peter Lee (out of Vancouver, B.C.) that I have carried with me for many years, “Sometimes you have to slow down to speed up.” All too often, in our desire to have immediate results, I have seen HR organizations launch a company-wide data initiative. Often the initial euphoria leads quickly to frustration. i.e.“The data is no good or too hard to obtain!” or “How can we get the business to engage?” There is also a propensity to want to buy a systems solution before one really understands what the business pains are.

Successful data-driven HR organizations begin with some idea of what they are trying to solve. This is where close partnership with the business is essential. Going to a sales manager and telling them that you want to dig into the data on the performance of sales people will often elicit a quick: “get out of my business until you fix your recruiting machine!” or some other less than helpful response! Instead, what if you asked them,“If we could identify the key causes of sales turnover and could reduce it by 5% would you be interesting in playing?” The response is likely to be very different!

Any data-driven project must begin with a clear business need AND one that can show some correlation to business performance, profitability or customer satisfaction.

I often tell colleagues that if you don’t know where to start go ask your marketing head or a marketing person that you know. Marketing has been using data analytics for years to predict buying behavior, customer retention, and effectiveness. They can often be a great partner to help you get you program off the ground.

Start small and celebrate early wins! Don’t shoot for fundamental change, but strive for incremental change. The data is out there waiting for you to inquire. Take the bold step an enter the world of data driven HR, the door is wide open and your organization needs you to step through.


Follow me on Twitter: @GregJMorton
Follow David on Twitter: @DavidSwansonHR
You can also connect with David Swanson on Linkedin

Tags:  CEO CORNER  David Swanson  Greg Morton  HR  HR Leadership  SAP 

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Conversation with Matt Straz, CEO & Founder, Namely

Posted By Greg Morton, Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Matt Straz is a thoughtful entrepreneur and HR tech innovator. As the founder and CEO of Namely, the leading HR, payroll, and benefits platform for mid-sized companies, Matt has enjoyed some success in recent months. This past February, Namely raised an additional $30 million in venture backing led by previous backer Sequoia Capital, bringing the company’s total to $107.8 million. The company, now four years old, processes over $2.5 billion in payroll with over 75,000 employees on the Namely platform. But it’s people—and building technology to bring out their best—that Straz is the most passionate about.

I sat down with Matt to talk about the year’s biggest issues in workplace legislation, what makes Namely special, and what the recent focus on employee experience means for HR.

What is unique about the challenges for HR professionals in mid-sized business compared to small businesses?

Matt Straz: Part of what makes my job so interesting is I get to hear from HR professionals every day. We work with a lot of hyper-growth companies, and they experience challenges in nailing HR administration. They’re looking to successfully onboard dozens of employees at once, properly run payroll, enroll everyone in affordable employee benefits, and keep the heart of the company together while growing.

But when it comes to mid-sized businesses, we often see HR faced with two very important priorities. The first is no surprise: It’s still HR administration. That need doesn’t go away, of course. The second priority is more strategic: It’s providing a meaningful employee experience. Deloitte just had a great write-up on this in their 2016 Global Human Capital Trends report. Mid-sized companies, now that they have some of the basics of administration handled, are hungry to offer the kind of fulfilling, career-growing experience that ups employee retention and productivity. Mid-sized companies are ready to really bring their performance management to the next level. Review cycles and compensation conversations should be standardized company-wide, and cascading goals across the entire organization are more important now than ever.

At the end of the day, it’s your company culture that fuels a rewarding employee experience. Culture isn’t necessarily a conscious decision when you’re a smaller business. The founders and first 10 employees essentially define your company by means of their backgrounds and sensibilities. When you grow to be a mid-sized business, a well-defined and motivating company culture is absolutely essential—as is consistent internal communication. We see our clients focusing more on making certain that company policies are clear, and surveying their people on everything from benefits to time off to snacks. In mid-sized businesses, we also see our clients using cascading goals—goals that start companywide and then trickle down from executives to managers to individual contributors. That way, everyone’s efforts map directly back to those of the company.

Here in California, one bit of HR-related news that’s dominated the headlines is our new minimum wage—$15 by 2022. Think we’ll see more of the same elsewhere?

We probably won’t see Congress budge on the federal minimum wage, which is $7.25, until the next administration at the soonest.

Instead, we’re seeing states take the lead. California is a great example, but New York and Oregon just passed significant increases as well. In both of these states, legislators opted for a regional model with different minimums for urban and rural counties. It’s a clever approach that’s meant to address how someone’s cost of living or purchasing power can vary widely within state borders.

For those who’ve opposed minimum wage increases in the past, mainly under the belief that they would hurt businesses in rural or suburban towns, this new flexibility is a game-changer. Don’t be surprised if we see movements pick up steam in states like Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Illinois later this year.

Minimum wage increases aside, what are some of the other big developments in HR this year?

New regulations at the state and city level are impacting mid-sized companies like never before. Equal pay, paid leave, and laws limiting criminal background checks have gotten a lot of traction. Just in the past month, New York state passed an historic paid leave law granting up to 12 weeks for new parents or those with a sick family member. As unprecedented as some of these state laws are, a few cities are going even further. San Francisco just passed an ordinance requiring businesses to pay for the 45 percent that isn’t covered by California's program—giving the city the first “full paid leave” program in the country. HR professionals everywhere should keep an eye on their own local laws.

But as important as those developments are, the biggest story we’re watching is the Department of Labor’s changes to overtime rules. The minimum salary to exempt someone from overtime currently sits at $23,660. Under the new rules, we could see that go up to $50,440 or even higher. That means nearly a quarter of all employees currently exempt from overtime will have to be reclassified.

The new rule hasn’t been finalized yet, but it’s expected to arrive around late spring or early summer. We expect that the DOL will give companies 60 days to comply once the rules are released. If you’re in HR, don’t wait—you need to start looking at your overtime classifications right away.

There are so many new HR technology companies coming on to the scene. What makes Namely different?

I called out two of the biggest HR priorities for mid-market companies earlier. Both of them are exactly what we built Namely to solve. While there are lots of great, emerging point solutions, we offer the first integrated HR, payroll, and benefits platform built to fully handle HR administration for mid-sized companies. And on top of that powerful functionality, employees also love using Namely. We believe great software certainly contributes to a great employee experience. We’ve always placed an emphasis on building software that is intuitive, with a clear user interface like the consumer technology people use every day. When HR technology is easy to use for everyone—not just administrators but managers and employees as well—that means a better working experience.

Also, as we’ve discussed, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and rapidly changing regulations at local, state, and federal levels have forced mid-market companies to prioritize compliance more than ever. Namely’s all-in-one technology automates ACA reports and enables our clients to satisfy today’s complex payroll and benefits requirements. While we’ve built our technology to support local and federal legislation, we’ve also hired people who have deep experience across HR, payroll, and employee benefits to help keep our clients compliant. We track the most crucial updates in workplace legislation over on Namely’s HR News.

Namely has the deep administrative functionality and compliance that mid-sized companies need, and we’ve built it to be simple enough for every employee to use every day. If we can help our clients give their people an even better employee experience, we know we’ve done our job.

Follow me on Twitter: @GregJMorton
Follow Matt Straz on Twitter: @MattStraz

Tags:  Greg Morton  HR  HR Leadership  HR software  HR tech  Matt Straz  Namely  NCHRA 

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A Conversation with China Gorman

Posted By Greg Morton, Monday, March 21, 2016

A successful global business executive in the competitive Human Capital Management (HCM) sector, China Gorman is a true innovator and futurist for the HR industry. She is a sought after consultant, speaker and writer who brings the CEO perspective to the challenges of building cultures of humanity for top performance and innovation, and strengthening the business impact of Human Resources. China is the former CEO of the Great Place to Work® Institute, COO and interim CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and President of Lee Hecht Harrison. We are also very honored to have China as a member of the NCHRA Advisory Council

And now, a conversation with China...

How do you think HR has changed over the course of your career and where is it going?
In its development from Personnel to Human Resources to Talent Management, the function is becoming a more integral part of the business strategy and leadership of many organizations. As HR practitioners transition to true business leaders (not partners, but leaders), Talent will become as essential a function as Finance, IT and Product. More and more HR leaders are coming from the business, and more and more business leaders are coming from HR. That’s the best outcome we can hope for. 

What three skills do you believe an HR person who aspires to be a senior practitioner should have?
1. Attain and maintain functional mastery
2. Attain business competencies and a reputation for being a business leader first, an HR practitioner second
3. Always, always have solutions to present based on your functional HR expertise and your business acumen. Be known for providing workable alternatives rather than just being able to identify the challenges.

There is a growing trend of Senior HR Managers moving into C-suite roles. What is the impetus for this and do you think this trend will continue?
This is an awesome validation that HR professionals truly can be seen and can operate as business leaders. CFOs and CMOs are routinely elevated to the CEO office. Although still not common, the growing incidences of CHROs becoming CEOs should give HR leaders confidence that the profession is on the right track.

You’ve been very successful. What led you to Human Resources as a profession?   
I’m the most famous HR person who has never been in HR! What I am is a successful business executive who leads businesses in the Human Capital market sector. I’ve aligned myself with organizations that bring talent solutions to business through HR. So HR leaders have always been my customer. And, of course, being the COO and Interim CEO of SHRM aligned me even closer to the profession. 

I love HR people. Despite (in many cases) being the Rodney Dangerfield of the corporate world, HR professionals are focused on the most important elements of organizational success:  the people. There is no organization without the people. There are no customers without the people. There are no products, innovation, brand or social impact without the people. People are the heart of every organization’s success and HR enables an organization to acquire, develop, and deploy the organization’s most critical resource. And as the economy and demographics continue to shift, HR’s contribution to creating sustainable business models is all about the availability and stickiness of talent. This makes HR’s value undeniable.

What has been your greatest professional accomplishment?
Building and leading teams to achieve more than they thought was possible. A leader’s true job is in creating and reinforcing a culture that enables humans to be their best every day. I’ve worked hard to ensure that every possible obstacle is removed so that my teams can outperform even my high expectations. 

Tell us more about what you are doing now...
All of my previous leadership positions – professional and volunteer – have pointed me to the intersection of organization culture, humanity and business performance. I currently serve on the boards of several organizations that are bringing products and services to the market that relate to this intersection. WorkHuman (powered by Goboforce), WorldBlu, The Workforce Institute at Kronos, and now the NCHRA Advisory Board all are allowing me to focus on this deep area of interest for me. Additionally, I write the popular HR blog, Data Point Tuesday found on my website ( and have a strong public speaking practice.

Do you have more questions or comments?
Please feel free to post below.
Thank you for reading!

Greg Morton

Tags:  CEO  HR  HR Leadership  NCHRA 

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Welcome our New NCHRA Advisory Council

Posted By Greg Morton, Sunday, January 31, 2016
Updated: Thursday, March 17, 2016
 I’ve always taken to heart a quote from Aesop's Fables, “you are known by the    company you keep,” and have found that to be true both in my personal and professional life. This month I am thrilled to shine a light on “the company” NCHRA is keeping by introducing you to our inaugural Advisory Council… As you will see in the following bios, each member of the Advisory Council is an accomplished executive bringing significant experience and wisdom to their role on the council.

I’ve never been a fan of making decisions in a vacuum and value the opinion of our members and leaders within the communities we serve. One thing you will notice is, not all the council members are HR professionals. This was intentional and aligns with the philosophy that in 2016, we’re all in HR if we wish to get the most from our people, lead and collaborate.

I’m excited to have this particular council of innovators, futurists, thought leaders and accomplished executives to critique and weigh-in on the direction of the NCHRA. Collectively they represent the front edge of the metaphorical knife of change in our market, sharing from their unique vantage points where the world is headed, and how we can adapt to succeed within its direction. I’ll be looking for their opinions on a variety of issues, such as the topics we choose to cover in our many programs annually, identification of trends affecting our value delivery, help in securing the best speaker talent, and even as a sounding board for promotional materials and our brand positioning.

We’ve been fortunate enough to support the HR community for nearly 56 years and have seen much change and have adapted with it. And though I’ve only been here 4-months, I suspect part of our success has always been the company we keep. Please join me in welcoming our Advisory Council.

Tags:  Advisory Council  CEO  council  executives  Greg Morton  HR  HR leadership  human resources management  humanistic leadership  NCHRA  wisdom 

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HR in the most innovative place on earth!

Posted By Greg Morton CEO, NCHRA, Friday, January 1, 2016
Updated: Wednesday, February 24, 2016

To all the HR professionals in the NCHRA family, I wish you a Happy New Year!

2015 was a busy year for our association and 2016 will surely be another exciting year for us. We’ll be hosting our 31st HR West Conference along with a great line up of one-day conferences and regional programming throughout the year. We even have plans for a new event this year that will bring HR professionals together with today’s most cutting-edge innovators seeking to deliver solutions for challenges faced by the HR community, both today and tomorrow.

It’s hard to believe that we are just two months away from our annual HR West Conference, but we are. Whether you are a past attendee or attending for the first time, you will not want to miss this year’s event. This year our theme is “HR in the most innovative place on earth,” based on our observation that practicing HR here in the West requires skills beyond the ordinary, and a level of sophistication not found in other parts of the world.

HR West 2016 delivers a fantastic line up of keynotes and session speakers sure to satisfy the never-ending thirst for knowledge you have come to expect. Each year, attendees share with us their appreciation of the unparalleled ability to earn continuing education credit towards a variety of certifications, and how much they value the conference’s networking opportunities - whether it’s making a new connection or re-connecting with a colleague - the three days offers ample opportunity to grow and maintain your professional network. New this year, HR West will have a speed networking session. Based on the concept of "speed dating," you'll meet other professionals with the potential to begin a mentoring relationship; discuss shared work topics or career paths; network, and more.

As always, you will have an opportunity to visit and learn from a strong list of high-quality service providers. We are proud that our conference attracts the best service providers and just as proud that their presence and involvement with attendees is an appreciated part of our conference’s value.

So if you haven’t gotten around to signing up for this year’s HR West Conference, don’t delay. With the holidays behind us and another full year ahead, it’s time to start thinking about learning new things, meeting new friends and old, and being inspired with “HR in the most innovative place on earth!”

Tags:  conference  HR West 2016  hrwest  innovators  mentoring  speed networking 

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