The Power of the People Function

How our HR issue shaped up, the making of the Motorola Solutions feature, and more.

It’s hard to imagine any company without an HR function, and yet the value of the function has long been debated. Can a strong culture drive a competitive advantage? Can HR drive strategic conversations? Can unprecedented access to data enhance the function? These and other questions were on our minds when we started planning this issue, and we’re confident that we’ve found some answers.

Spread throughout the issue are stories of HR executives breaking the status quo. For starters, cover star Sally Buchanan helped untangle the mess of HR policies and procedures at Sony Computer Entertainment America, the company’s PlayStation wing. In “Game On” (p. 60), we capture how Buchanan helped the function respond to the changing nature of Silicon Valley. Her efforts culminated in a complete HR restructuring, orienting her team in three buckets that each encompass a core area, which allows Buchanan and her team to easily send a unified message.

For other bold HR ideas, make sure to read our HR How-To feature (p. 83), which turns the expertise of senior executives into actionable advice. One thing is common: these HR veterans are pioneering new disciplines that deserve to be considered not just by their peers in the function, but by the entire suite of C-level executives. The feature offers a glimpse of HR 2.0, a function that levies a strategic mind-set to an enterprise’s core problems and shows just how, with time-tested acumen and a dash of humility, the people function has finally earned its spot at the table.

Take the case of Shelly Carlin, Motorola Solutions’ senior vice president of HR, who dared to ask if performance ratings had a place at the Fortune 500 company. In “Trash the Ratings” (p. 84), we look at her grand experiment ridding the global organization of meaningless buzzwords in order to give employees the development they desire and managers the flexibility to deliver it effectively. The process has only just begun, but already it has bridged the gap between the boomers and the millennials.

Then there’s Ginger Gregory, chief human resources officer of Dunkin’ Brands, who I spoke with about the project-management approach she brought to the QSR giant (“The Power of the Project-Management Approach,” p. 94). Gregory was introduced to the idea by a former IT colleague and has been using it ever since. The specific benefit is that it gives the Dunkin’ HR team a clear set of priorities, a new idea for a function that traditionally drops everything when a new need comes along. “It keeps people focused on achieving bigger undertakings than I’ve seen accomplished otherwise,” Gregory says. “And it moves the needle faster and farther because of the focus.”

But the true power of HR goes beyond what can be documented in an operations manual. In “Surviving Sandy” (p. 120) staff writer Michelle Markelz explores how the HR team at Barnabas Health moved well beyond the normal parameters of the function to
assist employees in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. Under the leadership of Sid Seligman, the organization’s health centers in Long Branch and Toms River, New Jersey, were converted into temporary shelters for the staff, the first of many initiatives to help restore life to normal.

That’s just the beginning. As you make your way through this issue,  keep an eye out for additional insight,  and hopefully you will find something worth brainstorming with your HR team. After all, it’s people who make a company go, and it’s time we gave the function the credit it deserves.