How HR leaders can use data and insights to influence the C-suite

HR has risen to the C-suite level in influence. Discover how HR leaders can make change happen across the whole organization.

How HR leaders can use data and insights to influence the C-suite

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Corporate leaders welcome news they can use, which means HR executives have an opportunity to help guide their colleagues with fresh insights about their workforce. Whether it’s using AI to measure employee skills or platforms to connect with worker sentiment, technology puts new tools in the hands of HR leaders.

What are the potential benefits, as well as obstacles? Who should be their corporate allies in taking these new initiatives? How can they choose among the many new technologies available? What are the best methods for sharing with the C-Suite?


  • Courtney White, Head of Human Resources, Agricultural Solutions – North America, Global Diversity, Equity, Inclusion – BASF
  • Isobel Lincoln, Senior Vice President, Human Resources – Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield
  • Rebecca Warren, Director of Customer Success – Eightfold
  • Josh Merrill, CEO – Confirm

Emily McCrary-Ruiz-Esparza Journalist, Contributing Editor – From Day One

Note: This content originally appeared during From Day One’s August 2023 Virtual Event titled: The Changing Profile of HR Leaders.

Steve Koepp, Co-Founder, From Day One 0:00
Corporate leaders welcome news they can use, which means HR executives have an opportunity to guide their colleagues with fresh insights about their workforce. Whether it’s using AI to measure employee skills, or platforms to connect with workers’ sentiment, technology puts new tools in the hands of HR leaders. So we’ll be exploring what are the potential benefits as well as some obstacles? Who should be your corporate allies and take these new initiatives? How can you choose among the many new technologies available? And what are the best methods for sharing what you learn with the C suite? Our moderator for this session, welcoming back is Emily McCurry Ruiz as far as I’m a freelance journalist, and from day one contributing editor, Emily, over to you.

Emily McCrary-Ruiz-Esparza, Journalist and Contributing Editor, From Day One 0:52
Thanks, Steve. Thank you so much, and welcome to all of our panelists. I know they’re beginning to log on right now. Hi, Rebecca, Josh, and Courtney. Hello. Hi, welcome to everybody. Before we get started, I wanted to point out one statistic that I found while preparing for this panel today, and it’s an Oracle survey from 2021. And it found that among many other interesting things that less than 30% of HR professionals say they’re good or very good at making positive changes based on people analytics. Yet, of course, HR is now part of the C suite and a lot of organizations and in most, it officially has the attention of the C suite and the boardroom. So I knew our panelists will be able to give us great ideas about how to be more influential and business decisions. So before we get to our questions for today, I’d like to have each of our panelists briefly introduce themselves. And then we’ll get started. We’ll begin with Rebecca from eightfold.

Rebecca Warren, Director of Customer Success, Eightfold 2:02
Hey there, I hope everyone’s having a great day. Rebecca Warren, I run a customer success team here at Eightfold. Previous background in talent acquisition for more years than I’m going to share all the way from sorcerer up to a senior leader in several large CPG restaurant and retail organizations. So super excited to be here to talk about HR and all the fun ways to engage with the C suite.

Emily McCrary-Ruiz-Esparza, Journalist and Contributing Editor, From Day One 2:26
Thanks, Rebecca. Welcome, Courtney.

Courtney White, Head of HR, Agricultural Solutions-North America, Global Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, BASF 2:30
Good afternoon, everyone, Courtney White, I’m the head of human resources for North America, and also Global Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at BASF agricultural solutions. Maybe like Rebecca, I’ve been in HR for probably more time than I will say right now, because I like to think everyone sees me as useful. However, at the same time, I’ve also spent time in business development, sales, communications, and another number of other areas in about seven different industries. So as someone’s looking at me, I hope that you think it is kicking in right now. Thanks.

Emily McCrary-Ruiz-Esparza, Journalist and Contributing Editor, From Day One 3:08
I’m buying it Courtney, I’m buying it. Josh.

Josh Merrill, CEO & Founder, Confirm 3:15
Hey, everybody. My name is Josh. I’m the co-founder and CEO of Confirm, we’re a performance review platform that’s built on the science of organizational network analysis to reveal who is really driving impact in your organization and who needs help. Prior to Confirm, I spent six years at a company called Carta where I was the chief product officer, experiencing all the pain of performance reviews, as both a contributor and a people leader.

Emily McCrary-Ruiz-Esparza, Journalist and Contributing Editor, From Day One 3:38
Thanks, Josh. Isobel?

Isobel Lincoln, Senior VP, HR, Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield 3:42
Hi, lovely to meet you all. I’m Isobel Lincoln. I head up HR for Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield, so we own shopping malls and major US cities along with some airport concessions and some major airports as well. So my background is actually in entertainment and tech. So a lot of experience with learning on the fly, kind of you know, managing high emotions and data at the same time. And I’m very, very happy to be here today.

Emily McCrary-Ruiz-Esparza, Journalist and Contributing Editor, From Day One 4:09
Westfield is one of my very favorite malls in San Diego. Yeah. Well, welcome to all of you. Let’s get started. I want to know, does HR have to have an official seat in the C suite? So do they need to have a CHRO in order to be influential in business decisions, and if they don’t have a CHRO or a CPO seat? How do you build credibility in legitimizing yourself and needing to contribute to business decisions? Courtney, would you get us started here.

Courtney White, Head of HR, Agricultural Solutions-North America, Global Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, BASF 4:47
Happy to do it. Now. No, admittedly I will say one of the things all professionals know is you have to know yourself and so I know where my biases are Emily. So when you ask the question, Does HR have to Have a seat at the table? My biases, absolutely, yes. Now, when you go there are two parts of the question, though, right? The second part is around influence. And here’s what I know is ideal if it’s already set up that way. But at the same time, if HR is not in the C suite, it doesn’t give us an opportunity or rationale as to why the job or the role that we need to play isn’t the same, what shifts is the how we go about it, how we manage it, and do it. And so with that, you know, kind of being the case, here’s what we know, or I think the goal of being in the room is to make sure that their shared responsibility to co-create and really influence and shape business strategy. And I think what most people also tell you is that, you know, knowing and understanding talent is the key differentiator to how business strategies are going to move for access to talent developing and retaining. And if that’s the biggest differentiator to sustainability and longevity of an organization, it will lead to a different question, which is how can you know, we effectively co create strategy, influence strategy, if we aren’t in the room when the strategy is being built, and met, etc, in order to share that unique perspective. Because at the end of the day, it’s all about impact. And I have a model that I live by, which says, if your presence doesn’t make an impact, your absence will make a difference. And so when in the room in the seat to your point, we have to do it. And if you’ll permit me one last quick thing here. I don’t mean to be political when I say this, but Joe Biden says in one of his famous quotes, don’t show me what you believe in, you know, show me your budget. And then I’ll tell you what you believe about him? And so if I did, you know, shift that a little bit, here’s what I would say, they’ll tell me you believe in people talent has been the biggest differentiator, you know, show me who’s in the room with specific decisions being made? And I’ll tell you, if you really see that talent is the biggest differentiator.

Emily McCrary-Ruiz-Esparza, Journalist and Contributing Editor, From Day One 7:05
Rebecca, I saw you nodding your head through a lot of that, what? What do you particularly agree with? What were you getting excited about?

Rebecca Warren, Director of Customer Success, Eightfold 7:13
Well, I think if we simplify that down, right, it’s put your money where your mouth is, right? If you’re going to talk about it, then you’ve actually got to back it up. And so the, the, I think, I think the seat at the table is about solving problems. And so if you can bring a solution instead of complaining about things or just talking into the air, Courtney, I love what you say about if your presence doesn’t matter, your absence won’t matter, either. Right? So if every time we have the ear of someone in leadership, that we’re able to share a solution that we want to provide a problem that we’re looking to solve in a way that we want to partner. I think there’s a lot more excitement around bringing HR to the table, because we’re continually thinking about how we make that organization better? How do we make our people better?

Emily McCrary-Ruiz-Esparza, Journalist and Contributing Editor, From Day One 8:07
Isabel, I’m coming to you next on this one. I want to know what skills an HR department needs in order to consistently advise on data driven decisions? What are the signs that maybe you need a person dedicated to this like a people analytics position? Or can this responsibility be shared across an HR department without a specific quantity on the team?

Isobel Lincoln, Senior VP, HR, Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield 8:34
It’s a really good question. Because I think first and foremost, you have to think about the size of the organization and how you want to leverage the data. So whether you have a budget for, you know, that person who handles HR analysis, or you have to kind of all do it collectively, I think it’s really important to leverage the data that you are collecting now. So any HR process that you’re running, you know, talent reviews, at the end of the year, like that gives you a huge quantity of quantitative and qualitative information about the quality of your talent that you have in an organization, are you leveraging something like that to the very best of its ability, you’re helping to identify top talent, you’re taking a look at it through the lens of DNI, you’re making sure that the skill sets of your people are aligned with business needs. And so I think that if you are to leverage that, for everything that it’s worth, you’ll get the most out of it, whether you have a dedicated process or not, not a dedicated person or not to do HR analysis. The other thing is, you have to know how to tell the story with the data. So no C suite is going to change or move or give you money to invest in something if you can’t tell a compelling story with data. So you have to manage and balance that data with an emotional appeal for what you’re doing with it. Is it tied to a specific action like Courtney and Rebecca were saying where you have a strong seat at the table and you can demonstrate your impact on helping the business to move forward and get at schools. And I think that it also matters the type of business you have in the industry you’re in. If you’re in, say, like aerospace, you’re going to be living and breathing data all day. So that’s probably a more persuasive way to make some of your, your cases for asking for things of your leadership and or being able to tell the story of how the company is doing from a people perspective, in a way in a language that they really understand. I come from entertainment, where it was sort of a relationship first data where depending on how you wanted to look at it. And with that, again, you can kind of help to craft a more rigorous way of looking at people and help to educate your C suite on why this matters beyond just sort of their emotional response to sort of, you know, the current state and their talent.

Emily McCrary-Ruiz-Esparza, Journalist and Contributing Editor, From Day One 10:48
You mentioned coming from entertainment, where it was relationship versus data,maybe if sometimes, yeah, it’s just interesting, I’d like to know, then, because you’ve worked in two different environments in that way. What do you find to be more persuasive? Is the emotional appeal of relationships really, really compelling to people?

Isobel Lincoln, Senior VP, HR, Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield 11:13
You need both. I love the point that Rebecca made around you coming to the table and solving problems. So are there certain strategic things that you can do from an HR perspective that help leaders to accomplish what they need for the business, which also accomplishes what you need to accomplish? And it’s an I think it’s a balance of really understanding what they need, what are those leaders’ natural strengths, where areas that you can supplement them? How is that leader and that leader’s organization interfacing with other verticals across the business? You know, in HR, we’re not business owners, but I feel like we’re business brokers. And we’re the one I think the one department or division that really interacts with everybody, as a whole company, no matter what industry, company size or location you’re in. And so I think really leveraging that spot in the organization. And that influence is really powerful. So I would really say probably both, but I do think that you need to personalize your value to each leader to some extent by at minimum, really understanding what their priorities are and how you can help them solve problems to Rebecca’s great point.

Josh Merrill, CEO & Founder, Confirm 12:22
I want to jump in here if that’s okay. And I don’t mean to be too controversial here. But Isabel, you use one of my one of my trigger phrases, which is top talent, because it’s so important to know exactly who that is. And, you know, I will, I will make the case that we actually have pretty lousy tools to actually understand who top talent is. The most commonly employed tool is the manager rating. And you know, when you run a performance review, you get that bell curve of manager ratings, you know, almost nobody gets a one, very few people get a five, you get mostly threes and fours. Right? You know, that’s a problem. The most important thing I think that HR can bring to leadership is to answer that question, who, who is my top talent? And I think this is where we have to get really creative because the manager ratings won’t get us there. You know, number one, is there 60% bias, right, we know that most of the rating is actually the manager’s idiosyncrasies. And the second is, you know, manager ratings are 100 years old. And they were invented in the 1920s. Before telephones right before the internet before all the tools that we use. And the way that we work today is completely different. We work in networks, we have slack, and teams and zoom in were more collaborative and cross functional than ever. And, you know, managers just don’t have the visibility anymore, to make good good talent assessments. You know, we talk a lot about like, quiet quitting, but we don’t talk about kind of the quiet contributors, right, those people who are making a big impact behind the scenes, and they may not be the ones who speak up in meetings, and we just don’t have great tools to capture those contributions.

Isobel Lincoln, Senior VP, HR, Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield 14:03
i If you don’t mind, I actually fully agree with you. So we have a much more holistic way of identifying who our top talent is than just manager ratings. And some of it is quantitative with pure 360s. A lot of it is actually boots on the ground, like what are they accomplishing? Do they have transferable skill sets to other parts of the organization? What are we doing with succession planning, what’s their individual development plan? I really agree with you, like there’s a lot that needs to go into that beyond just the opinion of one manager to determine someone’s whole career. So I just wanted to thank you for that.

Courtney White, Head of HR, Agricultural Solutions-North America, Global Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, BASF 14:34
Maybe joining with both colleagues and you know, similar to what Isabel was saying and what Josh was going I think, you know, even back to this idea of how HR wins through data etc. It comes back to having multiple perspectives that lead you to a conclusion right I mean, we are always looking for more and more information for the HR function, you know, we are fighting some, some myths for my personal to write some some ideas that you you know, folks who are in the HR profession, think only people, but don’t balance that with business. And so we’ve got to balance some of the emotional intelligence with also business intelligence too, because for most HR organizations, they’re non revenue generating. And so there’s already a question mark as to you know, okay, your cost. And so how do we make sure that what we’re doing through data in the storytelling, etc, is showing that we’re an investment, because we do expect there to be a return in the organization, as we go for top talent, as we’re going for quite honestly, any programming benefit or anything we offer? Here’s what we get out of it. And there are a number of ways to do it.

Emily McCrary-Ruiz-Esparza, Journalist and Contributing Editor, From Day One 15:43
Would you care to share one or two of the ways?

Courtney White, Head of HR, Agricultural Solutions-North America, Global Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, BASF 15:49
You know, I think so if I think about my own team and organization in HR strategy, we always try to balance three lenses, right? What are we doing for the workforce? What are we doing in the workplace, and then what are we doing in the marketplace, and we need to have, you know, demonstrable ways of sharing that, for example, I think it was even said by the the person who was on right before this panel talking about, you know, the goal is to, you know, drive engagement up, drive costs down. And at the end of the day, that really is, you know, quite a bit about what the expectation is for the HR function. And so for everything that we do in the organization, I show what that correlation is. But some of the storytelling is about the time that I show the correlation. For example, when I’m sorry, I have to put the big C word out there that nobody wants to hear COVID. But when we were going through COVID, one of the biggest things everybody was worried about is you know, oh, my gosh, we won’t be able to have courses for development anymore, you know, people won’t be able to get together in person to do this, etc. So we went out and found some vendors, who could help us deliver things virtually, just to let everybody know that it will continue. One of the things I didn’t do at that moment was share what the cost of that virtual training was, but I put a survey on it that basically asked you the question, if this was in person, would it have been as impactful? How did you enjoy it, etc, etc, etc. Long story short, at the end of the day, people agreed. It was just as impactful as enjoying it. It actually got to see more people than I normally see, based on the fact that we didn’t have to travel here, we didn’t have to do other things. That course was produced. And it’s the same exact course that people would have taken in person, and a 65% cost savings to the organization. And that’s before we even get to travel costs and other things. And so I can show that we can deliver the same quality in a differentiated way, and also drop calls down. I can tell you this, the next time I put a proposal out, nobody questioned it. And so we have to continue to build credibility in different ways. And while we could do it with that, we may not be able to do with some other things. But it’s a trade off. And it’s a balance. And so we want to do more credibility, more equity in that then raise our voice and presence in the organization. I’ll stop there, because I’m sure other colleagues have other examples.

Emily McCrary-Ruiz-Esparza, Journalist and Contributing Editor, From Day One 18:14
No, that’s really helpful. Courtney, thank you. You mentioned, building credibility in different ways. Rebecca, I hope you could talk about how HR can educate the C suite on new tools, new methodologies, new ways to, you know, prove the business value of different programs and policies. Could you talk about that?

Rebecca Warren, Director of Customer Success, Eightfold 18:33
Yeah, for sure. And I’ve just been loving all of the comments, because I’m just shaking my head just frantically with everyone else. So very aligned with all of the things that are being said, I think when it comes to tools, right, we I think are all very aware that HR has been a little bit behind the scenes when it are behind the eight ball, I should say when it comes to tech, maybe not as focused on that, what Isabel said a little bit more about the emotion and about the events and about some of the softer side of HR. But I think as we continue to see data being becoming that prevalent storyteller, we have to figure out how to use that to tell our stories. When I think about Courtney, what you talked about HR and a subset of that ta being a cost center, as opposed to a value add at least that’s the perception. I think when it comes to those tools, we can’t just show up at the table and say I want to spend, you know, $500,000 on this tool, because it’s going to do X, right? We don’t have anything to show we don’t have a story. We’re not solving a problem. You can tell I have a theme like I always want to solve problems, right? So if we were to think about bringing that into the C suite, we talk to the folks in the business, what are the problems that they’re seeing? What are they finding that is slowing them down? Like if we think about a simple example with talent acquisition and the hiring managers saying I’m not getting people fast enough and and TSA? Well, that’s because we can’t get on your schedule, because you’re booked out for three weeks. And we do all this back and forth, and blah, blah, blah, right. So if we say, hey, we can get a scheduling tool that’s going to come in, it’s going to automate your scheduling, it’s going to give the candidate a list of, of all the different open spots, it’s going to show up on your calendar, we’re going to be done. And we can, let’s just say we can shave off five days out of that interview process or even three, right? The cost of that if we do the math, right partner with the finance team, and say the cost of this is going to cost us 20 cents per candidate, if we hire X number at the end of the year, right? If you know your data, and then you can say this tool is going to save us not only efficiency, time headache, but it’s also going to get us talent faster, it becomes that no brainer. It’s like we are value-added, because we’ve done the research, we’ve talked to people and this is what we’re trying to do to solve a problem inside the organization. So if we just say, hey, we want to buy tech, because it’s cool. Not compelling. But if we say, Hey, here’s what we’re gonna do with it, and not just today, right? Hey, we’re gonna do this automated scheduling thing today. But then next year, we’ve got an add on, because we already have this company, we’re going to be able then to, you know, help our interview process itself, they’re gonna help us, you know, write job descriptions or whatever, right, there’s, there’s different ways that you can get your foot in the door. But I think it all has to come from a place of we’re going to add value to the organization and not just our team, it to me, it has to be broader than just what’s happening inside of TA or HR. It’s got to be something that’s going to affect inside the organization. And then also, there’s that visibility to the marketplace as well. Courtney, I loved what you said about those three lenses, right? What do our customers think, if we don’t have this technology, what are we providing to them? Right, we talk about the customer experience is never going to exceed the employee experience. So if we’re not taking care of ourselves internally, how are we going to be able to take care of our customers, and I can say like 17 Other things, but I’m going to stop now.

Emily McCrary-Ruiz-Esparza, Journalist and Contributing Editor, From Day One 22:05
Solving problems, of course, is a great way to approach it. One problem that leaders are very concerned with at the moment is, are there the appropriate skills in the workforce, especially tech skills, they’re changing really quickly. Employers need to make sure that they have the right skills in their workforce, either by training them internally, or bringing in new folks from the outside. So Josh, I’d like to hear from you, when evaluating when taking stock of the skills that are present in a given workforce. Can we rely on self identified skills? You mentioned that performance reviews have, you know, the way we’ve done the past haven’t always been the most effective ways? Could you talk about how one can take stock of that in a way that is really meaningful to executives?

Josh Merrill, CEO & Founder, Confirm 22:51
Yeah, absolutely. So let me pull this apart. So performance reviews and skills. So on the performance review side, I’ll say something a little controversial: that if you’re doing performance reviews, with manager ratings, you don’t know who your top performers are. They’re wrong for two reasons. And the first is, of course, bias. 60% Of a manager’s review is biased. And the second is that the way we work is so different from the way we actually measure and evaluate that work. We miss all those quiet contributors, for example. So now let’s talk about skills. So people are notoriously bad assessors of their own skills. It’s well researched. It’s called the Dunning Kruger effect. So if people are bad assessors of their own skills, and 60% of manager ratings are biased. What do we do? And this is where I think the answer to both of those problems is the methodology of organizational network analysis. So if you were to use oh Na, right, you would answer some questions in a performance review? Like, who do you go to for help and advice? Or who do you see making an outstanding impact? And what comes out of that is not that bell curve, that you would get a manager ratings, what you typically get is actually a power law. So what you see is that there are 10 to 15% of the people in the organization, who are creating 50 to 60% of the impact. And leadership has a pretty intuitive sense that that’s true. Because out of every eight to 10 people that they manage, my guess is that there are one or two of them who are so amazing that they you know, you just wish you could clone them. Like that’s the power law of talent. That’s what happens when people work collaboratively in networks. But the other thing that comes out of it are your experts, right? So if we were to ask that question, like who do you go to for help and advice? We could very quickly see, for example, that, you know, 12 people go to Emily for help with copywriting. And now we know we have an expert in copywriting. And it didn’t require Emily to tell us and it didn’t require Emily’s manager to tell us either. So the power of sample size actually reveals that and like impact expertise also follows this power law where you have a small percentage of the organization that’s how hoping everybody else, and we better know who those people are, if we’re going to make good talent decisions.

Rebecca Warren, Director of Customer Success, Eightfold 25:06
I’m going to tack on to that too. Just I think that those are great points. I think also, if we take it back a step further, and we look at our job descriptions, right, if we look at what the role is actually supposed to do, and we have managers assess skills that are required for the position, as opposed to a person skills, what does this position require, it also then allows a more neutral connection between here are the skills we need today for this job for this job. But then it also allows you to say, hey, we see if you’re talking to your organizational leaders, if you say, we see that we’re going to want to be there in five years, what skills are we going to need then? And then you can do that talent review of saying, objectively, here’s what this role needs. And then you have those conversations. Josh, what you’re talking about, I love that, to pair that up to say this is objectively what we need, and where we’re going to go. And then how do you work to upskill rescale, get folks into a spot, maybe they’re in a job that they don’t love. But you can see that they have some transferable skills, that you can put them into something that is more compelling. Maybe you’ve got somebody who is quiet in the role, because they don’t love it, but they need the paycheck. But if they then you can say, hey, they’ve got these skills, and we’re going to put them in this job, you may find that they’re that you’ve got a whole different employee on your hands. So I think also objectively evaluating what skills are needed for what roles and then tying those pieces together makes it less subjective and a little bit more objective.

Isobel Lincoln, Senior VP, HR, Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield 26:37
I love your point, Rebecca, I would love to build on it with a real life example. So we have been doing that there’s been a ton of change in our organization for several years. And so we had a lot of needed skill sets. And what we chose was to really, again, focus on the business need in the job description of what we’re really looking at, and then actually look very creatively at our own internal talent, and move people’s entire functions as much as really made sense for the business. And so at this point, over 11% of my entire US workforce has switched functions entirely. So not like accounting of finance, it’s like finance to it or like marketing to sales or legal to people like really, really creative things. So not only do I agree with what you said, I think that the holistic way of looking at it, you have better retention, you have better partnership across the business, like it’s really a win all the way around in a tough labor market.

Emily McCrary-Ruiz-Esparza, Journalist and Contributing Editor, From Day One 27:37
So yeah, what a great way of retaining workers, Josh, you want to jump in?

Josh Merrill, CEO & Founder, Confirm 27:39
I want to add a little bit of nuance, because I actually don’t think it’s just about skills. So I made the point that 60% of managers’ rating is biased, the Dunning Kruger effect, people are very bad at assessing their own skills. But you know, the reality is, it’s not work today, it’s not about what you know, it’s about what you share about what you know. So it’s not enough to be an expert in something or to have a skill. What matters is that I’m actually sought out for that skill, I’m actually helpful, I’m actually applying it and using it for the benefit of the people around me, work today is a team sport, there’s almost nothing that we do that that we do in isolation, or everything takes a team. And so it’s not really just to add some nuance, it’s not really about the skill. It’s about how does this person actually use that skill to benefit the people around them? And that’s, that’s really what we ought to be measuring.

Rebecca Warren, Director of Customer Success, Eightfold 28:28
Yeah. And it’s also digging to find out maybe they’re not using that skill, but they would like to. So you’re right. It’s what people see. But then it’s also how do you get to that next level of what they really want to do? Right? I saw something recently that said, my resume is a list of all the things I never want to do again. So we want to make sure that we’re not just pigeonholing folks, pigeon holing folks by what they do, but there may be something else that they want to do. So how do you get to that next leg layer and really understand what Isabel is saying? Like, how do we get them to that next position? I love this,

Courtney White, Head of HR, Agricultural Solutions-North America, Global Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, BASF 29:02
to your point, maybe just one additional build, maybe it’s even a little bit of a hybrid. A few years back, we transitioned our hiring strategy to one that we call impact based hiring. And the intent behind impact based hiring is to look at, you know, what demonstrably is happening with an individual what have they done in their career in our organization, or if we’re looking at attracting people from an external environment that basically then, you know, kind of leans on the philosophy that, you know, past success is an indicator of future success. It doesn’t have to be in that specific function. Because if we leave it late, you know, lead ourselves, you know, back to the idea of, you know, true diversity, equity and inclusion. It’s bigger, right than a number of things, its ideas, its experiences, etc. And how do we harness what we really need to come together? So impact based hiring has made a huge difference from us divorcing ourselves from the traditional idea of what we thought was required based on the law As a person in the role to what it can be based on the future.

Isobel Lincoln, Senior VP, HR, Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield 30:04
I really love that concept. And I think one of the ways that we haven’t done that, so I want to learn more about it. But it’s to really empower hiring managers and people, managers in general, and try to help them to think more holistically around what they need on their team, and what could be most impactful. Because I do think that sort of like, let’s hire the same person I had before, just get the button for the seat and get them working, is like the easy default that people have without that kind of elevated perspective.

Courtney White, Head of HR, Agricultural Solutions-North America, Global Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, BASF 30:33
Well, sorry to say this really quickly, but to your point, Isabel, and then we go out into the market or an organization and try to find it. Well, they say, well, it’s so hard, it doesn’t exist. That’s because there’s only one person that moved on. And so that’s why we can’t find it. So maybe we have to do it differently.

Emily McCrary-Ruiz-Esparza, Journalist and Contributing Editor, From Day One 30:49
Yeah. I want to bring us back to influencing the C suite, as great as that irritation was. Because you all are so knowledgeable about both. This has been a great diversion. Okay, so where do you think the HR discipline has? Is it really good at influencing the C suite? What skills? Do they mean, as well, you talked earlier, maybe there’s a relationship there’s data? Where do you think HR is really good at exerting influence? And where do you think the discipline as a whole really has room for improvement? Because and I’ll, the large influence of HR over an enterprise is newer, it really has not been this influential before. So where do you think the discipline has room to grow as well?

Isobel Lincoln, Senior VP, HR, Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield 31:40
So I think, the importance of really understanding not just the business plan for the next few months, but really like the business vision, I think, is something that would be an evolution, I’d love to see for all of us, I think part of that is having the bandwidth to do it. I think it’s very easy as an HR organization to get stuck in all the compelling day to day. And so one thing that my team and I are trying to do is to build in time to connect to the really bigger picture, business strategy and vision of where you want it to go. So an example that I can share with you is like, if I’m working with my sales division, they know their sales targets, like I don’t need to know the depth that they do. But again, I described us as being a bit of a business broker. So as HR, can I take a strategic step back and look at, alright, they’re meeting their sales targets, or they’re working towards those, but what about the entire execution process of, you know, signing the lease, because that’s cross functional? How are we looking at the different business processes, a lot of times leaders are focused on the goals for just their division. And so for HR, you can provide that opportunity to take a step back and look at things holistically and kind of connect across different functions. So that’s something that my team and I have spent a lot of time doing. I think as well, there’s an opportunity for HR to continue to educate the C suite on really important HR decisions, data processes. So the example I would share is, you know, healthcare is a massive cost driver for all of us. You know, there’s always we’re always a little bit sweating bullets in the summer to see what your renewal rates are going to be. And I historically haven’t found the C suite to be really emotionally engaged with like, how can you evolve? The benefits, don’t look at it as just like a factor of inflation, but like, how can you think differently, and really be invested in what it means on the ground for employees there. So I think that there’s an education piece that HR can do as well. And then there’s also been a lot of articles that I’ve read. And we’ve experienced this as well, in terms of the really important role that HR plays in terms of building trust and authenticity, as it relates to communications and kind of the conduit of cascading information between the C suite and employees. And so I think for that, like you can’t randomly say that like, okay, the CFO is going to be the person responsible for it. But like, who’s best positioned to really look at the way that the C suite is interacting with the full organization, and how they’re influencing and inspiring and making decisions and bringing in plays along with the process of how that decision is made? So I don’t know that I answered your question in terms of like, what we do well, what we don’t do well, but I think for me, those are some of the priorities or things that we’ve been working towards on our end,

Emily McCrary-Ruiz-Esparza, Journalist and Contributing Editor, From Day One 34:32
or anywhere, would you say the HR field is not yet seen as subject matter expert?

Courtney White, Head of HR, Agricultural Solutions-North America, Global Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, BASF 34:39
I think it’s kind of what’s been a bit of the spirit of the conversation quite a bit. I think CEOs intuitively know that you need to have somebody in the room who is focused on people, right? It just means it’s logical. At the same time. There still has to be an appreciation for that intelligence in the room too. And so I don’t, I think it’s a little bit of both the person and the HR role, starting to understand more of the business discussion and what’s going on to paint the vision as was just stated. And at the same site, at the same time starting to shift some of the common understanding of language in the room by others. This role really is about helping keep the organization, I think, grounded to the culture as well. Sometimes unintentionally what happens is, you know, you’re the CEO of the organization, but you think you know what’s going on? But do you really know Are you still as relevant as you were when you were working on the shop floor, or when you were in the field, etc. And people tell you what they want you to hear, versus what may be the reality. And so here is the trusted advisor that says, This is what you think is going on. But actually, here’s how we balance that quickly. I was reading some Gartner information here recently, and it says 70% of CEOs say they know that HR is a key differentiator, but only 55% actually feel as though HR is meeting that expectation. And for those that report to CFOs only 30% feel as though HR is meeting that expectation. So back to your point, people know, it makes sense. But there’s a gap. And that gap potentially could be some of what was discussed earlier. And that is just because you’re in HR doesn’t mean your whole life had to be in HR. If your whole life has been an HR, how do you then diversify yourself to earn the credibility that says, Yes, I understand people, but I also know what a day in the life is like in some other areas, which helps people also want to listen and embrace your voice. And it also authenticates a lot of what you’re saying, from my perspective, so that authenticate authentication is a process, I would suggest we still have some room to grow in.

Emily McCrary-Ruiz-Esparza, Journalist and Contributing Editor, From Day One 37:04
You mentioned, Courtney, that, you know, a lot of CEOs realized we need a person in the room who’s concerned with people. I’m wondering, Josh, C suite might think person, even if they think that’s valuable to have that person in the room, they might think, okay, you’ve you brought me information about the skills that we have retention, attrition, not kind of thing, but the C suite may still think those are personnel matters only, and therefore, within the purview of HR and other other business functions are not to be bothered with that. So what data does the C suite need to see in order to know what changes to make within each organization and to know that that information matters for all business functions?

Josh Merrill, CEO & Founder, Confirm 37:44
Yeah, and kind of building on that gap between HR and the CEO, it’s important to understand that the CEO is responsible to the board and responsible to the shareholders. And I think that a lot of the gap between HR and the CEO, or the C suite in general comes from the story that we tell is not the experience that they’re living. And I’ll just take the talent perspective on this. You know, a lot of C suite leaders I know that I work with have this inherent belief that there are a few people in the company that if they left, everything would fall apart. And then there’s probably a certain percentage of the company’s probably single digit percentage, that if those employees walked out the door tomorrow, nobody would know the difference. And you know what, they’re right, on both counts. But that’s not the story that we tell, especially when we talk about talent management. You know, we, when we do performance reviews, for example, we come in saying that, you know, most of the companies average its meeting expectations. And until we start telling a story that matches that ground truth experience, we’re gonna have an uphill battle. You know, I think that the biggest if you if you remember anything from from anything I’ve said today, it’s that I think the biggest secret that HR has yet to learn and to embrace is that talent doesn’t follow a bell curve, it follows a power law, you know, it’s that 10 to 15% of employees who are driving the impact. And, you know, manager ratings won’t tell you who they are. But if you use a tool, like organizational network analysis, you can suss them out. But you know, if you can tell the C suite if you can communicate who those people are, who are driving impact, and in many cases, who isn’t. I promise you no leadership will be engaged in that.

Emily McCrary-Ruiz-Esparza, Journalist and Contributing Editor, From Day One 39:23
How else could that work when presenting information to the C suite? So HR is increasingly becoming a function that comes with ideas that come with hey, here’s a problem, we can solve it. I’ve identified something, especially if you’re thinking about people analytics, hey, we’ve identified something we need to do something about it is about if the HR team is going in and saying this, how do they prevent becoming strapped with all the responsibilities of implementing all of those things? So like, alright, you identified the problem, you guys you

Isobel Lincoln, Senior VP, HR, Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield 39:52
go solve it. Yeah. It’s a really good question. And I think there are three things that come to mind. And again, it’s leveraging the resources that you already have. So one thing that I mentioned before that I think is really important is, in order to execute any kind of big process or project, the communication around the change management is huge. And one thing that we’ve learned the hard way a couple of times, is how important it is to really partner with leadership to make sure that that message is being cascaded. So whether it’s a call to action to work in a different way, whether you’re trying to establish a cross functional project team, that’s something that HR can help broker around the cross functional project teams just solve the problem, you look at it as a career development opportunity for employees, you can give them small project bonuses, you can have them present the results to like the whole company or to key stakeholders, which costs nothing to try to really leverage talent that wants to take on some meaty challenges and get new experience and build new relationships and have strong impact. So those two things. And then I think the third thing would be really empowering people that can influence the success of this project, or who would be catalysts for change in how to do that. So it could be, for me, a place that I always look at, as the people managers, there’s so much that they can do around building the culture, changing the way that people work day to day, helping to change mindsets, from reactive to strategic. Now, that’s easy to do. But they’re a key component of that. So in that way, can you have them be allies and partners in doing this work or doing this project or embracing this change so that it isn’t just like an HR thing, it feels more organic, and people are brought along with that change in some way project or not? For them to do so, those I think would be three things that would come to mind to sort of get some additional help that it wouldn’t just be on an HR team.

Courtney White, Head of HR, Agricultural Solutions-North America, Global Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, BASF 41:50
If I could build this quickly, Emily, you know, it’s interesting, too, because I always love to do this. When I go out to different groups, I always ask what does HR do, and people always come back with the same response? Higher? I go, okay, HR hires, and then what else does HR do? And then it pauses it gets, we’re gonna say it’s okay, somebody’s gonna say it’s a fire. So HR hires and fires. And so then I asked now, who in this room was hired by HR, it could happen, but who was hired by HR, and then they pause there, typically, you were hired by a manager, right, and we call that person a hiring manager. And while you may not want to believe it, they also perhaps perhaps become the hiring manager if the situation comes up. And so that’s not hr’s role. If HR is not hiring and firing, what are they doing? It always goes quiet. And so there’s something inherent in what we have to teach and educate whereas we’re facilitators of what’s going on? And why do I raise that because back to your point about how do we not take everything, I’m also notorious for saying, if it’s all dependent upon me, or the one person you have the HR business or any one person, you might as well give up today. Because we all have to be here together. This is why co creation is so important, because it takes all of us to get this done. Everybody in the organization is a member of HR is how they have to rethink their mindset around it. And that’s how we have to replicate it and make sure that it’s not on one person’s shoulders. And that’s not just for HR, it is for any function in any group in the organization.

Emily McCrary-Ruiz-Esparza, Journalist and Contributing Editor, From Day One 43:22
Rebecca, what would you add to this?

Rebecca Warren, Director of Customer Success, Eightfold 43:25
Yeah, I think it HR tends to have like, and we can call it all the kinds of different things right, like, we can call it the people team, or you know, whatever we call it, I think there’s there is a responsibility to be visible inside the organization, not just as the Terminator, or Oh, no HR is coming, or I’m going to tell HR, right, we have that reputation, we need to become that trusted adviser. When we show up, we want people to say yay, they’re here, because they’re gonna listen, and they’re a partner with me, I think a lot of the things that can get done are done by relationships, right. And folks that are in HR are there for the relationships, whether it’s external, internal employees, C suite, whatever. So I think the more visibility that HR has inside the organization that comes alongside as a partner, the more you know, and everybody has said this, the more you know about your business, the better off you’re going to be, what is this department working on? What are they trying to solve for what’s happening? I think you also have to be really aware of what’s happening outside the walls, we can get really insulated and spend a lot of time inside our bubble. But we have to get uncomfortable and we have to learn about things that maybe we don’t want to learn about and we’ve got to pay attention to things that are happening. And then it’s bringing those insights that data that information back inside the walls, right. Like you think about the affirmative action ruling that happened where we said you know, campuses are not able to bring folks in based on color or or Gender. What does that do to your organization? If we say we know that and we take that piece of information and we put it in an email, we forward it on up. That’s one thing. But if we say, Hey, here’s what we may want to think about, you may want to look at your early career hiring, because if that’s where we’re getting the most of our diversity in the organization, we’ve got a problem, right? So it’s bringing that insight and that additional perspective on what’s happening outside the doors coming inside the doors and building those relationships, networking inside and outside the organization to show that continual value. I’m not sure that that answered your question at all. But that was just something that was on my mind.

Emily McCrary-Ruiz-Esparza, Journalist and Contributing Editor, From Day One 45:41
Well, thank you to all of you, Rebecca, Courtney, Josh, and as well this has been a really lovely conversation. Thank you very much for your time, and I’m going to turn it back over to Steve with From Day One.

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