Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A Hot Trend

It's not often a quarterly journal like Directors & Boards can beat the Wall Street Journal in getting a story into circulation. It's fun when it happens.

We experienced that this month when our current edition featured a major article on a trend we think is about to explode: how HR officers will become much closer and more valued counselors for the board — a trend that will include chief human resource officers (CHROs) becoming desirable board candidates. We titled it "A Strengthening Nexus: Boards and the CHRO." That issue hit the street Dec. 4. On Dec. 14 the WSJ reported that "HR Executives Suddenly Get Hot," with the article subhead adding "Profession Is in Demand for Board Seats as Firms Seek Guidance on Pay Deals."

I like this as a compelling example of the serendipity of good ideas being explored by multiple sources at the same time . . . as well as affirmation of our respective trend identification.

Kathy Herbert (pictured) is what I termed in the Directors & Boards article a preeminent example of the HR expert who has been recruited as an outside director. She is the former EVP of human resources of Albertson's Inc. who is serving on the board of Covidien PLC, the Tyco Healthcare Group unit that was spun off to Tyco International's shareholders in 2007, at which time she joined the board. She authored for us a Top 10 list of "What the Board Needs from the HR Chief." This is a primer for board members who want better advice on which to make key human capital, compensation, and succession and management development decisions — as well as a primer for HR officers on how to become a trusted adviser to the board. Her views were supplemented by two top HR officers, Angela Lalor of 3M Co. and Ian Ziskin of Northrop Grumman Corp., who discussed the impact that progressive HR practices can have on the governance of public companies today.

I have some skin in this trend. I've published pieces on the HR-Board relationship that date back a decade and more, so I've been an early advocate for the strengthened nexus. And now I have been invited to participate in the meetings coming up in 2010 of the CHRO Board Academy. Formed by Dennis Carey, senior client partner of Korn/Ferry International, the CHRO Board Academy is an organization that specializes in preparing HR executives to work with their boards as well as to serve on outside boards. The above-mentioned Ian Ziskin along with Daniel J. Phelan, chief of staff for GlaxoSmithKline, are co-chairs of the CHRO Board Academy.

I look forward to bringing to the readers of Directors & Boards more thought leadership on how HR executives not only have gotten hot but stay hot in the bubbling cauldron that corporate governance likely will be in 2010 and beyond.

Photo of Kathy Herbert by Kathy Richland ©2009