Working with board members can
be tricky, however.
“The quickest way a CHRO can
damage his or her credibility is fail to
develop an effective relationship with
the compensation committee chair,”
says Bartl. “This is a telling factor ...
that projects through the board.”
Adobe Systems’ Morris says
change management and disruption
generally go hand in hand. Whether
change involves a company merger or
driverless vehicles, HR leaders must
retool their workforce in advance to
prepare for it, adjust to it and accept it.
Front-line services are already
being disrupted by technology
advancements, she says, pointing
to online recruiting processes
or managers logging online for
supervisory guidance. So much of an
HR leader’s job requires leveraging
new technology to drive key outcomes.
“The requirement [for HR leaders]
to consult back to the business broadly
around change and make the bold
move to change their organization is
disruptive,” Morris says. “I ask our
CEO for forgiveness in terms of trying
to drive change and disrupt.”
Unfortunately, not every HR leader
has access to C-suite executives
or reports to the CEO, which
can be problematic. Under these
circumstances, Morris says, HR
Despite all of the challenges and
responsibilities surrounding HR
leaders, there’s one more they need to
own: growing the profession.
“The way we give back as leaders
is by really sharing with others the
potential that this could be a fantastic
career,” Morris says. “That’s our
responsibility. We need to be more
accessible [through] social venues like
Meanwhile, Morris is disturbed by
recent headlines about sexual harassment
in the workplace. Where were the HR
leaders in these organizations? Why
weren’t they accessible?
“We all get enamored as leaders by
doing more strategic work,” Morris says.
“You earn the right to do that when your
company is functioning properly.”
There’s been so much emphasis on
HR leaders becoming business savvy
that some tend to lose sight of their
major role, says Corning’s Pambianchi.
“We need to make sure we remain
capable in our craft,” she says, pointing to
areas such as labor laws, compensation,
management assessment, and diversity
and inclusion. “It’s really important to
understand the business, but what you
bring to the table is your HR expertise.
People are losing sight of that.”
She says HR leaders must invest in
themselves to maintain their currency
and be capable in the areas of HR that
matter to the business. For example,
Pambianchi travels to Corning’s 70 plants
worldwide, attends all board meetings,
sits on the company’s growth execution
council and oversees its innovation
programs. She learns what drives the
business so she can better understand
what company leaders need, better serve
them and deliver business results.
But supporting the enterprise,
leadership and employees demands
insight and diplomacy. Sometimes, she
says, HR leaders must take a tough
stance with senior executives who
avoid addressing sensitive issues such
as corporate ethics.
In the near future, Pambianchi
says, more HR leaders will run their
departments like a business by creating
objectives and goals, and sharing them
with business leaders, who then hold
them accountable for their actions.
“We ask and hold ourselves to that
same standard as we hold any other
business function to,” she says. “Those
are things that drive
credibility and trust.”
too many HR leaders
are focused on the
enterprise or its leadership while
first-line supervisors must fend for
themselves. That leads to “major
hiccups with the breakdown of values
and ethics in companies,” she says,
adding that HR leaders must develop
strong employee relationships.
Five years from now, Pambianchi
believes the outputs that HR leaders
and their staff deliver aren’t going to
change, but how they’re delivered
will. For instance, how HR leaders
communicate and perform their jobs,
she says, will be impacted by new work
processes, increasing labor fluidity
and technology advancements, such
as cloud-linked work phones that also
allow workers to access personal data.
Now that HR leaders are no longer
just the brokers of information or
keepers of policy, she says, they need to
determine what the next higher-order
value contribution will be.
“Embrace it. Define it. Skill up for it.
Do it,” she says.
Send questions or comments about
this story to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Christy Pambianchi Donna Morris
The Law By Paul Salvatore/Legal Columnist
I didn’t write a piece about Harvey
Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Roy Moore,
Al Franken, etc. and the yet-to-be-
named powerful men embroiled
in the #Me Too sexual-harassment
scandal. The 21st-century version of
Anita Hill versus Clarence Thomas
unfolding before our eyes is certainly
shocking—but maybe not for the
You’ll remember that the U.S.
Supreme Court ruling recognizing
sexual harassment as a form of illegal
sex discrimination (Meritor Savings
Bank v. Vinson, 477 U.S. 57 (1986))
approved the concept that policies
and internal complaint processes
that were supposed to halt workplace
sexual harassment and correct it
when it occurred could potentially
limit employer liability where the
Faragher v. City of Boca Raton, 524
U.S. 775 (1998) and Burlington
Industries, Inc. v. Ellerth, 524 U.S.
In most organizations, prevention
policies, training, effective complaint
procedures, prompt investigations
and appropriate remedial actions—
fall to human resources (with help
from legal counsel). And, in the vast
majority of organizations, HR does
its job. For example, the Society
for Human Resource Management
recently reported that 98 percent of
organizations in the U.S. have an anti-sexual-harassment policy.
So what went wrong that led
to #Me Too? Remember, sexual
harassment, as I’ve told numerous
training classes over the last 20-
plus years, is more about “power”
than “sex.” #Me Too is clearly
about power; the most powerful
men in the organization are the
alleged harassers. This makes these
situations quite different than typical
Making the issue more
complicated, during the decades
since the 1990s, the HR function itself
grew its own organizational power. It
went from the back office “personnel
department” to highly visible and
effective “human resources”—with
its leader now sitting in the “C suite,”
possibly ensconced on the same floor
as the CEO. In fact, the 2016 Survey
of Chief Human Resources Officers
by the University of South Carolina
Darla Moore School of Business
found that 94 percent of CHROs
report directly to the CEO.
The obvious question, then,
is why didn’t HR’s C-suite access
and anti-harassment efforts stop
the “Weinsteins” of the corporate
world? I don’t have the answer to
that question (although it would be
fascinating research for some Ph.Ds
to undertake). I can only guess.
It’s hard to speak truth to power.
These “Weinsteins” often had
ultimate power, flanked by “enablers”
protecting them. But even if HR had
access or knowledge, it’s conceivable
that executive compensation, stock
options, senior executive and
organizational loyalty, along with
other tangibles and intangibles, could
create further conflicts if the CEO (or
equivalent) is the alleged harasser.
law has evolved over time to give
HR the opportunity to rein in the
“Weinsteins”—even if he is the CEO.
Dealing with an “uber-harasser”
may mean implementing different
approaches, such as third-party
hotlines for complaints, enhanced
training, senior leader direct access
to the board of directors and/or
the appointment of an independent
Importantly, if the CEO is the
alleged harasser, HR must look to
itself and other senior leaders to set
the right tone and take appropriate
With #Me Too, companies
unable or unwilling to redouble
their anti-harassment efforts—and
apply them to the highest levels of
management—will face the music
of heightened, expansive liability.
There will be difficult consequences,
combined with large settlements and
jur y verdicts.
This is a moment for HR to
reflect and reboot. It’s not easy or
safe to swim against the corporate
tide. Those in HR and their legal
counselors need to have the
conversation: How can HR prevent
more #Me Toos?
Paul Salvatore is an employment
attorney and partner with the law firm
Proskauer in New York. He can be
emailed at email@example.com.