October 29, 2021 – Following a nationwide search, Korn Ferry has assisted in the placement of Janet L. May as the next chief human resources officer (CHRO) at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. She will begin work full time at UAB on Nov. 1, succeeding Alesia Jones, who announced her intent to retire in February after 27 years at UAB — including 12 as CHRO. “Alesia has expertly guided HR through tremendous institutional growth as CHRO, including the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Ray L. Watts, president. “I am grateful to her for making a seamless HR leadership transition possible, and I look forward to Janet’s building on the momentum Alesia and her team have built.”
Brian D. Burnett, Ph.D., UAB’s senior vice president for finance and administration, credits the search committee led by chief communications officer Jim Bakken and Korn Ferry for helping identify Ms. May as the next leader for UAB human resources. “There was great interest in this position from highly qualified HR professionals across the country,” Dr. Burnett said. “I want to thank the search committee and Korn Ferry for their work in leading this successful search.”
Dr. Burnett says that Ms. May brings extensive experience in higher education and a demonstrated commitment to excellence to the role. “Janet is well respected in her field and among those who have worked with her,” he said. “She is a lifelong learner and servant leader with broad and deep experience that will serve UAB well.”
Ms. May, who also has served in HR leadership roles at Texas Tech University, New Mexico State University and Pima Community College, comes to UAB from the Houston Community College System where she serves as chief human resource officer for a complex enterprise that serves more than 80,000 students and 6,000 employees across 600 square miles in Houston, TX. Ms. May recently received the 2021 Distinguished Service Award from the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources, on whose board she served for 10 years, in the roles of secretary, chair-elect, chair and past chair, and — for three years — as the Western Region representative to the national board of directors.
Ms. May will lead UAB human resource units responsible for ensuring a positive employee experience at each point along the employee continuum, including recruitment, benefits, compensation, employee relations, employee wellness, and organizational learning and development, in addition to overseeing the campus consultants and the division’s communications and support services, information systems, service center, records administration, compliance, and the Employee Assistance and Counseling Center.
“I am excited to begin work with a university so clearly committed to its mission, its shared values, and the faculty and staff who made it possible for UAB to be recognized as Forbes’ No. 1 Best Large Employer and No. 4 in Diversity,” Ms. May said. “The more I learned about UAB and the more people I met, it was clear this is a special place. It is an honor to be selected to maintain and advance the standard of excellence that has been set, and I look forward to calling Birmingham and UAB home.”
Leveraging Big Data
Korn Ferry offers depth of expertise, research and thought leadership to answer human resource leaders’ varied needs. The firm leverages big data to design and build HR organizations that are rooted in best practice but tailored to fit the needs of the organization. Korn Ferry also brings function-specific insights to client challenges around talent acquisition, succession management, leadership development, rewards, and more.
A recent survey of 230 CHROs by Emilie Petrone, managing partner of Korn Ferry’s Princeton, NJ office and a member of the firm’s human resources practice, explored the role’s place at the heart of today’s challenging work environment and how the pandemic is impacting their function. “The coronavirus challenge has put HR leaders front and center as they navigate everything from employee safety to personnel changes,” said the report. “These issues have brought to light the importance for HR organizations to continuously adjust and create a culture of trust and transparency. Indeed, the survey showed nearly a quarter of CHROs said their top priority was to create a culture of trust and transparency, followed by 21 percent who said they want to break down hierarchies and drive more agility.”
Ms. Petrone said that right now HR leaders are tasked with a massive strategic workforce planning balancing act. “They’re responsible for business viability and critical talent pipelines, organizational health and employee brand, both internally and externally,” she said. “They have to ensure ongoing engagement and performance while also managing the experience of employees who are not going to be part of the organization’s future. That’s a significant push and pull.”
The survey found that nearly half of CHROs (45 percent) think talent shortage and talent fit will have the greatest influence on their priorities going forward, and the pandemic has only reemphasized that thinking. While it’s too early to tell exactly how today’s business environment will affect long-term hiring trends, HR officers are already rethinking what their companies will need. “What we might have been looking for in leaders six months ago in a strong economy may be really different from what we need for the next 12, 24 or 36 months,” said Ms. Petrone, “re-prioritized internal capabilities and redeploying the right leaders to the right roles will be critical.”
Upskilling current talent could become a much bigger priority for HR leaders in the future. According to the survey, 37 percent of the CHROs said upskilling the current workforce was the primary strategy for enabling success.
The global health crisis has shown that the future of work has invariably altered remote working, said the Korn Ferry report. Thirty percent of CHROs said leveraging digital tools was also key to employees’ success. While certain corporate cultures will prevail in needing people in the office, many HR leaders are already rethinking what collaboration and innovation look like in a post-pandemic digital era. “Shared workspaces and team space may not be viable, historic business models may need to transform, and the way work gets done and decisions get made, will be more critical to business success than ever before,” Ms. Petrone said.
Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media