Korn Ferry Seeks CHRO for University of Alabama at Birmingham

May 6, 2021 – The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) has initiated a national search to replace retiring chief human resources officer Alesia Jones. Korn Ferry is conducting the assignment.

The CHRO reports to senior vice president for administration and financial affairs Brian Burnett. “This search is incredibly important to ensure UAB continues to support our most precious resource — our people — and maintain the attention and excellence that made us Forbes’ No. 1 Best Large Employer and No. 4 in Diversity,” Dr. Burnett said. “I am appreciative of the leadership that Alesia has provided to UAB over many years and know we have work to do to find a capable and outstanding CHRO to lead the next chapter of HR excellence in support of our people.”

Ms. Jones, who announced her plans to retire in February after 27 years with UAB, has extended her tenure to help navigate the post-pandemic return of faculty and staff to campus. “Alesia has expertly guided HR through tremendous institutional growth during her 12 years as CHRO, including the COVID-19 pandemic,” said president Ray Watts. “The individual selected for this position will help continue the university’s leadership in recruitment, benefits and other employee services that consistently makes this one of the best places to work. I thank Alesia for her years of service and the search committee for their commitment to ensuring this search is a success.”

Leveraging Big Data

Chief communications officer Jim Bakken will chair the search committee, which includes leaders and key constituents across UAB.

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 managing partner 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.”

Related: Allen Institute Taps Christopher Group for Top HR Search

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.”

Changing Needs

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.

Related: Carrington & Carrington Retained by Amherst College to Recruit CHRO

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media

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