Spotlight: HR’s Evolving Role in the C-Suite

December 22, 2021 – Kenneth Roldan is the founder and chief executive officer of WB&B Executive Search, a Hispanic-owned minority business enterprise with a focus on diversity and inclusion. The firm concentrates on finding talent for academia, not-for-profit organizations, corporate America and government agencies. Among its long client roster: Unum, Microban, Akron Children’s Hospital, Thrivent, The Wendy’s Co., Bell Flight, Boeing Defense, Space & Security, Prisma Health and FDNY.

Mr. Roldan has had a passion for diversity management recruitment for over a decade. His strategies in global diversity staffing, succession planning and retention have helped alter the balance in the ethnic, gender and cultural diversity in America’s corporations, government and not-for-profit organizations. With a bachelor’s degree from Cornell University and a law degree, Mr. Roldan was recently appointed to the Civil Rights Bureau of the New York State Attorney General’s Office where he was instrumental in driving workplace diversity.

Mr. Roldan recently sat down with Hunt Scanlon Media to discuss the role HR has been playing in the current business climate as well as how executive search has adapted during these times. Following are excerpts from that discussion.

Kenneth, what role HR is playing in the transition and transformation of the workplace due to the pandemic?

Human resources is playing a significant role in the transition and transformation of the workplace due to the pandemic. This is particularly evident in HR being faced with a “new candidate norm” and managing the expectation(s) of hiring managers given the change in candidate expectations and interests. While there are several ways in which the role of HR has transformed, one recurring theme is that for some employees who have traditionally served in their roles in an onsite capacity are now interested in a flexible work schedule whereas they are able to work remotely for a set number of days during the week. HR is also focused on retention efforts given that it is now an employee-centric market where the “war for talent” has encouraged employers to be creative and flexible in their requirements for select roles and have also encouraged some organizations to conduct market analyses on the compensation targets for roles that may have a more attractive range within other organizations or industries. There are several other ways in which the role of HR has transformed due to the pandemic.

How has the resulting move to remote and hybrid work affected HR executives’ jobs?

Among the several effects of the transition to remote and hybrid work models, our anecdotal data reveals that HR executives’ positions have been impacted in several ways. HR executives are considering retention measures in today’s climate more so than they have in the past. Given that employees across levels within organizations are being poached and recruited by competitors and other employers, HR executives along with the leadership teams must now become proactive in their strategic plans focused on succession planning, work-life balance for employees, talent development and performance management, as well as employee satisfaction.

How have companies been managing succession?

Though some companies remain conservative in succession planning/promotions, others have transformed their thinking and approach with the understanding that the pandemic has permanently changed the mind, actions and perceptions of many employees and the candidate universe.

How have the roles the chief people officer, CHRO etc. been elevated during this time?

We have not seen an elevation of the CPO and CHRO during this time but rather have seen more of these professionals wanting to retire or transition out of their current organizations.

Can you share some recent searches that your firm has completed and provide a sentence or two on why these roles are crucial at their respective organizations?

Some critical roles include:

• Patagonia– Head of global technology: post pandemic…there is an enhanced need for retailers to transform their respective technologies. Several organization are undergoing some facet of digital transformation to increase efficiencies, cost-savings, and revenue growth.

• Akron Children’s Hospital – VP enterprise analytics… critical for hospitals to get ahead of the curve particularly as it relates to patient care and the impact that technology can play to enhance the patient experience.

• Barr Brands – Microban – Head of innovation… crucial role in light of the impact that COVID has had in our home and workplace.

• Leafly – SVP, sales… vital role for the organization given the investment across the cannabis industry in human capital to increase the quality of candidates which directly impacts the bottom-line of the business. This draws a parallel with respect to industries that were emerging during the pandemic inclusive of the spirits, technology, etc.

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