Whitney Museum Picks Shelli Herman to Find First CHRO

As the renowned New York City museum implements an ambitious new strategic plan, strengthening its HR staff becomes a major focus. The search for a chief HR officer reflects the Whitney’s specific commitment to investing in its people. It also says a lot about the rising importance of the human resource function in general.

October 23, 2019 – Executive recruiters are in hot pursuit of chief human resources officers and other senior-level HR leaders across the nation. The best HR chiefs are seen as integral strategic advisors to the C-suite, and the ones in demand are those who are sounding boards for CEOs, report recruiters focused on the space. Why is there such pent-up demand for top-flight HR experts?

According to search consultants, corporate leaders are hiring more like-minded sophisticated, proactive, and strategic HR individuals with strong business savvy to drive their people capabilities just as they would a P&L. From non-profits to private equity concerns, everyone it seems now fully understands the value of people – and top leadership talent – in the corporate value chain.

Recruiting such talent continues to be an expanding priority for companies. One recruiter, Los Angeles-based Shelli Herman and Associates has been selected by the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City to find its first CHRO. Shelli Herman, president of the recruitment firm, is leading the assignment along with her associate, Krista Haley. It is a plum assignment from one of the best known museum brands in the world.

“The Whitney Museum is in the midst of implementing an exciting and ambitious strategic plan,” said Ms. Herman. “A central part of this plan involves bolstering their staff and the Whitney is making a significant investment in people by hiring their first ever chief human resources officer.”

Their intent, she said, “is that of lifting up an already strong culture with this hire,” adding: “We are thrilled to have been selected for his important assignment for such an exciting cultural icon in Manhattan. We plan to look in the private sector, other cultural institutions, higher education and the non-profit sector.”

The Role

The incoming executive will evaluate and then strengthen all current human resources processes, structures and practices to achieve best-in-class programs and services that reflect the values of the organization, encouraging strong employee engagement, said the search firm. The individual will collaborate with all departments in support of programs designed to foster a climate of inclusion as well as the engagement of a diverse work force. The CHRO will facilitate and implement programs, services and policy development to help advance the organization’s core commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.


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Valerie Frederickson, founder and CEO of Silicon Valley-based Frederickson Partners, has forged a reputation not only for finding great HR talent but for her commitment to diversity, inclusion and belonging. Let’s take a closer look at this fascinating and highly dedicated search leader.


In addition, the CHRO will serve as a partner and advisor to managers at all levels across the museum. The winning candidate will be expected to promote a culture of results and accountability. He or she will also serve as a champion for the Whitney’s culture and core values.

“As the human capital leader of the Whitney, the CHRO must possess and project the utmost integrity and highest standards of ethics and professional conduct and be an individual defined by accomplishment to lead an inspired team,” said Ms. Herman. “The CHRO will embrace a profound respect for the people who make up the Whitney Museum of American Art, while keeping a keen eye on the future.”

The ideal candidate, she said, would be a pragmatic, hands-on leader with substantial, progressively responsible human resources experience and a track record of leading other professionals to outstanding, value added performance. “The successful candidate will have demonstrated experience in providing exemplary service in a complex, public-facing organization with ambitious plans for the future, as well as a keen interest in and understanding of mission-driven institutions,” Ms. Herman said.


Longevity and Integrity Prove Hard to Beat at 4D Executive Search
When it comes to her work of placing human resources executives for companies, Robin Levitt, president of 4D Executive Search has two main sources of pride. One is her integrity as a search professional. The other is her longevity in a marketplace that has grown increasingly complex and competitive since she conducted her first HR search more than 20 years ago. “When I started in this business there was only one other firm that was doing human resources placement,” she said recently. “Now there’s more, and I’m still standing.”

Ms. Levitt serves businesses across a wide range of industries and along the way has built untold numbers of lasting relationships with clients and candidates alike. It all comes together in experience and insight and a network that few of her competitors can match. “I’ve been doing this since 1998, and I have seen this market shift from personnel to HR business partners to talent management,” said Ms. Levitt, whose firm is based in Los Angeles.


“We seek a person who is passionate about the field of human resources and open to new ideas and innovations,” she said. “This leader must demonstrate strong intellectual agility and innate curiosity, and possess subject matter expertise across the broad range of human resources functions.”

The Whitney Museum of American Art wants someone with the ability to be direct and frank in communicating issues and opinions coupled with a solutions-focused approach. “The CHRO will be kind, warm, and empathetic, while remaining firm to ensure organizational objectives are met,” Ms. Herman said. “We are seeking an individual with demonstrated organizational skills with a natural ability to analyze, process, and respond to information and events from an organizational perspective. This innovator will embrace human resources analytics, recognizing the value of using data in decision making.”

Preeminent Institution

As one of the preeminent institutions devoted to art in the U.S., the Whitney Museum presents the full range of twentieth-century and contemporary American art, with a special focus on works by living artists. The collection includes over 24,000 works created by more than 3,500 artists in the U.S. The museum was established in 1931.


A CHRO View on Building Great Teams, From Inside and Out
Managing a large workforce at any company is no easy task. But when that workforce is 32,000 strong, it requires the steady hand of a top human resource leader who will keep everyone motivated, engaged, intact and forward thinking. And that’s across 160 countries encompassing every cultural nuance imaginable.

This is the domain of Michael D’Ambrose, chief human resources officer (CHRO) for Archer Daniels Midland Co. (ADM), the $67 billion agricultural processing giant based in Chicago.

Hunt Scanlon Media editors sat down with Mr. D’Ambrose recently to discuss how ADM builds and shapes its bench strength through a range of range of tools – from skills training and mentoring to coaching and professional development. Promoting from within has big advantages at ADM. Mr. D’Amrose walks us through it, revealing how failure – what he refers to as “misses and mistakes” – can act as its own teaching vehicle in a collaborative, people-focused culture. Internal recruiting is a critical component of ADM’s insatiable drive to find talent and we find out why each employee at ADM is viewed as a recruiter.


Shelli Herman and Associates has a long roster of clients, including Otis College of Art and Design, Catalina Island Conservancy, the Annenberg Foundation, Pacific Northwest College of Art, California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo and University of California, Los Angeles.

Ms. Herman, who has 20 years of executive recruitment experience, has a strong record of leading searches and building upper management teams for a diverse clientele, including Fortune 500 companies. She has completed senior-level assignments in many industries, including consumer products, healthcare, high technology and finance, as well as for non-profit and cultural organizations.

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

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