During my 31-year career at IBM, one of the most remarkable and insightful Human Resources leaders I worked with was Sheila Forte-Trammell. After over 30 years herself in IBM in a diverse range of HR leadership roles in recruiting, placement, compensation, diversity, learning and employee development, she has now retired and consults as the owner of Total HR Services, LLC.
Recently I had a discussion with Sheila about the most key strategic areas in the future for human resources professionals. In this blog I share Sheila’s insights and in part 2 Sheila and I will discuss more of her accomplishments and current projects.
STAN: Sheila, as a globally recognized expert on a broad range of human resources topics, what would you say must be the key focus for HR leaders from today on into the future?
SHEILA: The 21st Century has presented a variety of new challenges and business complexities that HR Leaders are grappling with. Because organizations are functioning in a competitive knowledge economy, it makes it important for leaders to create processes for employees to acquire the right business skills in a timely manner. Speed to competence, learning agility, innovative application of knowledge and the easy distribution of relevant information throughout the organization have become critical in maintaining competitiveness.
STAN: How does leadership development and succession planning fit in with this complex business environment?
SHEILA: Now more than ever, the development of the leadership pipeline has taken center stage. No longer should HR leaders restrict the use of succession planning as a means to identify the next generation of executive leaders. The succession planning process must be expanded to include the identification of critical technical and key functional skills at all levels of the organization. This approach ensures there is an adequate pool of employees who have these capabilities to execute on the tactical and strategic plans.
STAN: Sheila, can you talk a little more about this expansion of succession planning to a broader set of employees. Why is this so important?
SHEILA: Many organizations are “lowering the center of gravity” whereby, allowing business decisions to be made at lower levels within the organization. Thus, the new normal is to create a high trust culture where knowledge transfer is occurring. In addition, employees must be encouraged to take bold but intelligent actions which deliver measurable results. Empowering employees in this manner helps them to feel a sense of value.
STAN: What is the role of HR leaders in fostering this broader employee and leadership development environment?
SHEILA: When employees feel that they are valued, engagement and retention tend to be high. Given the dynamic and disruptive nature of business today, HR leaders have to communicate business vision with better clarity and help employees develop greater flexibility and adaptability to perform in an ever changing environment. HR leaders are expected to help employees to develop the skills to show resilience and resolve in the face of challenge. This way, instead of retreating they are able to see the business opportunities that reside within disruption, challenge and crisis.
STAN: Thank you, Sheila. In Part 2, I look forward to discussing your accomplishments, books and current projects.
ADDED LATER: Now here is the link to read part 2!
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Sheila Forte-Trammell is now the owner of Total HR Services, LLC. Her professional information is available via LinkedIn (Link to Sheila’s Profile.)