Top Strategic Human Resource Initiatives for the 21st Century – A Discussion with Sheila Forte-Trammell

Sheila Forte-Trammell, Total HR Services, LLC

Sheila Forte-Trammell, Total HR Services, LLC

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.)

The Growing Culture of Poverty in the USA

Toward the end of last month, I published a blog (link) about my representing the North Carolina Council of Churches in a meeting of 13 American “faith leaders” with the United States Labor Secretary Thomas Perez to discuss providing greater economic opportunities for all, especially those living in poverty. I promised to write a follow up blog discussing the unfortunate growing culture of poverty in the United States and what business leaders can do to address it.

Sheila Forte-Trammell provided the inspiration and much of the information in this blog.

Sheila Forte-Trammell provided the inspiration and much of the information in this blog.

I thank my long time IBM colleague internationally respected diversity and workplace engagement leader and author Sheila Forte-Trammell for much of the inspiration and content for this short blog (see byline about Sheila at the bottom on the blog.)

An unfortunate cyclical circumstance within the US is a growing distinct culture of poverty, which tends to trap multiple generations from the same families and areas. Statistics show that the number of people officially living in poverty in the US continues to grow, even as we tout ourselves as “the land of plenty.” Some statistical facts:
• The 2010 US Census declared that 15.1% (over 46 million people!) of Americans were living in poverty.
• That Blacks and Hispanics were disproportionately represented in the poverty numbers (Over 28% of Blacks and 26% of Hispanics.)
• The poverty rate for women single head of households was 5 times the poverty rate of families with two parents.

Many people in poverty in the USA live on the streets or in their cars like this man in his 1998 station wagon.

Many people in poverty in the USA live on the streets or in their cars like this man in his 1998 station wagon.

Now add to that some sociological discussion:
• The cycle of poverty continues to perpetuate itself since children raised in poverty have less access to quality education.
• That growing up in poverty often leads to low self esteem, lack of role models, culture of crime, etc.
• That poverty often nurtures the mentality of immediate / short term gratification over delayed /long term gratification and investment in the future.

What are ways corporate America can help lower the poverty rate and help build a country where all citizens have better economic opportunity?
• Specifically open plants and facilities in high poverty areas where the jobs are needed most, keeping in mind that many in poverty do not have the transportation access to locations in the suburbs.
• Contribute corporate philanthropic money to initiatives that improves educational access to those living in poverty. This also helps build a national pipeline of better trained diverse talent.
• Educate your employees about the plights of poverty and what can be done. Perhaps offer opportunities for community service and mentoring programs on company time.

It is absolutely the right thing as a nation to not ignore the poverty here in “our land of plenty,” but instead take action to raise the living standards and occupational readiness of our entire nation.

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Much of the content of this blog was provided by Sheila Forte-Trammell, Total HR Services, LLC. Sheila was recognized in 2014 with a Triangle Business Journal “Leader in Diversity – Role Model” award (link) and has co-authored two books: “Agile Career Development: Lessons and Approached from IBM,” and “Intelligent Mentoring: How IBM Creates Value through People, Knowledge and Relationships.” Link to Sheila’s LinkedIn profile.