SHRM Spotlight: CHRO, Jeff Pon

Thought Leader Q&A
Thought Leader Q&A

Dr. Pon has over 20 years of experience in leading organizations and transforming talent management in the private and public sectors He combines this with a passion for understanding people, technology, and organizations and how they interact. Dr. Pon has co-authored and developed national human resource standards with the Corporate Leadership Council, the National Academy of Public Administration, and Booz Allen Hamilton. He is experienced in driving full-scale organizational change assignments in challenging domestic and international settings. He has successfully managed large-scale projects requiring cost-effective and innovative solutions to support startup, consolidation, downsizing, and reengineering efforts in both emerging and mature markets. Dr. Pon has demonstrated leadership expertise on strategic and operational issues in a variety of industrial settings. Dr. Pon served as a member of the Senior Executive Service for six years.

Previous to joining the Society for Human Resource Management, Dr. Pon was the president and COO of Futures Inc. Futures' mission is to help find the right jobs for returning military, veterans, and their families.

We Know Next sat down with SHRM’s new CHRO, Dr. Jeff Pon, to learn more about the CHRO’s key role in today’s workforce and why their position within the C-suite is one of the most important. We also explored the unique resources that SHRM offers CHROs and other senior HR leaders. 


What is the greatest challenge that today's CHROs and HR professionals face?

The biggest challenge is continuity. The average CHRO in a Fortune 2000 company stays for about 2.3 years, which is quite a short period of time to make impactful actions. About 60 percent of those being chosen for CHRO positions come from outside of the organization. The real question CHROs must ask themselves is how are they going to create business value and business impact. CHROs must understand how they create value for the organization in simply managing people. Many people in organizations don’t understand what HR can offer to the bottom line, and CHROs are responsible for communicating this to the C-suite.

Although the C-suite is beginning to realize the value of CHROs, the profession needs to start maturing by having a standard knowledge base. Currently we have certifications. Yet, in terms of best practices, we don’t have any peer review standards. It’s imperative that CHROs measure themselves against the best practices in their industry – and, currently, the HR industry is lacking that type of taxonomy. 

When setting out to implement a strategic plan, what is a good starting place for CHROs to achieve their goals?

Before you begin thinking strategically about an organization, you need to understand what is broken and what is currently needed. Normally when HR people come in, something is not working in the organization. You need to understand what “hot water” is in your organization. If you do have the chance to be strategic about things, triage the organization, make sure you know what your strengths and weaknesses are for your own team, your own HR capability and what you’re working with in terms of your management team.

Then it’s time to come up with a work plan. Evaluate your HR organization and what are your key pillars. It’s essential to evaluate what is vital to the organization and what work is actually done in your HR department. At least then you know the batting order for your plan. Then you can take a look at the organization as a whole and begin orienting the plan to make your organization the employer of choice.

Without that type of vision as an HR professional, you’re always on your heels. That’s one of the challenges in HR, because most people don’t know how to communicate what the priorities are for their organization. 

If a CEO didn't see HR as a strategic player who deserved a seat at the table, what would you say to them to change their mind?

I would be very surprised to have a CEO know what his next 100 hires would be. CEOs rely on HR to know this information. HR professionals stay on top of the people aspect of the business, knowing the ins and outs of who is who, what are the organization’s challenges, and what are the organization’s needs. From a training standpoint, no other profession specifically serves this while still being a strategic partner in the business. 

What is SHRM going to do as an organization to better assist CHROs over the coming years?

SHRM has some very compelling offerings for senior-level HR professionals that most people don’t necessarily expect. We are rolling out a CHRO initiative, in which a key component is a network of CHROs across the world. With hubs in different cities, from Los Angeles and Dallas to Chicago and New York; each hub has a leader and a network of leaders affiliated with it. These networks have regular meetings – similar to a breakfast or lunch club – but these are designed to be peer-to-peer support groups for CHROs to identify and affiliate with others working in a similar position. This is especially important in this day and age where answers no longer come from encyclopedias, but from others. Answers are just as readily available and accurate from the blogosphere as they are from the Encyclopedia Britannica. We are trying to identify HR executive leaders from all different sectors to create an open information exchange and a powerful resource for these CHROs to turn to.

And that’s not all we are offering for CHROs. We have immense amounts of content and leading-edge research in our arsenal to give these executive-level HR professionals the resources needed to develop and lead. In addition, SHRM is funding empirical research that will dive into what types of things matter for different HR practices. Publishing is another key initiative; we partner with organizations and people on different types of issues facing the HR world to produce enriching materials for HR professionals to reference. The challenge in this is directing these voices at the executive level to drive conversation. These are your issues – and these are the things that inform your issues – and here is how you can lead. What we would like to offer to the profession is not CHROs coming to us, but us going to them.

We are also making sure that all of our types of products and service offerings help enable CHROs to do their jobs more effectively. It’s not just SHRM’s resources we are offering – it’s the network of people SHRM is connecting. We will also be offering career development for executive-level HR professionals, which is something that there currently is not an abundance of. Although SHRM has strong senior leadership membership (490 CHROs), we would like to turn the tide on the expectation of who should be a member. The outcome we are aiming for is to create a community of senior HR professionals and then explore what this community currently needs and how SHRM can serve them.