The Most Challenging Chief HR Role Ever

I went and did it, disrupting my career to work for one of the most radical and disruptive education reform organizations in the country. The dream CHRO role or potentially a nightmare. Maybe both if that’s possible.

Why would I leave the comforts of the for profit world to work for less in a world that has never understood Human Resources or how to leverage talent as not only an asset , but as a differentiator to ultimate success. The answer is in the question…because no one has ever done it before, at least to the scale that was being proposed.

My challenge; to immediately shape an HR team to support an organization that has grown from 13 to 1300 employees in 7 yrs. With the potential to double in size over the next three. As my CEO has often said “building an airplane while in mid-flight”.

My organization has had an HR and recruitment group for the past 4 yrs. of existence, however it has never quiet caught up in supporting the maddening rate of growth. So now here I am 6 months in with the challenge of creating an HR infrastructure that can grow exponentially by 2018.

So where does one start? Processes, technology, culture, players on the team…maybe all at the same time. For me it was relationships, for without them no work could be undertaken with the slightest hope of success. Truth be told its been a bit of a struggle, as we are so different from anything I have ever worked within or encountered. Everyone has a high I.Q., the organization moves at break neck speed. No one stops for 5 minutes, except for a necessary bio break or to grab their lunch from the fridge, only to keep working with one hand on a sandwich and the other on their keyboard. Not to mention I am one of only a handful of baby boomers navigating an organization where the average age is 27.

Being the disruptive HR change agent at my prior organizations has done little to prepare me for this role. However my 20 years of strong technical HR experiences has. What I am finding is that with the growth comes the need to be conventional in process and infrastructure. So that’s what we are doing, building a radical organization with sound business principles. A handbook, simple policies and protocols, a compensation system with grades and ranges. An affordable benefit program rich with varied offerings and opportunities for each and every employee to participate and utilize.

Even our talent team looks more like a silicon alley start-up using a variety of social media outreach, then a traditional non-profit or education organization.

The radical does not come from something new, but from repurposing what exists as simply and quickly as feasible. We have implemented HR infrastructure at 3 times the speed of a normal for profit. Yes we have to go through an approval process, but its all on speed dial.

The key to success may be this…Simple, scalable and extremely fast.

My new favorite word at work is FAST, not to be confused with in a hurry…there’s a difference. Fast is a thoroughbred race horse in full stride, being in a hurry is clumsy and , confusing like a top spinning and falling without moving very far.

Will I be successful? That’s to be determined. Then again isn’t it really more about the journey then the destination? I will be checking in from time to time with updates…



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