Interview with Dr. Jeff Pon, chief human resources officer at #SHRM

One of the most interesting HR roles I’ve had was being the vice president of human resources for a global HR consulting firm. On one hand, it’s great to work with people who truly “get” your job – because they’ve been there themselves. On the other hand, everyone has an opinion about your job for the same reason – they’ve been there.

Dr. Jeff Pon is in the exact same situation.

I had the opportunity to meet Jeff last year at the Society for Human Resource Management Annual Conference. If you have the chance to connect with him this year in Chicago, definitely do so. You’re guaranteed to have a great conversation. The guy really knows his stuff. His background includes a doctorate in industrial organizational psychology, positions with the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, as well as some time with the consulting firm of Booz Allen Hamilton.

In his role as head of human resources at SHRM, Jeff focuses on human resources, strategic planning, and diversity and inclusion. I asked Jeff if he would spend a few moments talking shop and he graciously obliged.

Q: Being the head of human resources in the largest HR association in the world is a unique position. I’ve been in a similar situation – being the HR person in an HR provider company. So I can’t resist asking … can you share an upside and downside to being an HR pro in an HR organization?

Jeff Pon: The downside is as my fellow HR friends have said, “Jeff, you now have 260,000 people who think that they know how to do your job better than you and will give you advice on how to run HR.” My answer to them: I love the help because we all need help in doing our jobs better. The upside is that, through our members, I have a chance to help lead the HR profession.  We get to set the table of what HR is: knowledge, practices, standards, licenses, certifications, and assessments. More importantly, we get to figure out how all that relates to an organization’s performance through people. What a great life, right?

Q: SHRM recently introduced a new competency model. While they’re all important, what do you see as the top competencies professionals should focus on?

Jeff Pon: SHRM’s competency model for HR professionals has nine competency areas:

  • HR technical expertise
  • Ethical practice
  • Relationship management
  • Communication for impact
  • Consultation
  • Organizational leadership and navigation
  • Global and cultural effectiveness
  • Critical evaluation
  • Business acumen

If you forced me to choose the two top competencies, I would pick HR technical expertise and business acumen with the goal of being a superstar in terms of HR knowledge and the ability to apply it to business.

But I don’t think competency models work well when you just pick one or two.  Rather, it’s like your body, which has organs, muscle, tissue, tendons, joints and bone. We need them all to function well.

Depending on where HR professionals are in their careers and what they do in their specific jobs, they need varying degrees of each competency area.

The process of developing the competencies was very thoughtful. It included asking 32,000 HR folks from around the world what they thought the competencies should be! 

For you psychometricians out there who understand technical explanations, we used a content validation approach to establish the competency model and have plans for conducting criterion (performance) related validity studies in 2013, while these data sets grow. 

Q: Over the past couple of years, SHRM has expanded its social media presence. What are your thoughts on HR using social media in the workplace?

Jeff Pon: I love it! I encourage HR professionals to embrace social media as a tool.

I also urge HR professionals to be conscious of the effects social media has on the workplace. An example is the new immediacy of communications. We also now have the ability to self-report what we see, do and feel in a very public way. With that comes interpretation and different perspectives — and also responsibility. 

Social media has the potential to connect us in ways we never imagined.  HR is exploring how to better use this connectedness in recruiting, performance management, training and development.

SHRM is working to lead the charge in social media in HR, as you know.  We are committed to maximizing the potential of social media as a way to better engage with our members and other groups influencing the future of the profession.   

One of these groups is HR bloggers and social influencers. We started interacting with HR bloggers in earnest a few years ago and have continued to build these relationships. (And if we had favorites, one of them would be HR Bartender!) At last year’s Annual Conference, 80 bloggers attended and shared their passion for the profession through their social media work.

Q: As a human resources professional, I'm always interested in the C-suite's vision for HR.  If I worked for you, what three things would you expect from me?

A: Counting was never my strong suit, so here’s my Top 10:

  1. Always tell the truth.
  2. Treat everyone with dignity and respect.
  3. Embrace diversity.
  4. Work together as a team.
  5. Make the tough choices.
  6. Act with a sense of urgency.
  7. Enhance the reputation of others who deserve it.
  8. Be a great professional in your profession (whether serving, advancing or leading).
  9. Know what your organization’s business is and how it works, and how to improve outcomes for your team and organization.
  10. Be disciplined every day and accomplish just a little more each day.

Thanks again to Jeff for taking the time for this interview. I’m looking forward to seeing what Jeff and his team have in store for the human resources profession.



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