Like many Americans, Jeff T.H. Pon, Ph.D., HCS, knew someone who was affected by the Sept. 11 terror attacks. In his case, it was “a dear friend in the Pentagon.” In the troubling days after the attacks, “I found myself wondering: How can I serve? How can I give back?”
On a Saturday morning not long thereafter, he received a call from Washington, D.C., asking if he was interested in helping bring the federal government’s human capital functions into the 21st century.
“I started thinking about it,” recalled Pon. “Here I was, a native Californian, five generations of my family in San Francisco,” he said. “I had a great job. I had a great life.”
He discussed a move with his wife, Gillian, who is also an HR practitioner. At one point in the conversation, he said, his wife observed: “I know that look. You’re going to regret it for the rest of your life if you don’t serve.”
So the couple crossed the continent, expecting to work on the East Coast for a few years and to return to the Bay Area at some point. Instead, a series of increasingly rewarding—and challenging—posts followed. Those moves culminated on March 12, 2012, when Pon became chief human resources and strategy officer for the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), where he looks forward to continuing to serve HR professionals and the HR profession. Pon will oversee SHRM’s HR, strategic planning, and diversity and inclusion departments.
“We are excited Jeff is joining us and welcome his leadership and expertise as we serve our members and meet the HR community’s needs in the United States and abroad,” said SHRM President and CEO Henry G. (Hank) Jackson.
Pon brings an unusual blend of expertise and interests to the SHRM position. He has worked in the government, the nonprofit sector and the private sector. He is an entrepreneur and HR leader with a strong command of information technology. For example, at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, he led six federal government HRIT initiatives that saved taxpayers more than $2 billion. His team deployed the essential federal employment job website, www.usajobs.gov, and digitized clumsy paper processes for security clearances and official personnel records.
At the U.S. Department of Energy, he oversaw an agency with 130,000 people and highly sensitive materials spread around the nation. He followed that posting by providing leadership development and HR expertise to federal government clients for consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton. Most recently, Pon, whose father was an American Legion Post commander in San Francisco, pursued his interest in supporting U.S. military personnel by becoming president and COO of Futures Inc., a talent management software company. The organization connects returning military and unemployed/underemployed veterans with jobs. That’s a function of great interest to SHRM, which has partnered with the government and private entities toward the same goal.
Pon is a graduate of the University of Southern California, with a Bachelor of Arts in psychology and a minor in human factors, and Alliant University’s California School of Professional Psychology, with a Master of Science and Doctor of Philosophy in industrial and organizational psychology.
Pon has co-authored and developed national human resource standards with the Corporate Leadership Council, Booz Allen Hamilton and the National Academy of Public Administration, where he also developed certified assessments for HR systems in the public and private sectors. He is a certified human capital strategist and said he plans to add SPHR to his credentials.
He has received many awards for his service and achievements. And he talks like a man who is just getting started.
“SHRM is a place where thought leaders can coalesce and form an agenda, direction and thrust,” he said. “We can do a lot more in shaping talent and workforce dynamics.” As research closes in on recognizable measures of human capital, “we need to have a pulpit” to spread the message that talent is the most important ingredient in any organization.
HR professionals have work to do as well. “HR has to emerge as leaders in every enterprise. We’re in the balance between two worlds. We need to make sure that rules, policies and laws are adhered to.” But at the same time, he said, HR can’t be seen as the people who just say no. “Don’t tell me what we can’t do; tell me what we can do,” said Pon.
“HR is one of the most exciting professions,” he added. “We’re managing four generations at once. We’re managing talent in a global way. No other profession can claim to do that.”
HR professionals “need to implement effective strategies to address the ever increasing globalization of the workforce, workplace flexibility, generational differences and technological changes. What other profession can embrace all that and make a difference? There’s no better place than HR.”
Steve Bates is manager of online editorial content for SHRM. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.