HR’s problem isn’t capability—it’s capacity





by Mark Stelzner




The past eight months have been brutal for layoffs, particularly in the tech sector. Every day brings another announcement, with thousands of workers facing unemployment under the dark cloud of economic uncertainty. Threaded within these announcements are stories of companies behaving badly, whether it’s the methodology of the layoff or leadership taunting the recently unemployed. We can all agree that it’s hard enough to find out you’re losing your job, let alone compound the pain by removing dignity from the process.

While layoffs often appear to come out of the blue, the reality is that, for most organizations, there have been weeks of planning behind the scenes. This is particularly true if the organization falls under the jurisdiction of the WARN Act, Works Councils, collective bargaining agreements, or other legislative and regulatory requirements. Much of the layoff preparatory work falls on the shoulders of the thinly stretched HR function, which is often targeted by headcount reductions itself.

Despite what people might think, HR’s role in the decision-making process can be more administrative than strategic. HR professionals are often brought into the fold only by signing specific non-disclosure agreements, and this usually happens well after the business leaders have made their key choices. HR then typically scrambles to validate that the process was appropriate, often finding a litany of late-stage issues impacting the targeted employees. HR may then cull through performance and potential data, but bad input can certainly lead to equally bad outcomes. And when it’s time to share the difficult realities with your people, managers and leadership often cede accountability out of risk mitigation, electing language within the termination notice such as, “You’ll hear from your HR partner in the next [hours/days] to explain the process and answer any questions.” This is likely to funnel all the angst, shock, anger and outright distress of the displaced directly into the overworked and unstaffed arms of the people function.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

Unlike nearly every article that’s been published in this industry, I firmly believe HR business partners (HRBPs) are, in fact, strategic. From my vantage point, the issue at hand has much more to do with capacity than capability. I recently presented to the HR business partnering community at the one of the largest sportswear brands in the world, and here’s what I told them.

HR in the spotlight Continue reading

A new approach to building your personal brand



by Jill Avery and Rachel Greenwald

Much of professional and personal success depends on persuading others to recognize your value. You have to do this when you apply for jobs, ask for promotions, vie for leadership positions, or write your dating profile. For better or worse, in today’s world everyone is a brand, and you need to develop yours and get comfortable marketing it.

Personal branding is an intentional, strategic practice in which you define and express your own value proposition. And though people have always carefully cultivated their public personas and reputations, online search and social media have greatly expanded the potential audience for—and risks and rewards associated with—such efforts.

Unfortunately, while we’d like to think that we’re in complete control of our personal brands, that’s rarely the case. As Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, is quoted as saying, “Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.” It’s the amalgamation of the associations, beliefs, feelings, attitudes, and expectations that people collectively hold about you. Your goal should be to ensure that the narrative created about you is accurate, coherent, compelling, and differentiated.

A strong, well-managed personal brand benefits you in several ways. It enhances your visibility, particularly among those who matter to you and to the things you hope to accomplish. It can also help you expand your network and attract new opportunities. And on a deeper level, the process of building one can help you uncover, celebrate, and share the unique abilities you bring to the world.

We—a branding thought leader and a professional matchmaker and dating coach—have come together to map out a personal branding process that draws on the latest academic research on branding, brand storytelling, and brand management, as well as on decades of practical experience helping people craft their professional and personal images. Our hope is that this article will give you the guidance you need to create a personal brand that you can comfortably and authentically live into each day to achieve your most important goals.

A Seven-Step Process

Our approach involves seven steps, each of which informs the others as you move from strategizing to testing to tweaking in response to feedback.

1. Define your purpose.

First you need a long-term vision and mission. What difference would you like to make to the various audiences that are important to you, personally and professionally, and what values would you like to embody as you do so? Continue reading





By Sian Townson


Businesses and governments must face an uncomfortable truth: Artificial intelligence is hopelessly and inherently biased.

Asking how to prevent such bias is in many ways the wrong question, because AI is a means of learning and generalizing from a set of examples — and all too often, the examples are pulled straight from historical data. Because biases against various groups are embedded in history, those biases will be perpetuated to some degree through AI.

Traditional and seemingly sensible safeguards do not fix the problem. A model designer could, for example, omit variables that indicate an individual’s gender or race, hoping that any bias that comes from knowing these attributes will be eliminated. But modern algorithms excel at discovering proxies for such information. Try though one might, no amount of data scrubbing can fix this problem entirely. Solving for fairness isn’t just difficult — it’s mathematically impossible.


Business leaders must stop pretending that they can eliminate AI bias and focus instead on remediating it

Hardly a day goes by without news of yet another example of AI echoing historical prejudices or allowing bias to creep in. Even medical science isn’t immune: In a recent article in The Lancet, researchers showed that AI algorithms that were fed scrupulously anonymized medical imaging data were nevertheless able to identify the race of 93% of patients.

Business leaders must stop pretending that they can eliminate AI bias — they can’t — and focus instead on remediating it. In our work advising corporate and government clients at Oliver Wyman, we have identified a three-step process that can yield positive results for leaders looking to reduce the chances of AI behaving badly.

Step 1: Decide on Data and Design

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Early in the pandemic, Josh Bersin called it the Big Reset: “The Coronavirus is accelerating one of the biggest business transformations in decades.”

As the business landscape evolves and employees reassess their priorities, leadership is changing as well. To reset thinking on what it means to be a leader today, we asked Josh Bersin and other thought and business leaders for their perspective.


  • “I firmly believe that leaders today need to be agile and driven by curiosity and the art of continuous learning, in order to thrive and build resilience for the future. It’s also important for leaders to demonstrate empathy and focus on embedding diversity into the fabric of their organizations to catalyze innovation and positive impact in the world we live and operate in.

– Tiger Tyagarajan, Chief Executive Officer, Genpact


  • Even with a softening economy, we continue to be in an environment where employee wants often trump the wishes of employers.  So my advice to leaders.
  • You must have conviction – Be clear on where you are going and why?  Regularly and continually communicate your mission and vision to your team. We review this at every monthly all-hands
  • Drive for clarity in what is important. We use the OKR framework to share what is essential for the year. It also tells you what is not essential.
  • Create a focus on execution – Execution does eat ‘strategy’ for lunch. We work so so hard to keep the focus on execution that creates demonstrable business outcomes.

-Jay Ackerman, President & Chief Executive Officer at Reveleer


  • Competence – you can’t fake it, know the details of what is going on around you.  If you don’t know something, ask the questions and do the research to learn it.
  • Calmness – when the chips are down, and they will be at some point, leaders need to maintain calmness, showing empathy for people who are trying to do the right thing, clinically remove the people who aren’t, and set an example for a culture of respect, integrity all while not compromising on the vision and objectives of the business. 
  • Creating the conditions for success – if your organization is succeeding in spite of itself (which with enough brute force can happen), then that is a leadership issue.  Focus on eliminating roadblocks, complexity and any other impediments for your organization to succeed.

– Mark Trepanier, Managing Principal, Bluebird Groomer Consulting LLC


If you’re inspired by these perspectives on leadership today, stay tuned…there’s more to come!  And if you are interested in crafting your own contribution, please email me at


From the Great Resignation to the Great Refusal—here’s what the 5 ‘Great Rs’ mean for the future of work





We are no longer centered on where we work, but rather where work fits in our lives.




As we weigh yet another strong jobs report against persistent inflation and the looming threat of a recession, we have to acknowledge that the workforce has transformed and now plays by a different set of rules and is motivated by a different set of factors. Leaders take note.

The Great Reset is a convergence of trends some decades in the making that culminate in a changed relationship between individuals and organizations. Let’s break down the five “Great Rs” that collectively give us the empowered workforce. 


Posited first by Professor Anthony Klotz in a May 2021 interview in Bloomberg, it was originally thought to be a short-term phenomenon triggered in the pandemic when the nation’s quit rate hit a 20-year high. In reality, churn has been building since 2009, and Gartner predicts churn will increase 20% over pre-pandemic levels.


The Great Retirement has been long in coming as the baby boomer generation moves into retirement. Although we knew this was coming, we were still caught flat-footed as the pandemic created the conditions for droves of boomers to leave the workforce sooner than even they may have expected. Economists believe the resulting labor shortages will continue for at least a decade.

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