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Working Beyond Borders: Insights from the Global Chief Human Resource Officer Study

A note to fellow CHROs

J. Randall MacDonald J. Randall MacDonald
Senior Vice President, Human Resources
IBM Corporation

Since IBM’s last Chief Human Resource Officer Study nearly two years ago, the business world has been rocked by unprecedented challenges across nearly all markets and industries. Despite the tumult, the global HR leaders whose perspectives shaped our study this time displayed an unfailingly optimistic—yet sharply practical—outlook that is both insightful and aspirational.

I am pleased to provide you with this study, which reflects insight from more than 700 organizations across 61 countries. As part of this work, nearly 600 senior global HR leaders contributed in-depth interviews, further elevating our understanding of the issues that my fellow CHROs see ahead.

Consistently, these forward-looking HR leaders expect their businesses to remain focused on two equally important goals during the next three years—the need to drive growth yet, at the same time, maintain operational efficiency. My CHRO colleagues anticipate, though, that achieving these goals in the future will mean working quite differently than many businesses do today—engaging much more seamlessly across a wide range of geographic, functional and generational boundaries and borders.

Amid that backdrop, the study found three key workforce gaps CHROs cite as the biggest opportunities for HR:

  • Cultivating creative leaders - who can more nimbly lead in complex, global environments
  • Mobilizing for greater speed and flexibility - producing significantly greater capability to adjust underlying costs and faster ways to allocate talent
  • Capitalizing on collective intelligence - through much more effective collaboration across increasingly global teams.

At IBM, we, too, have wrestled with these same challenges. Just this year, we launched an entirely new approach to leadership based on our own understanding of what it will take to lead business in the new global era. Similarly, we have for some time now focused on creating more flexible labor strategies and variable-cost programs, to help our own business succeed.

And as our world becomes increasingly instrumented and interconnected, we have invested heavily in new collaboration technologies, so IBMers can work differently with each other and with our clients. For example, I just finished hosting a highly interactive, three-day summit with IBM HR professionals from 170 countries, and no one left their desks to participate. We joined together via interactive technology to share ideas, debate concepts and chart a course for future change.

As a result, the findings from this study resonate strongly with me. I believe the successful HR leaders in the future will be those professionals who best drive and sustain real change in these high-opportunity areas.

You can get started on that journey yourself, with the perspectives shared here. I want to thank my peers who gave their time and input to provide these insights into the future.

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