Chief Scientist at Kronos Moves On

Steven Hunt, the chief scientist involved in staffing and selection for the Talent Management Division at Kronos, has moved on to a new position, although Hunt will continue to serve as a member of the advisory board for the Kronos Workforce Institute. Hunt, who is an organizational and industrial psychologist, recently joined SuccessFactors in the newly created role of director of Business Transformation Services. Hunt will use his expertise in understanding human behaviors in the workplace to help SuccessFactors’ clients optimize the performance management and talent management software solution.

Below, Hunt shares his reasons for making a career change and his goals for his new position.

ERE: Why did you make a career change?

Hunt: This new position represented a growth opportunity for me, and it really was the next evolutionary step in my career.

ERE: Give us an overview of your new position.

Hunt: I’ll be focusing on helping our clients realize the benefits of our system, especially around goal setting and performance management. Once the data is collected, it’s important to know how to use that data to track employee competencies, develop employee competencies, and then put those competencies to use in driving business results.

ERE: How can better use of performance and talent management technology drive improved business performance?

Hunt: One example of how companies can improve business performance through technology is by cascading its goals. Our software features a cascading goal function, which actually forces company leaders to set goals and then those goals are cascaded down into the individual goals for each employee. If executed correctly, every employee in the company should be striving to achieve the same business result. Companies must go through the goal setting exercise to realize the benefit from the technology and see it translate into improved business performance.

ERE: What do you hope to accomplish in your new role?

Hunt: One of the company’s stated goals is to increase the performance of the world’s workforce by 50% and I want to help our clients realize that goal. I’ve always had the belief that we don’t fully utilize people’s potential at work. We know so much about why people act the way they do at work, we just don’t use that knowledge very effectively and we are just scratching the surface about what we can and can’t do with data. A large part of my job responsibilities and my personal goal is to help our clients achieve better results through the use of automated performance planning and talent management.

Performance management starts with what people do on the job everyday and what they are supposed to accomplish, but when we look at a person’s attributes, sometimes the question becomes: Could we achieve better results by redesigning the job to utilize the person’s attributes? Job design is just one area where my goal is to lend my expertise and help clients improve employee performance or to help them improve performance by considering other aspects such as the work environment or company culture.

ERE: How will you use your previous experience in your new role?

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Hunt: In my previous role, I focused on the hiring and selection process. Now I get to tie that experience into the performance management and talent management processes. Here’s an example of how performance management is tied to employee selection. Recently I attended a user group meeting, and one of the attendees mentioned to me that they were struggling to find good salespeople. In listening to their problem, I determined that they really have a performance management issue, not a recruiting issue. Selecting the right person for the job begins by understanding what you need that person to accomplish, and then defining the skills and attributes that will enable the person to be successful in the role. Effective performance management leads to a good selection process. It’s much easier to hire the right candidates when you hire for the desired performance.

Another example of how I’ll be able to help clients through my education and experience is by counseling them about separating the process of providing developmental and evaluative feedback. Evaluative feedback reviews the employee’s performance relative to what they have or have not accomplished during the evaluation period, and that review usually leads to a discussion about compensation. Developmental feedback centers around what an employee can do to improve their performance in the future. In most organizations, these two discussions get combined into one step. So how this process often goes, is that the first part of the conversation centers on what the employee has done well; then the conversation changes, and the employee starts talking about what they aren’t good at and how they can improve their future performance through development. The session then concludes with a salary discussion. From the employee’s viewpoint, it’s hard to make the argument for more money, when you’ve just finished discussing all the things you need to improve. There’s a time for both conversations, it’s just not logical to try and mesh the two discussions together.

ERE: One of the company’s goals is to remove politics from promotions and pay. That’s a pretty big promise; how do you intend to deliver on that?

Hunt: Obviously this is the goal, but I think that in any organization there’s good politics and bad politics. People should be evaluated and rewarded on what they do for the company, not how well they sell themselves internally or how they look. A strong evaluative system will help remove the bad politics from the workplace.

ERE: One of SuccessFactors’ founding principles is: No jerks. What does that mean?

Hunt: That principle reflects the passion that runs through SuccessFactors. We’re direct about what we feel, and what we believe is that you can disagree with people without passing evaluations onto people. People should be able to throw out an idea without suffering repercussions.

ERE: Many HR technology sector analysts claim that the industry isn’t meeting client needs for a comprehensive HR solution. Do you see this changing?

Hunt: I think that the companies in the industry are making steady progress toward providing more full-service tools. On the one hand, HR says that they want to break-down the functional silos within human resources; on the other hand they send out RFPs for technology that applies to siloed functions. Companies build solutions around what customers say they want. The answer to giving customers what they want will come through a joint evolutionary process. I think to drive the change, HR departments should continue to push vendors and vendors should keep pushing HR departments.

Leslie Stevens writes for human capital and business publications. She was a senior manager in the staffing industry for more than 20 years and understands how talent acquisition contributes to the bottom line. She likes it when readers share their opinions, innovative ideas, and experiences about overcoming obstacles while fighting the global talent war.

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