Who said that HR people don’t get a seat at the table?
Libby Sartain, the former chief human resource officer for both Yahoo and Southwest Airlines, has been named to the board of directors of Manpower, Inc. And although it’s not the first board seat for her – she’s also sits on the board of Peet’s Coffee & Tea and is chair of the compensation committee – it does put Sartain in a position to leverage her great HR experience with a large and well-known staffing organization.
“Libby’s distinguished 30-year career in human resources will be a great asset to our company as we continue to strengthen our position as a multi-faceted provider of HR Services that complement and expand upon our roots in the staffing industry,” said Jeffrey A. Joerres, Manpower Inc. Chairman and CEO, in a press release announcing her appointment. “Libby is a true thought leader in the human resources industry and brings with her an impressive and proven track record of building human resources infrastructures within high-growth organizations.”
Sartain served as chairperson of the Society for Human Resource Management in 2001, and was named a fellow of the National Academy of Human Resources in 1998. She is also the co-author of HR from the Heart: Inspiring Stories and Strategies for Building the People Side of Great Business, Brand from the Inside: Eight Essentials to Connect Your Employees to Your Business and Brand for Talent: Eight Essentials to Make Your Talent as Famous as Your Brand.
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More than that, Libby Sartain is viewed by many in the HR profession as someone who came up through the ranks as a human resource professional to eventually get that “seat at the table” that so many in HR aspire to. Under her HR leadership, both Southwest Airlines and Yahoo were named to Fortune’s list of the 100 Best Companies to Work For.
She spoke about her success in HR and getting that “seat at the table” in an interview with Workforce Management magazine in 2008:
I probably know 20 HR people that are now serving on public boards of directors. That’s a new trend. When you look over my 30-year career in HR, it was a “personnel administrator” when I started, and now it’s a “senior executive” and even a “board member.”
I can remember when the Society for Human Resource Management changed its name from the American Society for Personnel Administration, because we were part of management. Now we’ve moved from part of management to part of the senior leadership team. We’re that person who is part of the leadership team—some people are fighting to get that seat at the table—there to manage the return on investment in talent or human capital.
To me, the job of HR is evolving to one of, really, talent management as a resource. Not all the administrative part, which is still there and part of the price of admission.The question that boards want to know about and CEOs want to know about—and HR has to be prepared to address—is, if we’re investing this much in our compensation of our senior leaders or our workforce, are we getting a return on that investment, just like if we made any other capital investment? Are we running our company with the right governance when it comes to ethics and policies? Are things above board? Because nobody wants to be caught in any of these embarrassing situations.”