Mark is the Chief Human Resource Officer of the Marcum Group, a diversified accounting, advisory and consulting family of businesses with offices in the U.S. and China.
He was formally CHRO for Leviton Manufacturing Company, a global manufacturer of electrical and electronic applications.
Mark is Long Island’s most decorated HR executive and has been honored by SHRM nationally as their Human Capital Leader of the Year in 2007 and by HR Executive Magazine as an Honor Roll recipient in 2010.
He has also been the recipient of SHRM’s economic stimulus award for innovation in a down economy in 2009.
Mark and his HR teams have garnered numerous local and regional awards and designations including NY State and Crain’s NY “Best Companies to Work For" designations. Mark is an adjunct professor at Adelphi Graduate School of Business. He holds the SPHR and GPHR designations from the HRCI, and is one of less than approximately a thousand individuals globally to do so.
Ques. You have been recognized nationally for HR innovation. Can you please share how innovation in the HR function can be initiated and successfully implemented?
Ans. Innovation is easy to initiate. You need to free yourself and your team up to have “thinking time”. I do my best thinking on plane trips, the longer the better. But I also schedule time out on my outlook with no meetings, no scheduled phones calls, etc.
Sometimes I catch up on paperwork, and sometimes I read and reflect...and then the innovation starts to flow. I will often talk with team members or colleagues about these ideas before putting them into action. For example – I just had a college professor do an internship during her sabbatical in my HR department. This was amazing, and it stemmed from thinking about how to put a twist on student internships – How about a faculty one.
The implementation is usually easy unless it is going to cost big dollars and then an ROI type conversation(s) need to happen at the executive level. Most of my new and different “innovative” ideas have been low or no cost... selling a no cost idea is easy! Especially when there is a beneficial outcome.
Ques. It is said that HR professionals usually strive to develop leaders of the workforce. To what extent is this statement true? How do professionals such as yourself inculcate leadership qualities in your executives?
Ans. First you need to model behaviour with your own team. I had one of the strongest teams in my organization at Leviton and am building that now at Marcum.
As a role model, your coaching of other senior and mid level executives is easier (they see what you can do), I call it credibility. It’s important for HR to step in to facilitate leadership development across the business.
It’s also important to do it on a micro level (one on one) and not just in a formal classroom. Personal development plans that are measured regularly and have “teeth” are imperative. In the end if you show results with a few successes, it is like the 'Field of dreams' movie, “build it and they will come”.
Ques. Do you believe that the missions and the visions of an organization are enough to drive employees to do better?
Ans. No...most employees have no idea what the mission or values are. In some companies its robotic... people spit out the 5 values... My feeling is that individuals respond to their supervisors up and down the organization.
Culture, values and behaviour drive results... We all want to do more for people who we respect, treat us professionally and are helpful.
No mission statement drives an individual performance as a mandate. Individuals drive performance and relationships make a big difference.
Ques. According to you, what is the essential performance metric that a company must adopt for its employees?
Ans. Engagement! If your employees are plugged in, everything else falls in line. People measure way too much and not the right things. Show me an engaged workforce, I will show you great results.
Ques. With all the wonders technology has to offer, how has such development changed or complimented the HR’s function in an organization?
Ans. Speed, access and accuracy. Technology has been the game changer in the HR space. Instantaneous information, the ability to work across time zones and geographies, and the ability to work anywhere. On line benefits, training, employee data access, you name it.
Ques. Business has become so dynamic that management is mostly driven by short term milestones rather than long term vision. How can HR help in aligning day to day business processes with the overall organizational goals?
Ans. Its all about working on what matters and editing out the rest. HR should only spend time on essential support to their businesses' essential objectives (outside of necessary transactional work to support pay and benefits).
I have spent a great deal of time in HR leadership getting my team to stop doing non-value work – just because they think HR should be doing it. Do less and focus on things that really matter. The same goes for the line, if the work is not directly supporting business goals, stop working on it!
Ques. How can the HR department prepare for possible overturns in the economy?
Ans. Be flexible and adaptive. During the last downturn in 2008 I had recruiters doing training and helping the benefits team. When we opened a new facility, I had generalists from different locations fly out and help with hiring and orientations...be flexible.
Ques. Does being an HR professional require a thorough training or can a graduate of any field with vigour for people management become one?
Ans. I am not formally trained as an HR executive (my first 12 yrs were primarily operations), however I have skilled up over the years with about a dozen certifications.
Now I teach an MBA class in HR. Its more sensible to go to school for an undergraduate or grad degree in business with a concentration in HR, or an OD degree. In the end, the school of real life is the best training though. My years in operations gave me the balanced perspective on managing people and issues. So I say it should not be all one or the other.
People can succeed in HR without the formal training as long as they skill up quickly in the role.
Ques. There’s a very famous oriental saying which goes like,
“Where the vision is one year, cultivate flowers.
Where the vision is ten years, cultivate trees.
Where the vision is eternity, cultivate people.”
At the beginning of every financial year, what do you aspire to cultivate?
Ans. I aspire to cultivate “Happiness” and “Respect”...isn’t that the key to engaging people???
Ques. How has the function of a Human Resources executive evolved from a Business Function to a Strategic Partner?
Ans. I think its both function and partner. They are not mutually exclusive. We all have roles like players on a football team. Think about it, in football only one person has the ball but there are 22 players on both sides of the field. Each with a role. Quarterbacks and receivers depend on their line to block. Defenses often need two or three players to make a tackle. And you never know when your role becomes the one with the ball or the key responsibility. So you need to do your tactical role and be a strategic partner too. I have sat next to my CEO (literally the next office ) in my last two roles. Having access all the time lends itself to being a partner and discussing anything at any given moment, but we still have day to day work to get done.
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