Kent Price is the Chief Human Resources Officer of the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL). Kent has worked in a wide range of HR leadership positions for global companies. Most recently, he served as the Senior Vice President of HR for United Guaranty, a wholly-owned subsidiary of AIG. Kent holds a BA from the University of Delaware and an MA in Human Resource Development from George Mason University. He has been the recipient of two ASTD Excellence in Practice awards and is SPHR certified through the Society of Human Resource Management. Kent is also a certified coach through ICF.
You have led HR functions in many sectors – from banking, insurance to CCL. Tell us something about the shifts in your career, and how did the transition to CCL happen? What has been this experience like?
I have had the opportunity to experience CCL both as a customer and a leader. CCL has deeply touched me early in my career through their Leadership Development Program (LDP), which I was a participant of. The insights from that program have guided my leadership philosophy over the years and now as a business leader, I get to drive results that matter to organizations and leaders worldwide.
It was one of my dreams to work with the Center and incidentally, I came across the opportunity to head the Human Resources function for CCL, which I took up. I wasn’t really looking for an opportunity but the opportunity came to me.
You have seen challenges of managing and developing talent in institutions like American Express, AIG (largely financial institutions). Tell us what is the difference between talent development and management in such institutions and CCL?
There are probably more similarities than differences between CCL and such institutions. I believe leadership is similar across all industries, and through the business challenges are different, the core attributes of leadership are similar. If you look at our faculty, the individuals who deliver our programs, or sales professionals, we are like any other consulting services organization delivering services, but with a small circle of people leadership. Whereas, in financial services or insurance sector, you would generally have a large organization with significant people leadership. That would be one of the differences I would say exits. But there are more similarities than differences.
Traditionally, HR has been an implementer rather than an activator. Do you think this is changing?
We have all seen disruption in every part of the business and I believe that the role of the human resources function is even more crucial today. It is the key function that helps in attracting, recruiting, and developing talent for the disrupted industry that one is a part of. I have seen the HR evolving at many levels, whether operational or transactional. One of the most interesting things is that the HR has evolved to ensure that the organization is at the forefront to get the type of talent that is needed for the future. HR is now more future-oriented as it is getting involved in conversations related to preparing talent for the future, creating the right type of culture, and even employee value proposition for the future.
How is technology changing the way HR functions?
I think technology is disrupting all industries and HR is one of the core functions that have been disrupted. Today, people are constantly attached to their mobile devices and that’s how they learn, interact, and network with one another. But the other thing is core foundational. It is about sharing content, best practices to find people you want to connect with. This is where HR has benefitted from technology the most. Technology has clearly enabled people to serve themselves and that is a continuing trend. I think some of the players in the technology space and around Artificial Intelligence are trying to come in the HR space with their pulse survey technologies, or training people through AI. It is just starting but it’s going to have a much bigger impact in many different industries.
How crucial is employee-engagement in this multi-generational workforce scenario?
I am a big believer in the concept of engagement. We are all humans and we all need to interact with one another. At CCL, we use a model called the “E4” that comprises the four different types of engagement — organizational engagement, direct leader engagement, job engagement, and team engagement. We are big believers in these four levels of engagement that make the organization and the people work collaboratively whether digitally or face-to-face. At CCL, we are working towards matching a lot of our services around leadership development and organizational development to the E4 model for our employees. Six months ago, we carried out our annual employee survey and now we are getting ready to do some pulse engagement test around the progress that we are making. So, I am a big believer that engagement cuts at many different levels in the organization for not just the millennials but also for the more mature parts of the organization.
What would be your advice to the HR function?
I think HR should start thinking about how they can continue to evolve as a function and how they can remain relevant in the future Some of them are already doing that but going back to industries being disrupted in many different ways, this needs to be something that the HR has to constantly think about and work on. The HR should continue to be experts in what they are doing and excel as a function. But in doing so, HR professionals need to focus on the few key things that really make an impact, prioritize them and let go of others that don’t make a direct impact to the business results. It needs to stop doing things that are less important.