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HR for HR at Amex

American Express sees HR as such an important part of driving business performance that the company has assigned an executive specifically to the task of developing future HR leaders.

July 11, 2007
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American Express sees HR as such an important part of driving business performance that the company has assigned an executive specifically to the task of developing future HR leaders.

    " ‘HR for HR’ is one of our five ‘big bets’ for the HR function this year," explains Patricia McCulloch, vice president for HR capacity and development. "It’s really elevated the importance of the subject. I’ve got a standing spot in every one of our town hall meetings for the HR group and in our HR leadership team meetings to talk about it."

    The company’s plan for developing HR leadership centers on a competency model with five components: applying knowledge of the American Express business; driving creativity and change; demonstrating value as HR professionals to internal partners and employees; leveraging HR expertise; and transforming ideas into tangible, measurable outcomes. American Express lists behaviors at different career stages that meet parts of the competency model, and uses these to plot an HR leadership candidate’s current proficiency level.

    American Express recruits leadership candidates with business or HR degrees from a small number of core graduate schools and puts them through a program of three eight-month rotations—a position as an HR generalist partnered with a business unit, a stint in an HR functional area and a job outside of the HR field. "This way, they’ve started their career with a mind-set that it is OK to move around and experience various parts of HR," McCulloch says.

    At the end of the two-year program, they’re placed in an HR job somewhere in the company.

    American Express also provides future leaders with Project Endeavor, a training program designed to build their financial and business acumen, with American Express itself as the case study. The company is developing additional programs to augment Project Endeavor and sustain the learning experience.

    "There’s the piece around what people do in the two and a half days in the class," McCulloch says. "But another part is what they do six months later to keep that knowledge alive."

Workforce Management, June 25, 2007, p. 36 -- Subscribe Now!

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