HR's Value Soars at the Exchange

The Chicago Mercantile Exchange’s human resources department, once a largely administrative division, has become a strategic corporate partner.

November 14, 2006
The Chicago Mercantile Exchange’s most obvious transformation is in its once-frenzied trading floor. Traders who formerly barked orders over one another are rapidly migrating to sleek banks of computers, where deals are done quickly and efficiently.

    A similar though decidedly less theatrical change has also swept through the 108-year-old exchange’s HR department, which was converted from an administrative division into a strategic corporate partner when the organization went public in December 2002.

    "It has become very clear that HR is on the same plane with the CFO, CIO and the CMO," says Beth Keeve, managing director of organizational development and head of the exchange’s HR function.

    Keeve and CEO Craig Donohue have crossed career paths frequently since Keeve, 53, started at the CME 12 years ago. They have shared the same boss and worked together in the areas of business administration, legal and organizational development. Donohue, 45, who has been at the CME for almost two decades, began his career in 1989 in the legal department and moved up the company ranks until becoming CEO in January 2004. Keeve became head of HR in October 2002.

    HR’s prominence is a relatively new phenomenon at the CME. Seven years ago, there were 14 employees in HR, including three nurses in the health care center. Today there are 25 employees in HR, and the company is looking to recruit three more by year’s end. Keeve estimates there will be about 30 employees in HR by the end of 2007.

    Since HR is more strategic and less administrative, recruitment metrics have shifted. The division now looks to hire employees with strategic HR experience or master’s degrees.

    The increased importance of the HR department is evident throughout the CME. Workforce strategy was taken into consideration when selecting the CME’s new state-of-the art West Loop building, in part because its open spaces are more conducive to the type of collaborative teamwork the CME is striving to incorporate.

    In addition, the building can accommodate the 4 percent growth in staffing projected for the next several years. The CME will start by leasing four floors in the building and eventually expand to 14, comprising 200,000 square feet. Other workforce-related initiatives that the new building could facilitate include adding a workout room and an employee cafeteria.

Workforce Management, November 6, 2006, p. 30 -- Subscribe Now!