Russell J. Campanello, 44, is that rare breed of HR executive — an innovator and power player in a function that still plays second fiddle. This past summer, he was named "chief people officer" of NerveWire Inc., an Internet professional-services firm based outside Boston. Previously, he spent nine years as vice president of HR at Lotus Development Corp. Most recently, he served as senior vice president of HR at the high-profile biotech company Genzyme Corp. In an interview, Campanello discussed the future of HR.
How has the digital economy changed HR?
It is the age of intellectual property — which means that it is the age of human capital. The workforce is no longer willing to take whatever organizations are willing to give. But therein lies the problem for HR: All of our models for how we do things have been formed around an industrial past. HR hasn't made the transition as quickly as the workforce has. We're in an atmosphere of constant catch-up.
How are you trying to catch up at NerveWire?
We use technology to enhance the relationship between the company and our people. For example, we have a "radio hour," during which we use audio and PowerPoint to share important material about the business. But the leadership teams also follow up with face-to-face discussions. We communicate with people a lot, because our communication is as much about building relationships as it is about sharing information. Do you ever get bored talking to your significant other? No, because you're always discovering new dimensions of the relationship. Technology enables us to approach relationship building using different media.
HR is synonymous with benefits. How are benefits changing?
In the Internet economy, productivity comes directly out of people's heads, and inspiration is just as likely to occur at two in the morning as it is to occur at two in the afternoon. That's why employees want flexibility and understanding. HR needs to provide services and support to enable not just an employee's life at work but every other aspect of an employee's life as well. Companies are starting to face the music: Many of them offer services like pet-sitting and a concierge. But most important, organizations need to remember that a one-size-fits-all approach to benefits doesn't work. A 25-year-old and a 38-year-old may be hired to do the same job, but you can't assume that their pay, options, and benefits should be identical. Their needs are vastly different. We have to recognize and respond to those differences
On a day-to-day basis, how has technology affected what you do?
HR can now operate paperless, which saves companies lots of time and money. But most important, paperless HR organizations can focus on trends in the workforce, rather than on transactions. The more you automate the administrative stuff in HR, the faster the company can respond to real-world situations.
Why has job-hopping become so prevalent?
Job-hopping is not primarily about money or stock options. The number-one reason why people leave their jobs is to pursue personal development — the chance to learn something new. If you want to hold on to your best people, you've got to make sure that they're learning, growing, and changing. That may be HR's most important job.
Contact Russell J. Campanello by email (email@example.com).
Sidebar: Software As If People Mattered
Survey Says: What's the point of trying to make your workplace more comfortable and productive if you don't know how the people in it really feel? With Rapid Survey, an automated- survey service from star, HR professionals can create customized questionnaires that employees can fill out via email, phone, or fax from anywhere at anytime. Once respondents have completed the survey, their answers are stored in star's data bank. STAR will generate reports, customized to your specifications, almost instantaneously. Visit Rapid Survey on the Web (www.rapidsurvey.com).
Go with the flow: In the Internet economy, recruiting and hiring can happen in the blink of an eye — or with the click of a mouse. To make the process even faster, call on Personic Workflow, an automated recruiting-and-tracking software system that guides users through the entire process — from advertising a job to matching skill sets. Eliminating the cumbersome paperwork allows you to spend more time making the right hires in a timely fashion.
Visit Personic Inc. on the Web (www.personic.com).
Sidebar: Web of Resources
The Web is a great place for HR professionals to find advice and resources to do their jobs more effectively. Here are some of our favorite sites.
HR.com: (www.hr.com) This is definitely the go-to site to read about workplace trends, recent studies, and legislation affecting employers. The "Daily News" and "Weekly LR. "Labor News" features help you keep tabs on trends and legal decisions that your staff should know about.
Thinq: (www.thinq.com) E-learning and professional development are hot HR topics. Log on to this site — which has partnered with more than 3,000 training providers — to find courses on all kinds of HR skills.
Webhire: (www.webhire.com) This site hosts a great collection of Internet-recruiting resources and is chock-full of links, résumé-searching capabilities, and subscriber access to online-recruiting tools. Looking to meet other HR folks on the front lines of the talent war? The site will tell you how to log on to the Webhire Internet Recruiting Club (created in partnership with Yahoo!).
Work-Family-Life Interactions: (www.cyfc.umn.edu/work.html) This site offers a mixture of research and links to other work-life-balance resources. It will help you help your employees deal with the ever-blurring line between work and home.
A version of this article appeared in the November 2000 issue of Fast Company magazine.