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Building High-Impact HR: Insights from Lisa Yankie, Global CHRO

Uncategorized Dec 09, 2023
Building High-Impact HR: Insights from Lisa Yankie, Global CHRO

🌟 Are you a CHRO feeling overwhelmed by the challenge of transforming your HR department from a traditional, compliance-focused unit to a strategic, business-driving force? 🚀 Then you won't want to miss this insightful vlog interview!

Join us as Lisa Yankie, a seasoned CHRO with a rich background in diverse industries and companies like Ford Motor Co. B of A and most recently CHRO at Dentsply Sirona a $4 Bil public company with 15K employees across 90 countries, shares her experiences and strategies with Cindy Lu from CHRO Partners. 🎤🤝

In this must-watch session, Lisa delves into:

How to seamlessly transition HR strategies in companies big and small 🔄
The art of integrating talent strategy with overall business goals 🎯
Techniques to earn your place as a strategic partner in the organization 🌐
Building and leveraging HR infrastructure for substantial business improvements 🏗️
Balancing and prioritizing overwhelming HR requests effectively ⚖️
Embracing change and building rapid, impactful relationships 🤗
Whether you're a first-time CHRO or a seasoned professional navigating through constant changes in your organization, this vlog is packed with actionable insights and real-world solutions that can revolutionize your approach to HR. 💡👥

Don't miss out on these valuable lessons. Watch, learn, and transform your HR landscape! 🌟 #HRLeadership #StrategicHR #BusinessGrowth #CHROInsights #HRTransformation


To learn more about our CHRO Mastermind Group:


Machine generated transcript below for your convenience:

Cindy Lu (00:02):

Hi there. This is Cindy Lu with CHRO Partners, and I'm here with one of our mastermind members, Lisa Yankie. And Lisa's going to tell you a little bit about herself, but today we're going to talk about a really important topic around how to stand up a strategic HR organization, even if your company or the executives there have really limited knowledge or experience as to how to leverage a strategic HR function. So Lisa has a really fantastic background and has lots of experience doing this type of thing. And Lisa, could you tell us a little bit about your background before we dive into the topic?

Lisa Yankie (00:39):

Thanks, Cindy. It's so great to be here today. I really appreciate it. Lisa Yankie. I'm based in Charlotte, North Carolina. I've worked in human resources across a diverse range of industries spanning from automotive to engineered services, financial services, and med device. Most recently I served as a public Co. CHRO of a large manufacturer, and the first 15 years of my career were at large name brand companies, so Ford Motor Company, bank of America. And then I made that pivot, that transition to mid-cap global companies, some that required some heavier lifting. And I think that with this exposure, some of the muscle that I have built is around incorporating the talent strategy into the business strategy to lead the company to greater purpose.

Cindy Lu (01:29):

Yeah. Lisa, your story is very similar to so many organizations today that have put A-C-P-O-C-H-R-O in place. And many of these CHROs CPOs come from larger organizations like yourself where HR essentially had that strategic seat at the table. I hate to use that term. It's unfortunately we're still using it. And then they make this transition into a mid-size organization and for whatever reason that there's not the resources, not just the resources, but then some of the executives may not have ever seen or been exposed to the larger organizations where HR had true centers of excellence that can drive business and organizational growth. So I'd love to hear your stories around what did it look like when you first started at some of these organizations? What did it look like at the end? And then walk us through how you got these organizations to the endpoint.

Lisa Yankie (02:37):

Sure. I think it's so important to not assume that you're going to be that strategic partner day one or have a seat at the table. It very much has to be earned and you have to demonstrate your interest in the business first with the talent expertise. And so as I've transitioned into different industries, for example, going from automotive into financial services, a very different business found A CFO to be a mentor, to ask questions, got out into the field, got into banking centers to make sure that I learned how the business made money and ask questions. It's so important to make sure that you're asking business questions, not always questions around people. When you're at a business meeting, make sure that you're trying to understand use of five Ys and understand how the business operates, how the business makes money, what the customer feedback is and other business variables.

Cindy Lu (03:35):

Oh, that's awesome. You talked about asking business questions and not just talent questions. Why is that so important?

Lisa Yankie (03:43):

I think it establishes the value that you bring to the table. It establishes that you care about the business performance. I went into HR not to help people, but to help improve the business performance through a talent strategy. And so it's a different take on why you go into the field and the purpose that you can have.

Cindy Lu (04:08):

Yeah, I love that. In fact, I think Dave Ulrich talks about that. He's like, you don't have a healthy organization if you're not driving growth. None of the rest matters. You won't get the resources to take care of the people.

Lisa Yankie (04:19):

That's right. And you have to continually show the business case. So when you're asking for an investment, you have to have the data, you have to have accurate data, and you have to show the business case for how it's going to positively impact the business.

Cindy Lu (04:34):

Alright, I want to jump into that in a minute on how you build that business case. But number one, don't assume that you are that strategic business partner right away. I think that's a really, even though they say during the interview, we're looking to bring on a strategic HR leader, what they mean by that might not necessarily align with truly being strategic for the organization. So give us an example of when you walked into one of the organizations, what did it look like? What at point A?

Lisa Yankie (05:08):

Yeah. One of the companies I worked with didn't HR reported into a different function, and so they didn't really, they thought about HR more as a compliance organization rather than an investment, a talent multiplier. And so by going in and learning the business, building key relationships with the other executive team members and building that credibility from the beginning, the team and I were able to build programs. For example, we built a, at this point, it was a mill development program, so a general manager program and placed several key leaders into some of our more profitable business units resulting in improvement of over 30% operating margin in one of these facilities in Canada. It was a really amazing contribution to have placed a key leader, a female, it was one of the first female leaders, just happened to be, but to improve the business performance.

Cindy Lu (06:16):

That's amazing. I love that story. And anybody who knows me knows I'm a numbers person, so I'm like, oh, the data is great. So they thought you were, HR was more compliance versus a talent multiplier. Exactly. How did you go about building that credibility? You talked about questions in that particular situation. Did you attend certain meetings or what was the, I'm sure there's not one thing.

Lisa Yankie (06:47):

It's just really important that the CEO, the president, whoever the business unit leader is, include HR in the business discussions, in the business meetings, not just when it comes to talent, but when it comes to talking about sales performance, when it comes to talking about customers or visiting customers and the credibility you can really build by demonstrating your interest in the business by asking business questions. There was a time in one of my companies where we were having an issue with a customer and the fact that different sales reps were going into the customer and selling products that were confusing, they didn't understand that it was one company that they worked for. And so we talked about it as a team, and by having that business context, I could then come back and offered a few recommendations around, why don't we take a look at the sales model? Let's take a look at how we go to market, let's talk about how we streamline the process. And so it's a collaborative effort with the rest of the executives for a business solution.

Cindy Lu (07:52):

That's awesome. Alright. So sometimes to produce these sophisticated business solutions, obviously you need the sort of HR infrastructure to get that done. And I've seen so many CHRs come into an organization where there's nothing. There's generalists and they're a pretty sizable organization. Maybe there's somebody who specializes in payroll and maybe benefits, but typically they're like director level type of resources. Walk us through how you stood up the structure that allows you to provide these kinds of services.

Lisa Yankie (08:32):

And I love your air quotes by the way. Those are the table stakes. I mean, if you have payroll reporting to, you have to pay people if you provide benefits, those are table stakes, but that's not strategic hr. In one of the companies I worked at, I knew that I did not have the really deep expertise on the total reward side. The first thing I did when I started at the company was brought in a really experienced exec comp total rewards leader so that he could focus on some of those deliverables and I could focus on some of the other areas that really needed attention and stood up the, it's kind of like you said, traditional all work, but COEs or centers of expertise, you really have to have those core groups that can provide meaningful global solutions. So for example, on the talent space to build talent programs, to focus on diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging on the HR excellence side, to make sure that you have the right systems in place to make sure that your data is accurate so that you as a leader can tell the story and articulate the business value of the solutions that you're bringing to the table.


And then I focused on the HR business partner side. And in different companies I've seen it work different ways. So it depends on what the organizational model looks like and what makes sense for the business. If the business is in acquisition mode, if the business is in growth mode, internal, organic or acquisition just depends on the mode. So a regional business partner structure or a business unit business partner structure needs to be in place. But what I've seen is that that's where the biggest change management takes place. Because what's happened is that you have deeply ingrained relationships in some areas of business partners where their leaders think that good looks like just doing whatever they say, just here, go do this, go execute that. And this is what good looks like. But a thought partner on the business partner side is someone that understands the business, gets involved in the business, has courage and challenges, pushes back advocates for what makes sense. That doesn't mean centralizing everything, but it does mean that there could be some global central solutions and everything doesn't have to be done at a local level.

Cindy Lu (10:55):

That's awesome. I love the thought partner piece. I've often called it a consultative. Absolutely. Because it's sort of going to the doctor and be like, these are the drugs I need. Can you just prescribe them for me? Right. It's like, you shouldn't do that to your doctor or your doctor shouldn't comply, first of all,

Lisa Yankie (11:18):

And your doctor should get to that solution by asking questions and finding out, getting to the root cause, finding out what's really going on. You have a retention issue. It's asking the question, well, what's happening in the business? Why are people leaving? What does the data tell us? What do leaders say? What do the employees say? And so getting multiple pieces of data to draw different conclusions.

Cindy Lu (11:41):

Alright, I know some of our audience is going, okay, that sounds great, but it's been three years and I still don't have those centers of excellence in place. Sometimes you get in and if you don't, I've seen this happen, you don't fast enough from administrative hr, from the table stakes part of the business. And since the leaders don't really know what to expect, that's the niche you've painted for hr. You've done this pretty quickly in some cases. You talked about one situation where you spend the first six months really doing the assessment, but then very quickly you started putting centers of excellence in place.

Lisa Yankie (12:21):


Cindy Lu (12:22):

How'd you do that?

Lisa Yankie (12:23):

Well, I think you have to celebrate quick wins and go in. For example, one of my companies, the board hadn't seen a talent review in over 10 years. So within the first eight weeks with the talent leader providing a talent review with measurable, with metrics around talent, diversity, turnover, revenue by employee, having those data points quickly to tell a story and to be able to show where the business improvement areas are on the total reward side. Coming up with creative solutions around you might have 200 sales incentive plans at a company. And so showing that you can focus on the 10 core areas of the business that you can centralize the sales plans and then in other areas, maybe leave it locally. But if you can continue to show progress and continuous improvement, you earn the trust in the hearts and minds of the business leaders, and that's where then you earn their trust to continue through the centralization of the model.

Cindy Lu (13:28):

So earning that trust is not just about showing up and asking great questions, which is of course needed results. Yep. Yeah, I love it.

Lisa Yankie (13:36):

And helping the business leaders really for the talent leader to understand what business issues are you having, let's translate those into some solutions that we can then help you build your business.

Cindy Lu (13:51):

That's exactly right. And I think nobody would ever say, I can do the CIO's job, but so often business leaders think they can do the talent work. I don't know if you've experienced that in the past, but how have you overcome that type of ion?

Lisa Yankie (14:11):

A couple of things. One, I think that HR needs to be positioned. A CHO should report to CEO. I'm not a fan of HR reporting to finance or reporting to general counsel. You could have great leaders in those functional areas, but it tells the organization that you're focused on compliance on legal issues or you're focused on numbers and only revenue, not what the human capital across the organization and galvanizing that human capital and impact it can have on the bottom line.

Cindy Lu (14:43):

Yeah, that's amazing. Once you get the organization to these, well, to get them there, there's a lot of convincing that needs to happen. And then once you get them to this point, how do you manage the requests? I didn't ask you this question before, but then you get overwhelmed with, we need to do this and we need to do this, and how do you prioritize that? So yeah.

Lisa Yankie (15:13):

Well, a couple of things. One on the influence side is making sure that you have a few business leaders that you trust that you can bounce things off of that perhaps could suggest an idea rather than coming from hr. So we've talked about this before, but for example, I had turnover issue in sales at one company and I asked the CFO, I said, why don't you go ahead and bring this up in the business meeting. I'll back it up with the data. I'll add to the discussion, but it's important to leverage your relationships to make sure that it's not only coming from you and that also initiatives could be sponsored by the executives or the business leaders. Your question, what was your question again?

Cindy Lu (15:59):

Just around once you get all these services in place, requests, all the requests, everybody's like, now we know what you can do. I think this happens to the ccio OA lot where they're like, okay, we have more requests than we have resources or budget to take care of it. How do you get those projects prioritized? And do you sometimes leverage other people's budgets?

Lisa Yankie (16:22):

Yeah. Oh, absolutely. And the CIO can be very influential to help with budgets. A couple things. One, the business strategy. Let's say you have five areas that you're focused on in the business, whether it's expansion in the commercial space or r and d, whatever those business parties are, make sure that you have your human capital strategy aligned with that. And so it's really summarized. You've vetted it with the business leader. They all agree. And so in one of my companies, talent, culture modernization, very simple. Those were our priorities and we align them with the business strategy. What you do then is when you get requests, you ask the question, let's talk about this. How does this align with the business strategy? That of course is then backed up with the talent strategy. So it's a process of vetting, is this really the most important thing that we need to do?


Here are the five things that I have on my plate, which would you prioritize? And so leveraging your business colleagues as well as the CEO or whomever you report to make sure that you're prioritizing. Keeping it simple. I think sometimes HR tries to over please and therefore they can't deliver anything because they're trying to do too much. So keeping it simple, having the courage to just push back to say, look, we don't have the capacity to do this right now. We're going to have to push this off into second quarter. I did that with a recent company where I was asked to have a specific development program for marketing, and I said, we don't have the capacity right now. I know that it's important, but if we do these other things now and then push that to third quarter, would that be okay? So yeah, you have that conversation.


C-F-O-C-I-O. Very important from a budgeting perspective. When you go into your budget, this should not be the first time that your business leaders are hearing the pitch around what you think the budget should be for the following year. You should be having those pre-discussion, Hey, look, CIO, I know that we're building out this new platform for the sales organization. I've heard that we can bolt on a retention template to that platform and it won't cost us any more. Or with that investment, what else could we be doing to invest in the human capital platform that we have? So making sure that you're bolting on leveraging other initiatives that are happening.

Cindy Lu (18:50):

That's awesome. Lisa, I'm so impressed with the speed at which you've done some of these things and how many times you have stood things up. What's your sort of the one piece of advice you'd give somebody who is going through constant change in their organizations?

Lisa Yankie (19:10):

Own it. Just embrace it. Use it to your advantage and be 80 20. Don't try and solve everything. Try and have 80% of the information and then go with it. Make a decision. Don't dwell on things. Sometimes you're going to make mistakes, and if you learn from those mistakes, that's okay. Build the relationships and do that quickly. When you start a role or when you go into a different role, building those relationships upfront and quickly is going to be to your advantage.

Cindy Lu (19:41):

That's awesome.

Lisa Yankie (19:42):

Having courage, have the courage to ask the question that you know is on other leaders' minds, but they're not asking it. I think sometimes HR plays such a natural facilitation role. Jack, I know that you don't believe in this route, and we've talked about this before. We've talked about pros and cons. We've talked about the value. Talk a little bit more about that. So you see, if somebody's not adding value, be that natural facilitator. There's so much value you can add by doing that.

Cindy Lu (20:14):

Okay. I'm going to cut totally off on a tangent here. But the facilitation skill, I think is what so many boards look to CHS for. Not just the total rewards experience and executive compensation, but I think that I've heard multiple times that that facilitation skillset is really critical to being on a board. And of course, we'd like to see more CHROs on boards, so want to highlight that skill right to the world.

Lisa Yankie (20:46):

I think there's before a board meeting to be the one to make sure that, okay, what are the five areas that the board is really going to probe us on and have that discussion, have a united front going into those meetings with the executive team. Look, I don't agree with that completely, but I am going to walk in and nod my head and know that we've discussed this and that we're going to work through the areas that I don't agree with. So it's just so important that you have that upfront alignment and that trust of the rest of the leadership team before you're walking into a board meeting.

Cindy Lu (21:22):

Great. So many great nuggets. I love the corporate courage piece of it. I love the leveraging other c-suite executives to have them sort of bring the ideas up and having you back it up. I really think that probably having a variety of industries in your background has really helped you see how things can be done differently in different spaces. What is one lesson that you've had in standing up an HR function, something that you'll take forward to your next role

Lisa Yankie (22:03):

Role? I think you talked about it, but working with speed so that you can stabilize that group so that then you can focus on the business leaders. Because I think as you go further in your career, you have to define what your first team is and what your second team is. And quite honestly, as you get to the C-suite level, your first team is the executive team. It's not your function. You should be spending more time with the executive team and knowing that your HR team can function, operate, be proactive with your support and coaching and leadership, of course, but you can't just focus on your function.

Cindy Lu (22:44):

Yeah. That's awesome. Well, Lisa, thank you so much for sharing your knowledge and experiences. We're going to put Lisa's LinkedIn profile on the show notes, so feel free to connect with Lisa if you're an upcoming CHRO, first time CHRO. I'm sure she'd have some great advice for you. Thanks, Lisa.

Lisa Yankie (23:05):

Thanks so much, Cindy. I really appreciate it.


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