Karen Crone

Chief Human Resources Officer, Paycor, Inc.

Earlier in her career, Karen Crone believed a company’s human resources team had to do everything.

“I was personally offended if, let’s say, a learning initiative happened, and some other function wanted to take it over and run it. I’d say, ‘Wait! That’s HR, that needs to be our space,’ ” says Crone, Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO) for Paycor, a Cincinnati-based firm that provides cloud-based onboarding, payroll, HR and timekeeping software for small- and medium-sized companies throughout the United States.

Over time, however, Crone realized that cultivating grassroots employee ownership of initiatives throughout the workforce is the key to growing a healthy company.

“We have a Community Partners Group that’s extremely strong, a Young Professionals Group, a Women’s Network, a Spirit Committee – each group does the heavy lifting throughout our workforce. They’re doing things to help with workforce engagement, education and building a stronger internal network.”

Crone serves as an employee coach and advocate behind the scenes, encouraging individuals to run various initiatives and hone their leadership skills. It’s all about helping unlock others’ ideas and, in some instances, providing basic level funding to assist employees in bringing their ideas to fruition, she says.

“The initiatives don’t belong to one person or one leadership team – they belong to all of us. One person and one function will never have the power of creativity that a whole organization has. It’s about listening to people’s ideas, and removing obstacles for them. People want to make a difference, and it’s about putting them in positions to do that.”

According to Crone, Paycor’s performance management system, Connect, has increased self-managed workforce momentum. Gone is the old performance rating system, doing away with employees focused on “I’m a 3, I’m a 9; I’m a Green, I’m a Gold.”  Now, an employee is rated as either on track or off track.

“We’re looking at the skills employees need for their changing, future roles within our organization. We’re looking at where their careers are headed,” says Crone. “Connect faces everyone forward.”

The pace of change for today’s workforce is not slowing.

“I recently read that the half-life of a professional skill is five years. So, for every skill you master, in five years, 50 percent of the value of that skill is gone.  We’re looking at processes changing in 12- to 24-month cycles. They’re in constant motion. Being adaptable and immersing yourself in those changes is important. People who can’t change will be left behind, they’ll struggle.”

Crone believes today’s workplace leaders need to master new topics, be constant students of business and people. They need to be builders and creators, not maintainers.