Tim Collins is an international Human Resources professional, with 30 years of functional, business and international experience in Procter & Gamble and IBM. He has visited more than 38 countries, and lived in the UK as an expatriate for three years. Tim has been certified as a Global Professional in Human Resources (GPHR) by the Human Resources Certification Institute, a unit of the Society for Human Resources Management.
In his current role, Tim is global leader of the Talent function for IBM’s global HR organization, providing support for HR succession planning, executive staffing and leadership pipeline development. He also has responsibility for WW HR Development and Resources, with ownership for the HR function career model, career development, tools and communications and leadership for global HR intern hiring and campus recruiting.
Tim is a Digital IBMer, co-founder of #SocialHRSuccess, and an LGBT Out Executive.
Originally from Canton, Ohio, Tim grew up in Ohio and Central Kentucky, and is a graduate of Transylvania University, a small, private, selective liberal arts college in Lexington, Kentucky. He lives in New York City with his spouse and UK Civil Partner, Tom Wolff, who works in HR Learning & Development at MetLife, and Gypsy the Havanese, who makes them both laugh at least once every day.
1. Most job postings cite “X” years of relevant work experience and specific education criteria as requirements to be considered for the position. With this in mind, what prior work experiences and degrees/certifications/training helped prepare you for your current role?
According to people I trust outside IBM, we have long been considered a thought leader in HR. Inside IBM, we have a goal of being the world’s preeminent HR organization. Therefore, I have a great job because my focus is exclusively on the HR function and the several thousand colleagues who work in it worldwide. I bring to the role 20 years of business and HR experience at Procter & Gamble and 10 years at IBM. I consider myself lucky to have worked for two great companies, in business and HR roles, and this “outside HR experience” is something our leaders and I encourage for our colleagues. I have always been a “big picture” person, and try to think outside my own chair to how others see my work, understanding how my role fits in the enterprise, why it’s important, and how it could be done better. I hope it doesn’t sound too corny, but I believe everything I have done to this point, probably 25 roles over almost 30 years, contributes to the role I have today. With the global footprint IBM has, global experience and cultural awareness are important for success, as is knowledge of generalist and specialist jobs and business acumen.
1B. What (if any) additional knowledge or skills that you don’t currently have would make you even better at your job?
I have done a lot of international business travel, and that has been important to help me learn about our business and the people who work in it. Technology is great and social media is improving collaboration and shrinking the world, but there is no substitute for face-to-face interaction. I’d like to travel more than I do today. I’d also like to have more time with business leaders, to understand what they need from HR, and how I can influence that in my role. Funny enough, a month before I started this job in July 2013, I received my Global Professional in Human Resources (GPHR) certification from SHRM and the HR Certification Institute. The timing was ironic, I decided to get my GPHR well before I knew I was being considered for this position, but other people thought it was all part of the plan. While a number of HR professionals in IBM have external certification of one type of another, it is not something we have pushed hard. However, personal development is very important, evidenced by last year’s introduction of “Think 40” by our Chairman and CEO, Ginni Rometty. She communicated her expectation that all IBMers, in every country and job role, should complete at least 40 hours of personal or professional development every year. Our Learning & Development colleagues responded by creating an easy-to-use web app to track Think 40 hours, connecting it to our Learning Management System.
2. Some jobs require the incumbent to be very analytical. Others require one to be a strong communicator, and others still require traits like patience, the ability to multitask, self-directedness, comfort with ambiguity, and exceptional attention to detail. Are there any behaviors and/or attributes that you would say are essential to performing the work that you do?
All of these and more are required for me to be successful in my role, with the exception of multitasking because it is a myth. On our enterprise collaboration platform, IBM Connections, we have a 200 character self-curated field called “What I’m Known For.” Along with tags and content that I share in Connections communities, blogs, wikis, forums, files and activities, this becomes part of my digital identity, my personal brand, and helps to surface my expertise to others. These data also feed to IBM Expertise, a mobile and desktop app that we use to “find” people and talent. My “What I’m Known For” is: “Functional+Generalist HR experience at two great companies, P&G, IBM. Externally certified (GPHR). Global citizen, servant leader, direct, passionate. Social because it’s a better way to work, collaborate, engage, inspire, and get results.”
3. Jobs guru Lou Adler says there are only 4 job types of jobs in the world (producers, improvers, builders, and thinkers). Which type of job are you in?
Happily, my job and personal preference are well-aligned. I have always gravitated to Thinker and Builder roles, and I’m in one now. Improving and Producing are also important, but less so (my team helps me with this part), and that allows me to do more of the kind of work that I prefer and excel at.
4. Does your job involve either directly or indirectly supervising or managing people? If so, how many direct (or indirect) reports do you have?
Yes, I have four direct reports, and several thousand HR colleagues that I indirectly serve in the global HR organization. Don’t let the number overwhelm you, in addition to HR people focused on 434k+ IBMers, remember that IBM has a lot of client facing HR roles, including HR consulting and HR outsourcing in our services business.
5. How does what you do impact the business? Think complexity (different types of impacts) and scale (degree of impact). Put another way: Who and what would be impacted if your job wasn’t being done well, and why would it matter that they were impacted?
The best jobs I have had are those where I can see clearly the impact of what I do on the business. My three favorite jobs all fit that criteria, including the one I have today. I believe the work HR does is critical to business success. The “action” words associated with our work — attract, motivate, develop, retain, promote, transfer, incent, teach, engage, inspire, collaborate, team, perform, manage, mentor, sponsor — just to share a few, say it clearly and well. What I do is positive and aspirational. My other two favorite jobs were leading Global Mobility (Relocation & Expatriate Services) at P&G and working in HR Business Development (acquisitions, divestitures, outsourcing deals) at IBM.
6. Is your job safe? Rate its safety on a scale of 1-10 with 1 being “seated all day in an air conditioned vault” and 10 being “I’m an astronaut going into space”. If your job isn’t safe, what working conditions (specifically) make it hazardous?
Yes, from the standpoint of physical safety, my job is safe. I live in Manhattan, and travel to IBM HQ in Armonk, NY usually three days a week. The commute is the most dangerous part of my job (if you’ve been on the Bronx River Parkway, you would agree with me), although I enjoy driving and love NPR, so that makes it fun.
7. Is there anything I missed that people should know about your job? Is there anything else you want to say about what you do?
I am passionate about my work (and for that matter, my life too). One of the things I am most passionate about is social business, or as I like to describe it, open business.
For four years in a row, IDC has ranked IBM Connections #1 in market share for enterprise social software. It is a great product, a growing and constantly improving suite of tools and capabilities that we use ourselves. My view is that HR should be leading the enterprise in adopting social. Therefore, along with a few colleagues, a few months ago we started a new initiative that we call #SocialHRSuccess. We hand picked 60 HR people from around the world to work with us on the project (in addition to their day jobs). We have a public blog (inside IBM) that every week features (no surprise) a new success story or use case about HR people using social effectively in their work.
We are launching six other initiatives, all identified socially by the team through an Ideation Blog. These will include a #SocialHRTipoftheWeek campaign, a reverse mentor / social coach program on “how to be social” for senior HR leaders, a social design award (good design means ease of use and more adoption), a social learning roadmap for HR professionals, a campaign to help #SocialHRSuccess go viral, and finally an HR Social Analytics project to identify metrics to measure our progress and identify areas for focus. We have had great early success. Based on views, likes and comments, our group blog is very popular, not just in HR but with business colleagues. Best of all, our #SocialHRSuccess hashtag has gone viral inside the IBM firewall. We have more work to do, but it has been fun getting to know and work with HR colleagues from around the world on such an important project about which we are all passionate.
As always, please share your thoughts in the comments section below.
Tim’s comments here are his own personal opinions, he is not speaking on behalf of IBM.