Congratulations to the HR Executive of the Year

By: | October 19, 2018 • 3 min read
David Shadovitz is editor emeritus and former editor and co-publisher for HRE.

In her September HR Leadership column, Eva Sage-Gavin wrote that “there’s no greater skill set than the ability to adapt, evolve and reinvent—to navigate away from a predictable course and head into an uncertain future.”

Sage-Gavin went on to say that “Just as constant change is now a consistent norm for us as individuals, so too can we build teams and organizations that are resilient, adaptive and able to disrupt themselves to compete and stay relevant.”

Inevitably, she added, this presents HR leaders with a unique challenge: How do they make it safe to leave the security of the known business, challenge the dominant culture, and both surface and nurture disruptive innovation?

I imagine Diane Gherson—HRE’s 2018 HR Executive of the Year—has been asking herself some version of that question on a regular basis since moving into the chief HR officer role at IBM five years ago.


As our cover story this month points out, these days have hardly been a cakewalk for IBM. The company had reported revenue declines for 22 straight quarters, before finally growing its revenues and profits again three quarters ago.

The unanswered question, however, is, can Big Blue continue to build on this recent improvement as it pivots to emerging platforms and technologies, such as cloud-based services, AI and blockchain? In time, we’ll no doubt find out the answer. But what already seems clear is that Gherson and her team are unarguably playing a pivotal role in Big Blue’s ongoing transformation, applying concepts such as agility and design thinking to every corner of the business, including the HR function itself.

“The IBM of five years ago was oriented to operating with efficiency; today, we’re oriented to operating with speed,” Gherson told Senior Editor Andrew McIlvaine, who wrote this month’s cover story, “This HR Executive of the Year is Transforming IBM.”

“Five years ago,” she said, “we were focused on getting the process right; today, we’re more focused on innovation and the experience we’re creating for our clients.”