Vol. 53, No. 8
An HR professional strives to leave his mark on a tech giant’s workforce strategy.
For Hallstein Moerk, shaping human resource strategy for Nokia, a world leader in the converging Internet and communications industries, constitutes an HR professional’s dream job.
As executive vice president, human resources, for Nokia -- maker of a wide range of mobile devices, services and software -- Moerk has global responsibility for all human resource activity for the company’s 100,000 employees, including compensation, benefits, employee development, management and leadership development, staffing, and global diversity.
Since 2004, Moerk also has served on Nokia’s Group Executive Board, which is responsible for managing the company’s operations from its headquarters in White Plains, N.Y. The company’s revenues were $79 billion in 2007.
What Moerk says he loves about HR: the powerful impact it has on business results.
“If you look at corporate management, vision, leadership, credibility [and] culture and you ask, ‘Where can I contribute on that list?’ for HR the answer is ‘All over the place,’ ” he says.
“If we do the right things in HR, all stakeholders will be happy -- employees, managers, customers, shareholders, suppliers, vendors, community members, government. I’m a fundamental believer that business can make a contribution to making this world a better place. Nokia is a great place to do that.”
Moerk joined Nokia in 1999 as senior vice president for human resources, focusing on HR policies, processes and systems as well as HR development. He joined the company after a 22-year career at Hewlett-Packard, where he served in various line management and HR positions in Switzerland, Denmark and Norway, including as managing director for the European Multicountry Region; director of human resources for Europe, Middle East and Africa; general manager; and personnel manager for the European Multicountry Region. Prior to his work at Hewlett-Packard, Moerk held positions at Texas Instruments in Denmark and Norway.
As a college student, Moerk was studying finance and accounting at the Norwegian School of Management when he happened to read Edgar H. Schein’s Organizational Psychology (Prentice Hall, 1979). “I had never thought of HR at all, but I found that book so fascinating. It made me say, ‘Hey, maybe I should look into HR.’ ”
During the past 20 years, he has seen tremendous growth in the demands on the HR profession.
Human resource professionals “have been asked to do more things and take on additional responsibilities, including leadership development, recruitment, retention, motivation and employee satisfaction. But at the same time, we have a newer context for what we do. We need to be excellent in the traditional things as well.”
Moerk says his experience in several areas of business -- such as finance, marketing and sales -- helped prepare him to take on his current role. “Understanding the business and the numbers gives you a lot of credibility. These things may not have been important years ago, but these days they are critical skills.”
Still, many fundamentals of human resource management remain, he insists.
“The way that employees want to be motivated and engaged hasn’t changed,” says Moerk. “People want to do a good job, if given the opportunity.”
Unlike some HR leaders who describe themselves as “business partners,” Moerk rejects the term as an inaccurate characterization.
“I don’t want to be a business partner,” he says. “I’m part of the business. Business partner sounds like you’re outside the business. As an HR leader, you need to be thoroughly immersed in understanding the business goals, particularly on the strategic side.”
Moerk says one of his most rewarding assignments at Nokia has been leading an initiative designed to engage employees in deep conversations about the company’s values. “Last year, we held a series of meetings to analyze how we were keeping our values alive, because, although the company had good values, they had become kind of boring.”
The initiative involved more than 2,500 employees -- representing a cross section of the 120-country organization -- in a series of café-style workshops held globally. Through structured workshops, group members focused on analyzing the values and drawing themes from success stories.
In the end, employees summed up the company’s values with the following phrases:
Engage you. “We want to engage everyone we come in contact with, from customers to suppliers. Really, everybody in our ecosystem,” says Moerk.
Achieving together. “Which reflects our achievement-oriented culture and the fact that we value team spirit and collaboration.”
Passion for innovation. “Because our people are committed to coming up with new ideas and new solutions. It’s part of who we are.”
Very human. “Because we want to be a human company in the way we operate and in the way we approach our business,” he concludes. “We want to create human technology.”
The author is managing editor of HR Magazine.