HR AS CIVIC ENGINEER
In large companies like Amazon, HR has the power to transform whole communities.
By Alexander Alonso, SHRM-SCP
I finished my graduate degree in 2003 without a job in hand. I didn’t know it when I began my job search, but I was witnessing the rise of a trend that has put HR at
the crossroads of civic engineering and city planning.
I landed two interviews in Bentonville, Ark.—home of Walmart and
Tyson Foods. While I didn’t end up
working at either company, I learned
quite a bit about the role large organizations can play in shaping economies and efecting societal change.
That’s what Walmart did under
Sam Walton’s leadership. The company has brought thousands of jobs
to the northwest corner of Arkansas,
and the retailer’s requirement that
vendors invest in the community has
generated thousands more. In the
past, such private-sector power over
civic planning was unheard of unless
your city was bidding to host the
Super Bowl or the Olympics.
In the future, it may become
Today, more than half the U.S.
workforce is employed by large
enterprises, and that share is rising.
This trend, coupled with the growth
of mega-organizations like Walmart,
has led to one of the most fascinating
social experiments of our time: Amazon HQ2—Jef Bezos’ contest to fnd
a North American location for the
company’s second headquarters.
The HQ2 competition—which
had been narrowed down to 20
fnalists at the time this article was
published—is the very embodiment
of how corporate giants can reshape
whole cities and regions. And HR
professionals, as the stewards of the
workforce, now sit in the catbird seat,
ready to help make that happen.
When a mega-employ-
er sets out to identify the
right setting for a new
headquarters, the key
factors to consider are:
ā ā The availability of
skilled workers at that
ā ā The ability to support
those employees en
masse with adequate
With HQ2, Amazon
wants to build a workforce of 50,000
information managers and data
scientists. With our expertise, we can
help fgure out how to make this type
of expansion a reality.
Which organizations are most
likely to follow Amazon’s lead? Here
are three that are primed to launch
another wave of civic engineering:
Paycom Software. The Oklahoma
City-based HR tech company,
which has achieved an impressive
record of annual growth, offers
new ways to accomplish transactional work in our own field.
Lending Tree. The well-
known Charlotte, N.C.-based
fnancial services group has
changed the way people
seek mortgages, loans and
other fnancial products. Its
growth rate matches Pay-
com’s, but its plans to nearly
double headquarters staf mean it
might become a true giant.
Samsung. The Korean tech manufacturer has gone through some
tough times in recent years due to
product defects. But intense competition will likely drive the company to
continue to expand and alter the face
of many communities.
Thanks to the Waltons and
Bezoses of the world, HR can now
help to design the communities of tomorrow—a dream formerly reserved
only for the likes of Walt Disney.
Alexander Alonso, SHRM-SCP, is chief knowledge
ofcer at SHRM.