Top 100 v1.64 Josh Bersin

On April 13, 2010, in HRExaminer, Movers/Shakers, by John Sumser

Top 100 v1.64 Josh Bersin

Josh Bersin is living proof that you can create influence from whole cloth. In seven and a half years, his eponymous company, Bersin and Associates, has come from nowhere to extraordinary industry prominence. His small team is increasingly responsible for the way that HR sees itself.

In 2001, with 20 years of marketing experience (mostly in high tech), Bersin and a couple of collaborators launched their soon to change the industry analysts shop. Bersin and Associates “provides research and advisory consulting in enterprise learning, talent management, leadership development, and strategic HR. The company focuses on trends, best-practices, benchmarks, and technology solutions which drive strategic business impact.”

It’s a strange place for a guy with an MBA from Haas, a Masters Degree in Engineering from Stanford and an Engineering Degree from Cornell to end. That’s the profile of a typical Silicon Valley entrepreneur, just not in HR. When you talk with Josh, it’s easy to see him in engineering roles.

That’s really the heart of the company. Rigorous analysis in astonishing volume is how the world knows Bersin and Associates. The company produces a flood of insight on an expanding range of HR topics. If you want to understand the common benchmark practices in the industry, you go to Bersin for the documentation. With over 800 reports that span the HR Industry’s silos, there are few more cost effective ways to understand how the industry is run at the baseline.

The company has seven analysts who conduct research in Training, Performance Management, Leadership,Talent Management and various aspects of Talent Acquisition. The research covers benchmarking, best practices and problem solving. In addition, There is a consulting and strategic services component

Josh is passionate about Talent Management. “It’s a business problem, not an HR problem,” he says. “I’m interested in the three questions that are on the minds of the top 30% of HR leaders and practitioners.

  • How do you improve productivity?
  • How do you lead for the future?
  • How do you make performance management work?

In this market, everyone is in transformation. No one is left untouched. HR has an enormous opportunity to demonstrate its real value.”

We talked for a long time about the value of benchmarking. As most readers know, I thin benchmarking is a silly way to approach a problem. The only guarantee you get with benchmarking is that you are a follower.

Bersin, as you’ve probably guessed, disagrees.

“It doesn’t make sense to be great at everything. Particularly in a resource constrained environment, you have to pick your battles. Real differentiation means doing most things well enough and focusing on the key areas where you can make a competitive difference.”

The company, tries to deliver on this promise. A very high-touch approach to its customers (who are all ‘subscribers’) differentiates the firm from other analysts who seem to price their services based on the lack of availability of the key personalities. Not so at Bersin. Over the time I spent getting to know them, the players were all productively engaged. Bersin himself seems to have a particularly brutal travel schedule.

In this case, the essence of influence boils down to:

  • Willingness to take big risks (no experience as an analyst before launching the firm)
  • Deep commitment to quality of the product
  • Astonishing volume (if you sign up for their RSS feed, you’ll get buried)
  • The ability to build an egalitarian team in a company that carries your name
  • A profound willingness to listen.

At the root, Bersin’s product is a method for listening to the HR profession. Nobody does it better.

 
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