This piece was originally posted on June 19, 2009 as part of the Top 100 Influencer project. This was our tribute to Bill Kutik who is retiring from the HR Tech Conference and off to have even more fun. So in his honor, here’s John Sumser’s profile of Kutik.

The HR-Recruiting Industry has a huge variety of subcultures and niches. There is no such thing as a standard set of practices in the industry. The regional and tribal nature of our organizations change the face of HR-Recruiting from town to town and industry to industry. You do the whole thing differently if you run a southern heavy manufacturing plant than a northern (more likely unionized) plant. Neither Northern nor Southern heavy manufacturing operations resemble the HR-Recruiting found in high tech in the northwest or chip design operations near Austin.

Bill Kutik, at home with HR Tech and the Sea

Without Bill Kutik’s influence, the evolution of HR in the enterprise space would have naturally ground to a halt.

Even in the same company, HR-Recruiting practice varies widely based on the work done at a particular organization.

In some ways, it’s easier to understand HR-Recruiting as a market than as a profession. With no standards, no serious accreditation processes, no observable Research and Development, no obvious innovation, little in the way of governance and a sea of untested assumption, the industry might be better understood as a frontier in need of some lawmakers. Certainly, there’s an ocean of opportunity awaiting anyone who can solve the professionalization problem.

There is one area of the game that behaves somewhat differently — the ‘enterprise space,’ The Fortune 2000 consumes a disproportionate share of the goods and services sold to the HR-Recruiting Industry. Enterprise products and tools, like Taleo, Peoplesoft, the emerging Workday and a host of others operate in a unique environment that is unlike the rest of the field.

Great companies aspire to be big. As a result, little companies that hope to become giants emulate the techniques and behavior of their larger brethren. Although giant companies operate in ways that would kill a smaller firm, the brands and logos of the big operations hold sway with ambitious CEOs who don’t want to be considered small. The behavior resembles young boys who are finally growing into the clothes in the Men’s department or kids who are tired of Happy meals and children’s portions.

The Enterprise space has enormous influence in the HR-Recruiting industry. Huge vendors have the booths that dominate the trade show floors. They take the biggest ads. Regardless of merit, they set the de facto standards for many things

Bill Kutik, occupies a key role at the heart of the enterprise space. On one level, he is a monthly columnist for HRExecutive Magazine and the co-host of the annual HRTech Conference. His radio show, which reaches hundreds of listeners a week, is influential beyond its audience.

Kutik knows everybody. Immensely proud of the 75 or so panels he’s put together over the years, Bill is a charismatic salon keeper. He makes connections and shows the limelight to a select audience. Bill’s imprimatur is the key to success for many new entrants to the industry. His annual shootouts always shape the industry’s view of new and improved product offerings. Kutik is the arbiter of what’s important in the enterprise arena.

A Harvard educated reporter, Kutik worked for the New York Times and is said to have covered the Claus von Bulow trial. He’s the consummate New Yorker and knows the nooks and crannies of his home. These days, he operates from a cozy little bungalow in Westport, CT, where he shared office space with Paul Newman.

For Kutik’s, influence is something to wield. From a distance, it seems like he takes an activist role in the industry, intentionally shaping opinion and experience. That’s essentially what a conference co-host does. Kutik simply takes it to a higher and more effective level.

Recruiting looks very different from the Fortune 2000 perspective. While the function must be strategic and hyper competitive, the enterprise audience is particularly risk-averse. From the halls of traditional HR, Recruiting can look really out of control and over-innovative. Part of the reason that Recruiting tools have had some trouble taking hold is that change moves at two distinct paces inside our industry. An approach that keeps up with the evolution of traditional enterprise solutions simply moves too slow for effective Recruiting strategy.

Kutik manages the difference with success. Without his influence, the evolution of HR in the enterprise space would have naturally ground to a halt. Though things move very slowly in that environment, it’s Kutik’s careful prodding that makes innovation move.

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