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Jay Jamrog: Senior Vice President of Research at i4CP

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It's only fitting that Jay Jamrog, senior vice president of research at i4CP, became interested in HR after losing his job in graduate school. Naturally, Jamrog was upset over his sudden unemployment. But, instead of stewing in his misery, he went back to school, took a course in human resources (''I wanted to find a way to sue [my former employer]''), and discovered his passion for HR. Now, more than twenty years later, Jamrog is deeply immersed in the industry and thriving.

School, however, came first. ''I went to a lot of schools,'' Jamrog says with a big laugh. ''The 60s was an interesting time.'' After attending several undergraduate institutions, Jamrog eventually settled on dual majors: history and business. Next, Jamrog attended the University of Massachusetts, where he received his MBA and met George Odiorne, the HR genius and prolific writer.

''[George] became my mentor,'' says Jamrog. ''He was a big influence on me...and somebody who cared about young people in the profession. He was always pushing me…and he loved the way I used to challenge his assumptions, and he would challenge mine.

''He had an institute called the Human Resource Research Center at the time, and he was advising companies on workforce planning models (you know, the right people in the right place at the right time).''

Companies began approaching Odiorne and discussing environmental issues, such as how one looks at the environment and all the issues that could impact a human capital plan as companies move forward. But instead of Odiorne solving these companies’ problems, it was Jamrog who developed the solution they needed: environmental scanning.

''You’re scanning the whole environment and providing them with information on what the current trend is, what’s driving that trend, what are the implications for human capital, and what are some of the strategic insights that we can glean from what’s happening out there,'' explains Jamrog.

''I [then] went on to do some doctorate work, which I call ABD — all but the dissertation. Most people who have PhDs know exactly what ABD is.''

Today, Jamrog is senior VP of research at i4CP. The company, which has a rich history, started back in 1965 at the University of Michigan. Originally an academic-based, not-for-profit company, HRI (Human Resource Institute) began conducting environmental scanning research in the 1980s, moved to Florida in 1986, and was finally acquired by the newly-founded Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4CP) in 2006.

''For years we were an academic-based research organization,'' he says. ''Usually those don’t last very long: either the money runs out or the ideas run out. It started in the late 60s, but I took it over in the mid 80s and kept it alive all that time. Now I’ve turned it around (from a not-for-profit) to…a ‘for profit’ as i4CP, and we’re going great guns.''

And this describes not only the company’s start, but Jamrog’s greatest accomplishment as well. ''Keeping [an] institute going for all that time [is] usually…very rare,'' he submits.

As senior VP of research, Jamrog is responsible for numerous activities. The company produces around 10,000 pages of research a year, and the staff of twenty or so analysts works hard to do so, looking over 150 issues and 65 knowledge centers.

''I supervise all those projects, and I supervise the team. We’re the research arm for ASTD, American Management Association. So we do a lot of projects for them. We also produce a lot of other documents. We do a survey a week, it seems, on all kinds of human capital issues.''

At i4CP, Jamrog enjoys his relationships and surrounding himself with ''very smart'' people.

''We have a lot of analysts here, and since I don’t do consulting, I get to talk to a lot of very heady practitioners who tell me about their problems. I like it. It’s not boring!''

And Jamrog also thrives on curiosity: what’s happening today, what will be happening in the future, what are the implications for the future — you name it, Jamrog is curious about it. ''The thing I like about it is [that] it’s intellectually challenging. I’m curious by nature.''

However, ''The challenge right now,'' Jamrog continues, ''is all the work.'' Having a top-notch reputation, i4CP attracts numerous companies in need of research. After all, ''doing good research is a hard thing for most organizations to start up.

''So we’ve got too many people who want us to do research for them. We have to turn it away because it’s just too much…We’ve got a little under a hundred of the Fortune 200 who are members, and we’re constantly getting requests…to do specialized stuff from them, too. We have a lot of data and no time to do anything with it. That’s frustrating.''

One topic that Jamrog sees as a particularly important issue facing the HR industry today is measurement of efficiency, effectiveness, and impact of human capital organization.

''Most companies,'' he says, ''don’t know how to talk about the effectiveness of HR because they don’t want to do the research. That’s hard work…Then they don’t know how to go to that other level, and that’s, ‘What is the impact we’re supposed to have on this organization? How are we supposed to measure that?’ They don’t know how to measure that. They don’t know how to tell the story.

''If marketing went into the boardroom and all they talked about was, ‘We did more ads in magazines last year at lower costs,’ they’d be laughed out. The CEO wants to know what impact they had. ‘Did you increase market share? Did you increase sales?’ What HR is measuring today is just efficiency. They’re not telling the board room what impact they’re having. So that’s the biggest challenge, getting HR to really tell that story. It’s not about the numbers. It’s about the story it tells.''

A little anger and a lot of schooling helped lead Jamrog into the HR industry; however, it was his drive and passion that shot him to the top. What, then, does he advise young professionals interested in HR to do?

''I would really like them to get more grounded in more basic business principles. Business acumen stuff. Know how to read a 10K, know about the business. Too many HR people stay in their little cubbyhole. And the better ones get out there, do sales trips, and get out there and understand the business. It’s that business acumen that I wish students would get more involved in. Take finance, take marketing, take accounting, understand the basic business. And then you’ll be a better provider of services for the company.''

Q. What do you like to do outside of HR? Any odd hobbies/interests? Are you married? Do you have children? Can you explain a little about your personal life outside of work?
A. I like travel. Fortunately, I do a lot of speaking, so I get to travel around the world on somebody else’s bill. And so we go to nice places around the world, and I take my wife and we end up spending a week in a place. I [also] like being around my wife. We have fun together. Not that we have to go to a lot of places, but we just enjoy each other’s company.”

Q. What CD is in your CD player right now?
A. I don’t have a CD; I don’t do [iPod]. I listen to XM radio. I like oldies.

Q. What is the last magazine you read?
A.I read Time and Newsweek on the plane because [they] put me to sleep.

Q. What is your favorite TV show?
A. I watch the History Channel. I’m a typical male because I do a lot of channel flipping. I watch the Daily Show. That’s probably my favorite.

Q. Who is your role model?
A. I have a couple. George [Odiorne] was a role model. I had a martial arts teacher once...I called him Dr. Moon. I lived in Asia for about five years and studied martial arts, [and] he took me in and was like a father at a time in my life when I needed the discipline and the control. And so for different reasons, he was a role model.

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