Five Questions for Cathryn Gabor

By Staff Report

Mar. 29, 2006

Cathryn Gabor, a 20-year human resources veteran, has worked at W.L. Gore & Associates and Capital One, both on Fortune’s list of the best companies to work for. In September, she joined AXA Equitable Life Insurance Co. as senior vice president of talent management and human resources. Gabor spoke to Workforce Management staff writer Jessica Marquez about how she plans to help the company, which has 6,500 employees, reach its goal of doubling revenue and tripling profit by 2012.

    Workforce Management: Your job entails employee relations, a new element to the position. Why did AXA make that part of your role?

    Cathryn Gabor: Often companies don’t consider employee relations to be part of talent management. We, like many organizations, have employment attorneys who handle the claims. But I am looking at how can I systematically (consider) all of the employee complaints and address a few key drivers around engagement, innovation and leadership. If we can address these imperatives, we won’t have as many complaints.

    WM: How are you going to help AXA reach its growth targets?

    Gabor: We want to be the most sought-out company to build a career. That’s not something that really sticks right now. To do this, I’m looking for the crème de la crème and tapping passive talent. These are not the people posting their résumés on They may not have thought about leaving their companies. They may not even be in the insurance business.

    WM: How do you go about getting those people?

    Gabor: I am dismantling AXA’s current practice of using the traditional methods–like job boards–to tap talent. Personally, I am spending at least one hour per week hitting the phones, tapping my network and getting referrals. We are also looking at sourcing differently. Most organizations use executive recruiters to do the sourcing and the vetting of applicants. I am looking to hire three sourcers to find talent and 14 recruiters to do the vetting in order to fill 1,200 jobs this year.

    WM: You worked at W.L. Gore, which is renowned for its culture. Are there aspects of its culture that you want to bring to AXA?

    Gabor: One thing that Gore does well is the art of storytelling and keeping the company alive through telling its history. AXA has a great history, and that is an opportunity for us to broaden our culture. I want to bring storytelling into every aspect of the HR process, from the communications to videoconferences and posters in the halls. My goal is to get all of our executives talking about the story of AXA.

    WM: What metrics will you use to gauge your success?

    Gabor: There are the standard retention metrics. I will also look at how we reduce the number of employee suits and claims, and if the number of dollars leaving us because of those claims is reduced. The biggest way I am measured, though, is through employee surveys.

Workforce Management, March 27, 2006, p. 18Subscribe Now!

Schedule, engage, and pay your staff in one system with