HR Administration

Oracle HCM World: What I Heard From Mark Hurd

By Rick Bell

Apr. 6, 2016

If you’re looking for an HR technology gabfest, this week’s Oracle HCM World conference at the Hyatt Regency Chicago is not the place for you.

OK, let me rephrase that: The deep-dive tech chats are likely taking place on the exhibit hall floor. There are also breakout sessions on analytics and the cloud. But the keynotes so far are decidedly not taking that long, hard look at the next great thing in technology.

Rather, engagement is the focus as the full-day session commences. Oracle CEO Mark Hurd took the stage — still on “Pacific Time,” mind you — and pounded home the notion that employee engagement is the key to a company’s productivity.

“I’m not going to talk much about IT,” Hurd admitted shortly after taking the stage. Engaged employees are the key to success, he said, after noting that a typical corporate mentality is to cut expenses. But it’s engagement that drives productivity, he said.

If the baseline of employee engagement is 70 percent and that improves by just a few percentage points, then Hurd explained he has turned higher productivity into millions of dollars.

“Instead of cutting expenses, I drove productivity,” he said. “It’s sound business. A higher engaged employee will do more work, better work, care more about the business and more about your customers. Engagement is the key to productivity. The higher engagement I have, the better.”

Mind you, this is the CEO of a multibillion dollar tech company. And he’s preaching engagement? Interesting.

“The fundamentals of driving engagement are the same as always,” Hurd said.

HR is not an application but a series of things to drive engagement, he added.

“You can’t get away with just hiring 20,000 people. You have to hire 20,000 good people. And then, what will make them succeed at Oracle? We have to train them, onboard them and prepare them to go to battle. We have to do it well and do it fast. Integrate them into the machine and get them to perform.”

Hurd reiterated that his philosophy is not some noble thought process.

“The team with the best talent typically wins,” he said.

Indeed, Oracle is a hiring machine. Hurd said the 20,000 new hires over the past year were culled from a half-million résumés and 60,000 candidate interviews. Oracle’s employee base, he added, is 38 percent millennials and just 18 percent baby boomers.

Hurd isn’t much of a believer in the millennial hype either.

“They’re a huge part of the employee base at Oracle,” he said, pointing to his millennial myth-buster chart. “The data doesn’t support these myths. All generations adopt the technology available to them at the same rate. They all look for respect and career development.”

OK, there was a bit of tech talk. But it wasn’t geeky or hard to digest. Hurd allayed any fears that on-premise computing will disappear into the cloud.

“We’ll maintain the PeopleSoft base for years to come,” he said. “Here’s why the cloud thing is irresistible. There are few things you get in business that cost less, is less complicated and drives innovation.”

Even I can understand that.

Rick Bell is Workforce’s editorial director. For comments or questions email

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