Five Minutes with… Ashley Goldsmith

HRM caught up with Workday CHRO Ashley Goldsmith for a five-minute Q&A on the most important things HR professionals can do to position their organizations and themselves for growth.

Five Minutes with… Ashley Goldsmith
Ashley Goldsmith
CHRO, Workday

Why HR? 
I stumbled into HR in my early 20s. I had the good fortune of meeting a young woman on the newly formed Management Development team at The Home Depot who hired me as an intern, which turned into an 11+ year career there. After rotating through several non-HR departments such as Marketing, Store Operations, and IT, I realized the part of the business I found most challenging – and interesting – was focused on human capital. I can’t think of anything more fascinating than harnessing the collective power of people to deliver amazing business results.
How would you sum up HR pros in three words?  Influential. Business. Leaders.
How would you change the industry?   I would change how people perceive HR. It’s one of the most interesting and strategic parts of any business – stewards of the largest variable expense in most companies – yet it is often regarded as a “soft” area that’s almost charitable in nature. Whenever I speak with young people who are choosing their career, I always encourage them to look at HR just as they would Finance, Marketing or Sales. I actually think HR is somewhat of a best-kept secret. It’s a fascinating part of the business where you have a viewpoint across ALL areas of the business, it pays well, and it is loaded with opportunities for advancement. Yet so few young graduates choose it that there’s little competition for those who excel.
What’s the most important thing an HR pro can do to develop their business?   Be sure you understand your business strategy and how your business operates (and how it makes money!). If you truly understand the business, you’ll be prepared to develop an HR strategy and roadmap that’s tightly aligned to business goals and anticipates changes proactively.
If you were Prime Minister for one day, what would you do?  As a political leader in a developed nation, I would like to address how we make our country more competitive in the global economy, so that we can provide additional jobs and opportunities for the many people across our nation who are trying to improve their lives and the opportunities they are able to provide for their children.
What has been the highlight of your career?  I think it’s going to be my current role at Workday. Being CHRO in a company that’s pioneering world-class HR practices and technology, with a culture that puts our employees and customers at the top of our values – it’s hard to imagine I will ever have an opportunity to make more of an impact than I will in this role with this incredible group of people.
What’s your favoured style of coffee?  Philz drip coffee in San Francisco. It’s delicious.
Hockey, football, baseball or other?   The Olympics. I love watching people who have poured their lives into a sport get a chance to compete on the global stage. What could be more exhilarating for a young person who has worked so hard than to experience the thrill of the Olympics?
If you could invite three people to dinner, dead or alive, and excluding family and friends, who would they be and why?   Nelson Mandela, Jane Goodall, and Jeff Bezos. All of them are for similar reasons. They saw something wrong (or less than it could be) and despite countless people telling them it couldn't be done, they persevered. They didn't let obstacles, no matter the size, get in the way of their passionate beliefs. Mandela also endured a lengthy imprisonment, which must have called up a level of character that few of us can understand. Bezos has literally transformed the world of retail and continues to innovate in many other areas. As for Goodall, her studies were very important to how we understand primates today. She challenged traditional beliefs at the time and in doing so, learned many things we didn't know about these wonderful animals.
Complete this sentence: If I wasn’t in HR, I would be running an animal rescue unit, providing proactive care and rehabilitation to a wide variety species. I adore animals and if I didn’t have an allergy to cats, I would likely have been a veterinarian. This animal center has been a dream since I was a child, and I look forward to making it a reality later in my life.

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