KCRA Q&A: Amtrak's Uzma Burki

Kennedy Associate Director and HR Consulting Lead Liz DeVito recently spoke with Uzma Burki, Senior Vice President, Amtrak’s Head of Human Capital Strategy, OD & Talent Management, Executive Development, Policies & Risk Management, Talent Acquisition, Employment Branding, Workforce Planning, Analytics and Change Management. Burki is also the founder of Altvia Consulting, a human capital consultancy. She is author of When Talent Goes Global: What CEOs, Boards and Management Teams Must Learn and Do to Win with a Diverse, Global Workforce.


KCRA: Why do so many companies have trouble developing roadmaps that align business and talent strategies?

Burki: Competing in a global economy, including attracting and leveraging global talent, requires change—and change requires strong leadership and active involvement at the top of the organization. Organizations that are not anticipating and managing change precipitated by either internal or external forces continue to have a challenge aligning talent with their business strategies because they fall short on developing strategies that are nimble, agile, and can flex with external and internal pressures, hence, they do not possess “change agility.”

KCRA: How can HR leaders ensure talent strategy is not developed in a silo? 

Burki: A key point I like to emphasize is that talent strategy must be aligned with (and should also influence) top-level business strategy. Further, the resulting talent agenda must be supported by appropriate resources to drive organizational performance. That’s not just funding new initiatives, or hiring the right HR executives, or allocating the budget to support a strong total rewards program.

KCRA: What do you foresee as the key talent management challenges for the next three to five years?

Burki: The four biggest challenges in the next few years that organizations must get better at managing include:

  1. Managing change. Change has to be embraced as a way of life and executives must begin to play an active and visible role in leading people through organizational change whether precipitated through internal or external factors.
  2. Aligning to the business strategy by developing and managing talent strategy around the business model specific to regional and global business realities.
  3. Leveraging and enhancing your talent brand by building a powerful value proposition for current and future employees.
  4. Managing human capital risk from both a retention and succession perspective through the rigor of strategic workforce planning, in other words, constantly scanning the internal and external environments to assess supply and demand relative to the business’s strategic workforce planning.