Values in The Workplace

Robert Gulliver
Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Utterly understated, elegantly collected, Robert Gulliver ’92 personifies the calm that would be prized at the center of just about any HR storm in any organization.  He happens to be the NFL’s chief human resources officer and its first executive vice president of HR, since 2010.

Gulliver’s role incudes compensation and benefits, talent acquisition and management, leadership development, diversity and inclusion, and employee relations.

He also provides HR counsel to the NFL’s commissioner, club owners, and club and league executives.

“HR is integral to any successful organization. In business, as in sports, winning comes down to attracting, retaining and developing talent,” Gulliver said in an interview at the Cornell ILR Sports Leadership Summit, where he spoke as a panelist.

The people who fit the NFL employee mold, he said, are expected to embrace values of respect, responsibility to team, resiliency and integrity.

Those values are lived out loud very publicly and visibly in the business of sports, Gulliver said, “especially during times when we are working to resolve challenges, including complex social issues such as the national anthem protests or domestic violence.”

“For example, as we worked to respond to how we would handle issues of domestic violence several years ago, that work resulted in recasting our personal conduct policy.”

“We also had an opportunity to step back and reflect on the fact that these policies really were a manifestation of our values. This led us to a league-wide discussion with current and retired players, coaches, owners, executives and employees to crystalize our values.”

A graduate of public schools and from a middle-class neighborhood in Yonkers, N.Y., Gulliver said ILR’s lower tuition as a land-grant college offered him a chance to join the Ivy League. ILR opened doors to opportunities he didn’t know existed.

At ILR, he first learned about sports as a business through Professor Buck Briggs in a sports arbitration class.

Gulliver says his best career decision was becoming a management consultant.

“Consulting is all about listening to clients, understanding their issues and pulling together the right team to thoughtfully solve business challenges. That is core to what I do now as an HR leader.”

He also worked as an HR executive for Wells Fargo and Citi, further developing an awareness of the importance of linking business and human resources strategy.

During his career, which included earning an MBA at Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business, he learned the importance of effective communications, which he notes includes not only the ability to share and convey messages, but to also be an active listener.

Building relationships with all people — colleagues, clients, stakeholders — became the heart of his work.

Peace in the workplace — Robert Gulliver’s quiet style embraces it, and judging by his place in the world, it seems to work.