Freedom to explore identity, purpose

Listening to Adrienne Corn ՚93 talk about her work, you quickly realize that she’s passionate about creating a conduit between people and meaningful work, between exploration, identification, and application—all of which are fundamental to a liberal arts education.

Adrienne Corn '93

It’s fitting that Corn correlates her time at Cornell with an era of exploration and personal growth. “I didn’t have parents who said you have to become a doctor or a lawyer—they didn’t prescribe what they thought I should be when I grew up,” says Corn. “Cornell became a place of freedom and ideas, exploration and personal development, and very much about identity—all of which are core themes in the work I do today.”

Corn is the founder and CEO of HumanTalented, an identity analytics and talent alignment company that recently launched their AI-driven talent alignment platform, which includes ID:Me, a product for individuals to understand and align their identity with the world of work; and HT Analytics for organizations, which aligns employees with work that best fits them and uses AI to foster talent-centric organizational cultures.

“Alignment is everything. If we’re misaligned, it affects everything we do—our work selves, our physical selves, and every part of our lives,” Corn says.

As Corn tried on various working hats in her 20s to figure out what best fit her, she began to think that there must be a better way to map careers and make work meaningful.

“It was never my grand plan to get a quantitative Ph.D.,” Corn says. “I was an English major at Cornell, a self-described ‘word girl,’ but through my doctoral work and my own research, I learned to love the language of statistics.”

Corn earned her Ph.D. from Vanderbilt University in 2013 and worked with the psychometrician Gale Roid. Her doctoral work focused on identity and occupational choice and persistence and their impact on organizational behavior and performance.

She’s authored a forthcoming book on identity analytics as well as research most recently focused on the impact that Gen X, Millennials, and Gen Z are having in a time of rapid change.

Corn believes that the confluence of generational culture shifts and the rise of AI are forcing organizations toward agile innovation in order to maintain their market share, including aligning their workforce with identity-driven work. Her company helps other organizations understand the value of identity analytics and agile talent alignment—both relatively new ideas.

Corn returned to the Hilltop in April 2018 to share a presentation on generational shifts. When speaking about the next generation of students that faculty will be teaching, Gen Z, she emphasized the importance of understanding the common values many Gen Zers share, including the desire for quick and relevant information that can be used to creatively contribute to the world.

“Gen Zers are asking themselves about the relevance of a college degree: What will I learn that is critical, deeply grounded but useful and longitudinally relevant?” Corn says. “How do I learn about who I am and how do I align that with what I know? Where and how will I apply this knowledge in order to make a unique contribution to the world?”

“We crave meaning in our work,” Corn says. “The personal characteristics that will matter in the future of work are identity variables like cognitive flexibility and emotional intelligence. These are attributes we should learn in college.”

Corn joined Cornell’s Board of Trustees in 2018.