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Seth  Harris

Seth Harris

Former Acting U.S. Secretary of Labor and Deputy U.S. Secretary of Labor


It took a man who takes no prisoners to help America escape a second Great Depression. When Seth Harris was appointed the Department of Labor's (DOL) Deputy Secretary and Chief Operating Officer in 2009, large parts of the DOL – and its $85 Billion annual budget – epitomized government bureaucracy. Fortunately for the American people, Harris identified and eradicated inefficiencies, and with a combination of driven leadership and a firm commitment to accountability, quickly and effectively transformed the DOL into the federal government’s best-performing department. Read More >

In addition to his management insights, Harris has decades of experience and expertise in labor and employment law and policy as a teacher, scholar, lawyer and policymaker at the highest levels of the U.S. Government. Harris brings his unique perspective on the global economy, the future of the workplace and the condition of America’s middle-class, as well as his insider’s knowledge of the Obama Administration and the federal government’s executive branch, to your audience.

Harris’ charismatic style of speaking is both practiced and passionate – smartly seasoned with notes of humor. After attending one of his popular presentations, you will understand why attendees such as President Bill Clinton praise Harris for being one of the best orators to come out of the government, as seen in the video on this page. With consistently captivated audiences, Harris imparts his knowledge, insights and passion to groups of all kinds and all sizes – freeing them to break out of their mold and achieve their goals.

Seth Harris left the Obama Administration in January 2014, and now exclusively speaks for American Program Bureau. He is a Distinguished Scholar at Cornell University and Counsel at Dentons, the global law firm. Read Less ^

Speaker Videos

President Clinton Recognizing Deputy Secretary Harr

NAWB Forum 2013 Keynote Address

Speech Topics

Is the Economy Affecting My Employees’ Morale? Tough Answers & Real Solutions

Businesses across America are dealing with employees who are frustrated, disappointed, or even angry about the state of their lives. These employees feel insecure in the present and worry about their families’ futures. They fear their economic position and societal status are slipping and could be lost entirely due to forces beyond their control. They no longer believe the institutions that are supposed to be looking out for them, including government, are working for them. They are concerned that their children will not have a fair shot at the American Dream. They want their fair share and are convinced they are not getting it. Prominent policymaker, keen economic observer and labor relations expert Seth Harris informs audiences about how developments in the American economy have affected U.S. workers’ outlook on their lives and their jobs. Harris also brings suggested solutions for businesses seeking to improve employee morale and performance in difficult economic times.

Big Data at Work: Keeping the People in People Analytics

The growing use of big data and predictive analytics to help address human capital and other work-related issues brings great opportunities, but also meaningful risks. Big data can help employers recruit the best qualified job applicants, improve the match between jobs and prospective employees, and reform work processes and workplace rules to maximize productivity, customer satisfaction, and employee retention. Big data promises that employees’ workplaces will be governed by merit and driven by data, not supervisors’ biases and outmoded notions about which job qualifications matter most. However, big data and predictive analytics can also raise grave concerns about workplace privacy, exploitation of workers and legal liability. Based on decades of experience addressing labor and employment issues as a teacher, scholar, lawyer and policymaker at the highest levels of the U.S. government, Seth Harris surveys the new and growing practice of people analytics and proposes a simple principle for using big data in the workplace: employers must be values-driven as well as data-driven. Harris helps audiences to understand that keeping the people in people analytics is the surest path to success.

Government Can Perform. No, Seriously!

In Spring 2009, Seth Harris became the Chief Operating Officer of the U.S. Department of Labor – an $85 billion, 17,000-employee federal Cabinet agency. He found a complex organization without a direction, a plan, or effective accountability and management systems. Using aggressive strategic planning, performance management and performance measurement, Harris brought the department's 28 operating units together and led a transformation of the Labor Department into an effective, evidence-driven governmental leader in performance management and measurement and program evaluation. Despite the failures in the implementation of President Obama’s health care law in 2013, Harris makes the case that government can be a high-performance organization. A recognized leader in government reform and performance, Harris brings his unique approach to building an effective performance measurement and management system to public-sector and private-sector audiences.

An Insider’s Perspective on Developments in Labor & Employment Law

Despite gridlock in Congress, the law governing workplaces and the relationships between employers and employees is changing rapidly. The federal agencies charged with administering dozens of labor and employment laws are re-writing and reinterpreting regulations, and significantly expanding and targeting enforcement efforts. Human resources professionals, labor and employment lawyers, small business owners, worker advocates and other observers of workplace law need assistance in keeping up with fast moving developments. Former U.S. Acting Secretary and Deputy Secretary of Labor, and nationally recognized labor and employment law scholar and teacher, Seth Harris is ready to help. Harris shaped many of the policies currently emerging from President Obama’s Department of Labor and drove change through an aggressive overhaul of the department’s performance and program evaluation systems. Harris understands and explains these changes in a way that only an insider and expert in the field can.