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Nine Questions









The next participant in The Field Guide‘s interview series – “Nine Questions” – with HR thought leaders is Rory C. Trotter, Jr. – one of my personal favorite HR bloggers (and all around connected HR pro) who is currently providing his services to Archer Daniels Midland. Below, Rory gives us his thoughts on everything from why HR is awesome, breaking down the future of HR with facts and data, talent management paradigms, using compensation where-with-all to look at ideas and notions big and small, leadership (following and becoming), and much more…


Tell me why what you do is rewarding, challenging, and I suspect in your opinion (and mine) quite awesome?

This is a fantastic question, but it’s one that’s difficult for me to answer because my day to day has changed so often over the past 18 months. I’m in an HR Leadership Development Program at Archer Daniels Midland. It’s been a fantastic opportunity that has seen me spend time as a Labor and Employee Relations Representative, Talent Acquisition Specialist, Compensation Analyst, and (presently) an HR Representative directly supporting a client group of 250+ employees. I’ve been a key player in multiple labor contract negotiations, managed the wage review process for an entire country, done analyses of executive compensation packages reviewed at both the CEO and board levels, and have had the opportunity to recruit for a variety of positions ranging from unskilled laborers to upper management. What I’ve loved most about my work has been its complexity and scope. The functional space I work within has changed every 6-8 months, and this has created a constant need for me to continuously educate myself, be flexible, and most importantly work hard. Everything I do is HR. When I’m not working on HR I’m reading or writing about the space (I also intend to get to some conferences when I finally find the time). The last two years or so have been the most professionally rewarding of my life.

Do you believe in the notion of professional regret? Why or why not? If so, what’s been your biggest professional regret?

I would say that I believe in the notion of professional regret (to lament over what could have been is to a certain extent to be human), but I have an even greater belief in moving forward. The thing about regret is that it by definition focuses on missed opportunities… but once a moment is in the past it’s in the past. You have to move on. With that said, one piece of advice that I would give to any young person is to get serious about your career early. I didn’t really start to focus on what I wanted to do with my life until my early 20s. By then you’re at a huge disadvantage compared against those who were engaged from the start. You have to work extremely hard to catch up to your peers in these cases. Time is finite, and opportunities dwindle as you get older for a variety of reasons I won’t get into now (though it’s a great topic for another day). Just know that this moment – right now – is when you should get serious about your future. Be restless, and have a sense of urgency. Always be thinking about what’s next. The earlier you start doing these things the more likely you are to maximize lifetime earnings (and end up doing something you love).

What do you think has been the most significant game changer in your specialty area of human resources over the last 5 years? Over the course of your career?

I don’t have one specialty area at present (as I said above I’ve spent time in lots of different functional spaces), but I’m a compensation guy at heart. With that said, I would say that the biggest game changer in compensation over the last 5 years or so has been the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. It has changed the way we compensate executives. It mandated (non-binding) shareholder say on pay votes every 1-3 years (which has empowered proxy advisory firms like the ISS and Glass Lewis), driven mandatory executive compensation no-fault clawbacks, and dramatically influenced best practice as it concerns disclosure of executive pay (and its alignment with performance). This has really created a shift to the center concerning executive pay (companies are terrified to fail say on pay votes), with the practical effect being that compensation committees are more concerned with aligning pay with TSR than designing a pay program that truly aligns pay with long term performance (TSR and performance are strongly correlated but not directly so). To be fair, some of the changes proposed by the Dodd-Frank act were probably truly needed (Dodd-Frank’s no-fault clawback policy creates additional incentives for CEO/CFO oversight of direct reports who might otherwise misstate financials), but by and large the act has negatively impacted the ability of boards to do effective plan designs.

Where do you see your area of specialty heading in the next 5 years? Do you think that’s a good or bad thing?

Sticking to the topic of compensation here (the specialty area I’m most passionate about), I think that on the executive comp front we’re headed for even more uniform plan design across companies. For non-executives I think we’re going to see merit increases start to trend upward as the economy continues to improve. The average worker isn’t seeing an increase in wages that’s aligned with increases in overall productivity. CEO’s received median raises of 11% last year in an economic climate in which the median for most people is 3%. Part of this can be attributed to the fact that CEOs are higher performers than the average worker, but not all of it. More importantly, setting aside questions of farness, the way that executives are compensated has created considerable social unrest. Average workers need to start seeing a greater share of the wealth they help create – if for no other reason than because social pressures will push companies in that direction sooner or later. By willingly giving the common employee a larger percentage of earnings (in the form of wages and equity) companies have the ability to direct the process (as opposed to allowing the government to do it for them via legislation).

In your opinion what’s the most important part of the talent management puzzle: attracting talent, acquiring talent, developing talent, or retaining talent – or something else entirely? Why?

This is a tough question. I lean towards two of these components being more important than the others – those two being acquiring talent and developing talent. I’ll (cautiously) say that developing talent is probably the more important of the two because if an organization develops talent well it’s the most cost effective way to build a deep bench/do effective succession planning. Fundamentally, in situations where organizations can’t afford to lose certain people it’s because they haven’t optimized the knowledge transfer process. A company that effectively develops its people and has strong succession planning should be able to seamlessly account for workforce turnover issues. With all that said… if an organization can’t find a way to bring the right people in (i.e. people with the interest and capacity to learn, mobility, cultural fit etc.) then it won’t have the assets required to build a talent rich bench… So I’d say that talent development and acquisition are the most important components of the talent management puzzle, with talent retention and attraction (the latter of which I view as a company branding issue mostly outside the scope of HR) taking a backseat.

What do you think is the biggest failure of most organizations when it comes to their talent management strategy? Is there an easy fix, a difficult one, or can it be fixed?

I’m not familiar enough with the talent management strategies of other (large cap?) companies to really answer this question. It’s a space I want to learn a lot more about, but I haven’t really deep dived into it quite yet. Anecdotally, I can say from talking with people over the years that a lot of companies don’t do a good job of being transparent as it concerns how their people can get development opportunities. As far as I can tell, most individuals leave their organizations because their direct managers don’t give them the chance to really grow in their careers (beyond existing job duties and responsibilities). Whether this is an employee perception problem or manager problem is unclear (probably a bit of both), but companies have got to do a better job of communicating (to their general employee populations) how to move up the corporate ladder. I don’t think this is easily done – if you meet someone at a large cap company who has succeeded in doing this on an organization wide level please tell me how it was done.

In your own words, define what it means to be a leader? Do you think anyone can become a leader? Why or why not?

I think most people can be leaders, but learning how to be an effective leader requires an open mind and self-awareness. Additionally, the earlier in one’s career one is given leadership responsibilities (and coaching around leadership) the better. I think that some people’s “cultural legacies” (i.e. their upbringing/experiences and the way those things shape attitudes/behaviors) make it very difficult for them to learn to be leaders. Deciding how much time and resources to invest into coaching said talent(s) is a decision every organization must make on a person by person basis.

In your opinion, what’s the biggest challenge facing human resources related professions and professionals today?

I would say that the biggest challenge facing the profession is attracting talent with the capability to reach senior management levels. Several years ago Fast Company wrote a great article touching on this issue. My take is that (in general) HR is marginalized in most organizations. As a support function it isn’t always valued by the business, and as such both the pay and status are relatively low (compared against revenue generators, creators and select support functions). Ergo, the people that have the potential be to world class HR executives typically go into other functional spaces instead. What HR needs is a Steve Jobs type figure – someone who does something transformative for the function and redefines the value proposition HR provides to organizations. When someone like that comes along we’re going to see a huge talent infusion into the profession.

What words of advice would you give to a college student considering a career in your field? To someone looking to transition careers? To someone in your field that is feeling burned out or turned off?

This is really three questions, so I’ll (quickly) answer each one as we’re over 1,700 words already. If you’re a college student looking to enter the space I would say to 1. Get as many HR internships as you can between now and graduation and 2. Don’t run away from math/numbers/financial statements. Both of these points are a huge source of comparative advantage (which equals more job offers/money when you graduate).

For someone looking to transition careers, I would say start internally. First be a high performer in your current role, and then look for opportunities to work on special projects that demonstrate your capability to perform at a high level within the function (this may sound tough, but career switching externally is typically even tougher). My advice on how to do this is going to vary considerably based on career stage, so I’ll just say that if you have any questions e-mail me (contact information is at the end of this post) and I’ll do my best to answer (or refer you to someone who can).

Finally, if you’re feeling burned out I would say do something else. Life is much too short to spend it doing something you hate (and if you’re reading this I’m going to make the assumption that you have the resources and education to make decisions around your career that aren’t strictly governed by the ability to pay the bills over the short term).


Rory Trotter is an HR leader with Fortune 50 experience in compensation, talent management and labor/employee relations. You can connect with him via Twitter (@RoryCTrotterJr) and read more of his thoughts on human resources at rorytrotter.com.

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The next participant in The Field Guide‘s interview series – “Nine Questions” – with HR thought leaders is William Tincup, CEO at Tincup & Co. and one of the leading voices in the game today on the crossroads of HR, social media, and technology. Below, William gives us his thoughts on everything from the notion of regret being a waste of effort, social and mobile and their impact on HR, leadership and steering both cars and organizations, the habit of organizations and HR to think too small, the HR tech (r)evolution, and much more…


Tell me why what you do is rewarding, challenging, and I suspect in your opinion (and mine) quite awesome?

I never have the same day twice. That fits me, that fits my personality. I love the chaos of not knowing what’s next. I have clients that I love. With DriveThruHR, I get to have an intelligent conversation each and every workday. I work from home… and with two young boys; I get to see them more often than I would if I had a “normal” job. I speak at a ton of HR conferences… which is awesome because I’m always learning new things. Dude, I live a charmed existence. Not for everyone but it fits me.

Do you believe in the notion of professional regret? Why or why not? If so, what’s been your biggest professional regret?

Regrets are a waste of intellect. Everything happens for a reason. The reason might not be clear now but over time it will become crystal clear. Don’t waste any time on regrets… personal or professional. Period.

What do you think has been the most significant game changer in your specialty area of human resources over the last 5 years? Over the course of your career?

Actually, it’s the combination of two things… social media and mobile technology… social has changed all of our expectations… in drastic and subtle ways. Ten years ago, we thought in terms of days and months… now, because of the immediacy of social… we think in terms of seconds, minutes and hours. Try this… think about the Bay of Pigs… the “decision” that JFK (and team) made was over the course of something like 10 days. If that happened today… President Obama would have a few hours to make the same decision. So, back to HR… our employees, candidates, leadership team, etc… our audiences… all of their expectations have changed. Period. Now, with mobile, what’s changed is access. Remember the days where we had to be tethered to a desktop? Yeah, that’s gone. Now we have access to almost everything we need 24/7… so the concept of working from a place is different. Because access has changed.

In terms of my career, I think the concept of free agency is game changing… where the two way street of loyalty has eroded to almost nonexistence. Both directions… employees have no loyalty to companies AND companies have no loyalty to employees. I could make a case for this being a HORRIFIC and/or a TERRIFIC thing… but, it is decidedly different from the typical employment relationships of my childhood. Time will tell whether free agency is a good or evil thing.

Where do you see your area of specialty heading in the next 5 years? Do you think that’s a good or bad thing?

HR Tech will evolve to be more and more about data, metrics, analytics, predictive, standards, etc. I love technology and data so I’ll probably thrive but those that don’t love tech and/or measurement probably need to find a new gig. HR will become more dependent on HR tech than ever.

In your opinion what’s the most important part of the talent management puzzle: attracting talent, acquiring talent, developing talent, or retaining talent – or something else entirely? Why?

I hate it when people say “it depends” because it’s just a fancy cop out. Retention is the only game in town. Everything we do in HR can be AND should be tied to retaining our A Players. Period. Everything in Talent Management is important… attraction, onboarding, performance, succession, compensation, engagement, training, development, etc., etc., etc… all important. Retention is critical… so slightly more important than the other things.

What do you think is the biggest failure of most organizations when it comes to their talent management strategy? Is there an easy fix, a difficult one, or can it be fixed?

No such thing as a valuable fix that is: fast, easy and/or cheap. If it is worth doing, then, turns out, it will probably be hard. But it will also be worthwhile. We are the sum of our talent…

In your own words, define what it means to be a leader? Do you think anyone can become a leader? Why or why not?

A great race car driver rides the line between arrogance and confidence. He/she knows that in order to be a great driver one has to test the limits. Arrogant enough to think they are faster than everyone else and not die in the process. Confident enough to believe in the life experiences they’ve had that will help shape the wins of the future. Great race car drivers spend 80% of the time looking through the windshield and 20% of the time looking in rear view mirrors.

I’m sorry what was the question again… oh wait… not everyone is a good driver much less a great driver.

In your opinion, what’s the biggest challenge facing human resources related professions and professionals today?

Our biggest issue is that we think too small. We’re petty. My mother would say… we’re penny wise and dollar stupid. We have to think on a grander scale. IMHO, we need to let go of the childish shit, pivot, and reward ourselves for thinking great thoughts… big thoughts… huge, outlandish thoughts. That’s when we’ll respect ourselves; moreover, that’s when the world will respect us collectively.

What words of advice would you give to a college student considering a career in your field? To someone looking to transition careers? To someone in your field that is feeling burned out or turned off?

For anyone that wants to be great at HR over the next 20 years… take some night classes in statistics and coding. Everything in HR revolves around math and stats… so, raise your proficiency. Period. Get on this train or get run over by it. In terms of coding, it’s important to understand how data flows. Having a basic understanding of code will help you immeasurably… in your career in HR and in general. Again, we’re all getting more technical NOT less so over the next two decades…

William Tincup is the CEO of HR consultancy Tincup & Co. He is one of the country’s leading thinkers on social media application for human resources, an expert on adoption of HR technology and damn fine marketer. William has been blogging about HR related issues since 2007. He’s a contributor to Fistful of Talent, HRTechEurope and HRExaminer and also co-hosts a daily HR podcast called DriveThruHR. Tweet him @williamtincup and check him out on Facebook and LinkedIn. Not up to speed in the social media game? Reach out via email.

He serves on the Board of Advisors for Insynctive, Causecast, Work4Labs, PeopleReport, Jurify, AppLearn, StrengthsInsight, The Workforce Institute, PeopleMatter, SmartRecruiters, Ajax Workforce Marketing and is a 2013 Council Member for The Candidate Experience Awards. He also serves on the Board of Directors for Chequed.

William is a graduate of the University of Alabama of Birmingham with a BA in Art History. He also earned a MA from the University of Arizona and a MBA from Case Western Reserve University


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The next participant in The Field Guide‘s interview series – “Nine Questions” – with HR thought leaders is Jane Watson, a senior HR practitioner and blogger extraordinaire over at Talent Vanguard (one of the best blogs, post-for-post, in the HR field). Below, Jane gives us her thoughts on everything from the ever changing demands of HR, the future of the field, not looking back on career regrets, the realities of working in the field vs. the idea of human resources, and much more…


Tell me why what you do is rewarding, challenging, and I suspect in your opinion (and mine) quite awesome?

I love that I am never, ever bored. Every role, every day, is different. I embrace the ambiguity, analysis, and problem solving that are inherent in most HR positions. I studied Anthropology in my undergrad, and while I understand that some people don’t see the connection, I feel that it has a strong link to what I do I now. Organizations, at their most basic level, are large groups of people trying to work together to accomplish a series of common goals and strategies. Culture, human dynamics, membership politics, and social identities- all of these can support or detract from an organization’s effectiveness as a whole. That’s why every day is a little bit like fieldwork for me. 

Do you believe in the notion of professional regret? Why or why not? If so, what’s been your biggest professional regret?

I definitely believe in the notion, but I feel very lucky to not have any significant professional regrets of my own…not yet anyway. I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have had so many great opportunities to say ‘yes’- to learning new things, taking on new challenges. I’ll admit that I’ve cheated a bit by making it a priority to always find great mentors- they’ve shared their regrets in hopes I can avoid them. 

What do you think has been the most significant game changer in your specialty area of human resources over the last 5 years? Over the course of your career? 

I don’t really think of myself as having one specialty- I’m more of a generalist, but most of the areas I tend to focus on – training, performance, recruiting – have been hugely impacted by technology in recent years. And I think it’s really just the tip of the iceberg. E-Learning is now placing a stronger focus on quality and learner experience, now that many of us have automated performance processes we can hopefully now rethink our approach to them, and recruiting has changed dramatically due to social tools. It’s all very exciting, provided that you’re not just focused on the shiny tech at the expense of solid practices… 

Where do you see your area of specialty heading in the next 5 years? Do you think that’s a good or bad thing?

Well, because I’m more of a generalist I think about the future of HR as a whole. There are a lot of opinions out there- some dark, some rosy – and if I’m honest my viewpoint is equally ambivalent. Great HR can make organizations function better, but poorly executed HR is all that its critics claim and worse. I’ve written about how we are transforming as a profession, but there are days that I worry it’s just not happening fast enough, or that we’re transforming into the wrong thing. I do feel strongly that it’s good to talk and write about those concerns, because we can’t just cheer on ‘Team HR’ if we’re the only ones cheering. We need to take frequent and honest looks in the mirror. 

In your opinion what’s the most important part of the talent management puzzle: attracting talent, acquiring talent, developing talent, or retaining talent – or something else entirely? Why?

That’s a tricky question. I don’t think that you can claim that one of these pieces in general is more important than the others. It depends so much on the particular organization’s industry, goals, and strengths/weaknesses. What I will say is that developing and retaining talent are highly complex and necessarily personalized efforts, and I think most organizations struggle to deliver on these in a meaningful way, especially since the recent trend has been to cut costs in these areas. So, I think more focus could and should be brought to these areas. 

What do you think is the biggest failure of most organizations when it comes to their talent management strategy? Is there an easy fix, a difficult one, or can it be fixed? 

The biggest failure is trying to blindly duplicate someone else’s strategy, or worse yet implement traditional ‘best practices’, without putting in the time and effort to assess what their own organization really requires. It’s just cosmetic, when we should be analyzing the specific gaps and opportunities that exist in our organizations right now. There’s a lot of ‘Well, I hear that everybody is doing X…‘ or: ‘Let’s create a Program Y, because Zappos is doing it, and we want to be like them.” Putting on a tutu does not make you a ballerina. And in fact, not everyone can or should be a ballerina. This can be fixed, but it’s a tough shift in mindset. 

In your own words, define what it means to be a leader? Do you think anyone can become a leader? Why or why not? 

The best leaders I’ve ever known we’re people who were truly passionate about a particular goal or cause, and interested in engaging others in that pursuit. They were fair, and they treated people equally, because they recognized that leadership is fragile; you’re only a leader as long as people want to follow you. I believe that almost anyone is capable of being a leader in the right context; you just have to be able to authentically engage others in what you care about. It seems like our society gets hung up on a misguided ‘Leader’ archetype sometimes- someone who’s tough, never wrong, forever a hero. But that’s not realistic, and I think it can blind us to the innate ability that most people have to be leaders in some capacity. 

In your opinion, what’s the biggest challenge facing human resources related professions and professionals today? 

In a word- value. We need to show that we can deliver measureable value. The opportunity is there – top-of-mind concerns like retention, the perceived talent gap, and employee engagement are all issues that HR as a profession should be well positioned to tackle. But I think many HR folks struggle to deliver in a meaningful way in these areas because many of us still lack the skills to do so. We should remember that in many organizations HR is still a purely tactical, administrative function, and even where it is not, the requisite grounding in business, finance and data analytics might be lacking. I’m not saying we need to become accountants or statisticians, but we need to at least understand the language, and become more evidence-based. 

What words of advice would you give to a college student considering a career in your field? To someone looking to transition careers? To someone in your field that is feeling burned out or turned off? 

I would (and do) tell college students considering HR that if they are only interested because they consider themselves to be “people persons” (or “because they don’t like computers” –that’s an actual quote) that it won’t be quite what they expect. Today, HR pros entering the field need to be tech and business savvy, analytical, comfortable with ambiguity, and both capable and interested in looking at the big picture. Oh, and find a good mentor! As for someone who is burned out, I’d tell them to go work in another part of their organization for a few years and then consider coming back to HR. My hope is that the way in which progressive organizations practice HR will change quite a bit in the coming years, and working in another area of the business will surely make you a better HR person in the long run. 

Jane Watson is a senior HR practitioner based in Toronto, and the author of the blog Talent Vanguard. In the last 10 years she’s worked across most functional areas of HR in the financial services, non-profit, design, food processing, and hospitality sectors, and is transitioning into a role in the public sector as you read this. She is an active volunteer for HRPA Ontario and HRPA Toronto, where she sits on the Mentorship Program Committee, as well as acting as a mentor through Fanshawe College and ACCES employment. She would love for you to find her on Twitter at: @jsarahwatsHR or at www.talentvanguard.com.

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The next participant in The Field Guide‘s interview series – “Nine Questions” – with HR thought leaders is Dwane Lay, Head of HR Process Design at Dovetail Software. Below, Dwane gives us his thoughts on everything from personal growth vs. career regrets, the role of Lean in HR and beyond, breaking not just into HR but building career opportunities for yourself, and much more…

Tell me why what you do is rewarding, challenging, and I suspect in your opinion (and mine) quite awesome?

I look at human resources differently than a lot of others, I think. There’s an ongoing hue and cry for more respect as a “business leader,” and I totally understand that. But I think in doing so, we miss a bigger piece of the impact we can have not just on our organization, but on society.

A significant piece of the HR world is dealing with pay, benefits, retirement, security and so forth. Those all break down to the same thing. They are means by which a person cares for themselves and their loved one. When they come to us for help in these areas, it is to address a concern they have outside of the workplace. And as most of us have long ago realized, those concerns trump anything happening in the office. If you have life issues to handle, work issues are suddenly not so difficult. We are in that special space that takes care of those problems. We make home more safe and secure.

That’s the part of human resources that has always appealed to me. Even as a process guy who masquerades as an HR guy, I can see the power in that mindset every day. When I work with clients, my goal is to make them more efficient and effective in handling those issues.

Do you believe in the notion of professional regret? Why or why not? If so, what’s been your biggest professional regret?

Certainly. I think, though, there is a difference between a regret and a mistake. We make mistakes constantly, many of which we don’t recognize. But a regret, to me, is an indicator that if we could do something different, we would have. And I think most people have at least a few.

While I don’t regret where my professional path has led me, there are things I would do different in retrospect. Without getting too detailed, I can think of interactions with managers, peers and direct reports over the years that I would handle another way now. I suppose that’s an indicator of growth. If we don’t learn from our experiences, there’s no reason to ever want to modify past behavior. In that regard, I would hope everyone has a little professional regret.

What do you think has been the most significant game changer in your specialty area of human resources over the last 5 years? Over the course of your career?

If I think of my “area” as process improvement, I suppose it is that it exists at all. For a long time, HR looked at itself as being all about people, which is still true to some extent. The closest we came to being a true business function, in many ways, was using a shared services approach to gain economies of scale and reduce costs. But I think we are moving toward a more cooperative, innovative environment where we know there’s more to efficiency than just centralization. To get there requires taking a hard look at how we do our work, and where we can be most effective. I love being part of those conversations.

Where do you see your area of specialty heading in the next 5 years? Do you think that’s a good or bad thing?

Hopefully we will see more of Lean thinking applied in partnerships. One of the really interesting things about the Toyota approach that hasn’t yet been leveraged is the way they work with vendors as part of their design phase. They don’t look for the lowest bid to provide parts. Instead, they involve their vendors in early stages to design a system, be it steering, braking, transmission or whatever, to create the best total solution. But even after the vendor is selected, they tend to maintain relations with other vendors so they always have supplier options.

We too often look at vendors as interchangeable and strictly a parts provider, even in HR. When was the last time you involved an outside recruiter in succession planning or talent management discussions? Think about the impact they could have in sourcing candidates to fill needs not just for today, but long term. It’s a totally different way to look at them, but has massive implications.

In your opinion what’s the most important part of the talent management puzzle: attracting talent, acquiring talent, developing talent, or retaining talent – or something else entirely? Why?

To me, talent management includes all of those things. But the key, I think, is development. It’s rare you will find someone perfect for your current needs, let alone long term. So being able to find the right person for today is only half the work. Assuming you are planning to grow, your people need to grow as well.

We used to offer lifetime employment to workers. That’s obviously no longer the case. Instead, your best bet is to offer lifetime employability. Come to work for us, and we will not only challenge you and treat you well, we will make sure you develop so that if we ever have to part ways, you won’t have a problem finding a new home. That’s a pretty compelling story to tell for recruiting, it keeps your relationship with employees strong, and it makes you a better company overall.

What do you think is the biggest failure of most organizations when it comes to their talent management strategy? Is there an easy fix, a difficult one, or can it be fixed?

Failure to align talent development with the business plan. I like to ask HR people how many of them have read their business plan. So far, it’s about a quarter. How can you execute a talent strategy if you have no idea what your business will look like in three years? It’s a massive failure on the part of HR, I think. Reading the plan won’t fix everything, but is a huge step forward.

In your own words, define what it means to be a leader? Do you think anyone can become a leader? Why or why not?

Defining a leader is tough. It may be easier to define the traits I would expect to see. A leader should be trustworthy and loyal, decisive but inclusive, able to both take and give feedback, and able to remain calm under pressure. But even with all that, you’re only a leader if you inspire others to follow. And that’s usually the tough part. Too many people think leadership is a title, when nothing could be further from the truth in business.

Can anyone become a leader? I’ve had a lot of arguments over this one. I think that leadership can be developed, and anyone can learn to lead to some extent. But I also believe that great leaders have a few innate traits, including charisma, presence and personality, that can’t be taught. So anyone can learn to lead, but the great ones have a head start.

In your opinion, what’s the biggest challenge facing human resources related professions and professionals today?

Pressure to be smarter in the ways of business with inadequate training. Too many people end up in HR without a business background, so you have departments with little knowledge on the subject. Either that, or you get a leader who understands business surrounded with a team that does not. And as we all know, HR tends to be left behind when it comes to talent management and development.

We have to make sure we are devoting enough time to bridge our own gaps if we are going to be truly effective at doing the same for others.

What words of advice would you give to a college student considering a career in your field? To someone looking to transition careers? To someone in your field that is feeling burned out or turned off?

Don’t specialize in HR. Even if you really want to be part of it, focus on something more pertinent in business. I always say get an MBA, and if you really want to specialize in something, make it Finance. A Master’s Degree in HR can work in HR, but Finance can go work anywhere. Make yourself as marketable as possible.

For those already down the road a bit, don’t be afraid to move in and out of employee facing roles. I think a mixed background is a valuable one. Not only are you better at what you do, you can show a willingness to learn. If you aren’t getting that opportunity to do so at your job, take some ownership and go learn on your own. Nothing shows initiative like willfully improving yourself.

The most valuable skill you can bring to the market is the ability to execute. All else being equal, I’ll take someone with completed projects, even if they weren’t all successful. Make sure you can define your accomplishments in ways that will matter outside of your own organization, and you’ll never want for opportunities.

Dwane Lay is the Head of HR Process Design for Dovetail Software, a leading provider of HR case management and employee request management. With over fifteen of HR and leadership experience, he has helped numerous organizations overhaul their practice, processes and technology. He also presents a variety of topics to professional audiences and is the author at LeanHRBlog.com. He is recognized as a leading authority on the application of Lean tools and techniques in Human Resources, as well as having a wealth of experience in applying business technology to improve HR processes. He is a well known presence on the HR social media landscape.

Dwane holds an MBA from Lindenwood University, as well as having earned a Six Sigma Black Belt and is a certified Senior Professional of Human Resources with HCRI. He can be found on a variety of platforms, including Twitter (@DwaneLay) and Facebook (facebook.com/dtlay).

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The next participant in The Field Guide‘s interview series – “Nine Questions” – with HR thought leaders is Jeff Pattison, Director of Human Resources at Apria Healthcare. Below, Jeff gives us his thoughts on everything from not looking back on career regrets, the foundation of real leadership, finding yourself in terms of your career, and much more…

Tell me why what you do is rewarding, challenging, and I suspect in your opinion (and mine) quite awesome?

Bottom line- I get to make our organization better by helping ensure that people who want and deserve more responsibility get it and those that need a different employer to be successful get that too! I enjoy seeing people succeed who combine hard work, on-going learning and great people skills together.

Do you believe in the notion of professional regret? Why or why not? If so, what’s been your biggest professional regret?

No. Every step along the way has led me to where I am now. Since I enjoy what I do, that leaves no room for regret. Without many of the mistakes I’ve made, I wouldn’t be able to provide the guidance that I do (from experience).

What do you think has been the most significant game changer in your specialty area of human resources over the last 5 years? Over the course of your career?

From a recruiting standpoint, social media has created an even greater need to network well in order to be successful whether you are searching for a position or looking for people to fill positions. We have so much info at our fingertips if we want it and yet nothing replaces human interaction. It still trumps everything else as it always has.

Where do you see your area of specialty heading in the next 5 years? Do you think that’s a good or bad thing?

When it comes to recruiting and employee relations, I think we will continue to battle with how to find and keep the best people. Networking will continue to be critical to getting the best. There is no shortage of people to fill jobs. There is too commonly a shortage of really good, reliable people with strong values to fill some positions. Organizations need to slow down and do a great job of finding those people and then treat them well. We say it all the time, but so few actually do a really good job of it.

In your opinion what’s the most important part of the talent management puzzle: attracting talent, acquiring talent, developing talent, or retaining talent – or something else entirely? Why?

I would say acquiring talent that wants to learn and has great values. Again, there is no shortage of people who want/need jobs. But we don’t want people who just want a J-O-B so that they can get a paycheck. The best organizations do things to attract and keep people who like the paycheck, but like what they do and accomplish even more.

What do you think is the biggest failure of most organizations when it comes to their talent management strategy? Is there an easy fix, a difficult one, or can it be fixed?

I think many times we move too fast. We don’t do a good enough job of investing time and effort up front to make sure the best people are hired. There are some places that do a great job and that is typically evident in their level of success. Slow down. Get truly good people from diverse backgrounds. Give them tools to succeed and get out of the way.

In your own words, define what it means to be a leader?  Do you think anyone can become a leader? Why or why not?

Being a leader means being the one who sets the tone. That means attitude, work ethic, values, etc. The key is to stand alongside those you lead. Don’t be afraid to show them that you don’t know everything. I do think anyone can learn to be a leader. Like anything, it comes easier for some than others, but it can certainly be learned by simply studying those who do a great job of it.

In your opinion, what’s the biggest challenge facing human resources related professions and professionals today?

We need to continue to connect with other leaders. Despite all the changes in business, human interaction is still king. We can study the business up and down and have many strategic ideas, but until we network ourselves internally, we will struggle to have the opportunity to present those ideas and show what difference we can make.

What words of advice would you give to a college student considering a career in your field? To someone looking to transition careers?  To someone in your field that is feeling burned out or turned off?

Take time to really know yourself first and what part of HR is the right fit. “HR” is a broad field. Network with those who are already in the field and can give you a feel for what their path has looked like. Do that with multiple people. A lot of insight can be gained from doing so. When you start on the right path from the beginning, you’ll do less backtracking. That said, for those making a transition, your experience in any other aspect of business is valuable and can definitely lend itself to a faster track, but you also need to use your network to get there.

Before joining Apria Healthcare six years ago, Jeff Pattison worked for Anheuser-Busch for 5 ½ years, primarily focused on recruiting and hiring at all levels for the corporate office. Prior to that, he also spent 3 years working for Edward Jones in St. Louis where he was largely involved with recruiting efforts. Since joining Apria, Jeff has seen his career transition to directing a team of HR professionals in a full scope of HR activities, including employee relations, training and development and performance management while working closely with senior leaders. Jeff is also passionate about helping people get where they want to go by learning to better network and connect with others. He commonly speaks to HR pros, students and other groups about the benefits of networking whether they are HR people trying to get “a seat at the table”, trying to find and keep talent or a job seeker looking for the right opportunity. He lives in St. Louis with his wife and two sons, eight and one. You can connect with him on LinkedIn, Twitter (@pattisonjeff) or at www.jeffpattison.com.
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The next participant in The Field Guide‘s interview series – “Nine Questions” – with HR thought leaders is Nancy Aebersold, Founder and Executive Director of the National Higher Education Recruitment Consortium. Below, Ms. Aebersold gives us her thoughts on everything from securing a seat at the proverbial table, the challenges of HR in higher education, the how and what of leadership, professional regret and the joys of gourmet dining, and much more…

Tell me why what you do is rewarding, challenging, and I suspect in your opinion (and mine) quite awesome?

As the founder of the first Higher Education Recruitment Consortium (HERC) in Northern California and now as Executive Director of HERC’s central headquarters, the most rewarding aspect of what I do is knowing that each and every day highly qualified and diverse jobseekers are finding positions that interest them on the HERC jobs websites and that we’re providing free, easy-to-use job search tools and a gateway to some of the best jobs at over 600 of the best institutions in the U.S. At any given time there are over 18,000 jobs available on the websites.

HERC has also put a spotlight on the critical need to provide opportunities to dual-career couples. Over 72% of faculty members are partnered. We’ve been a leader in this area and have made a measurable impact. HERC recognizes that we’re not just recruiting individuals anymore, we’re recruiting families.

I also find it personally rewarding when I meet jobseekers and dual-career couples in person (often at conferences) who have found their “dream jobs” through HERC. I’ve always worked in “helping professions” and having an opportunity to interact with individuals and couples who have been helped by HERC is a HUGE source of inspiration.

Do you believe in the notion of professional regret? Why or why not? If so, what’s been your biggest professional regret?

I tend to look forward and not backward in both life and in work, except during those important moments that need reflection so that you can improve and “do better next time.” I can’t say I have many professional regrets except possibly one…when I was 21 years old I was introduced to culinary legend Alice Waters of Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California. We immediately hit it off and soon after she offered me the very coveted job to be her #2 in her administrative offices. It was a flattering, exciting, somewhat mind-blowing offer that certainly would have been life and career changing. Working closely with someone who started a world-wide movement with the somewhat straightforward idea of preparing the freshest, most unadulterated food and paying homage to those who grow the food would have been inspiring. She surrounds herself with an incredible team and being part of that team would have been transformative in ways I can only imagine.

In the end I turned down the opportunity to pursue a MA in Counseling Psychology. I have to admit, one aspect I probably regret most is all of the gorgeous meals I would have enjoyed because the illustrious kitchen was just upstairs from my would-be office.

What do you think has been the most significant game changer in your specialty area of human resources over the last 5 years? Over the course of your career?

HERC helps campuses collaborate on recruitment and retention issues. The hiring slowdown, shrinking recruitment budgets, and inadequate funds for staffing in many HR offices have all posed significant challenges. In some respects, HERC has been an anecdote to some of these stresses since we use collaboration and the pooling of resources to help campuses get more done with fewer resources. In fact, the first HERC was founded in Northern California in 2000 during one of the worst economic downturns in the state and those original 19 founding institutions saw the wisdom of banning together for a common purpose – to recruit and retain the most outstanding and diverse faculty, staff, and administrators and assist dual-career couples.

Where do you see your area of specialty heading in the next 5 years? Do you think that’s a good or bad thing?

Higher education will continue to be hiring and in fact, employee recruitment needs are on the rise. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that between 2010 -2020 post- secondary faculty employment will rise 17% (that’s 3% higher than the growth rate for all occupations) and an estimated 305,000 new faculty jobs will be created. An additional 2.5 million faculty will be hired to replace existing faculty members. Those numbers don’t include the many staff and administrators our campuses will also recruit. For HERC this is a good thing. We have laid the groundwork to help our member institutions be more effective in tapping into a pool of diverse and highly educated candidates and help jobseekers with associated needs such as finding a job within a commutable distance for a dual-career partner and providing relocation resources.

In your opinion what’s the most important part of the talent management puzzle: attracting talent, acquiring talent, developing talent, or retaining talent – or something else entirely? Why?

I find it difficult to isolate any of these important pieces of the talent management puzzle. To complete the puzzle, you have to have to invest in them all and have the institutional vision, leadership, commitment, systems, cooperation and well trained employees on the front line to be effective as an organization. I also am a big believer in collaboration. HERC plays a critical function in this regard and brings organizations together that don’t otherwise have an opportunity to join forces on addressing talent management issues.

What do you think is the biggest failure of most organizations when it comes to their talent management strategy? Is there an easy fix, a difficult one, or can it be fixed?

I find it a bit hard to globalize because there are institutions doing great things in the talent management area. As far as challenges I’ve observed, I’d say: limited budgets, HR staff turnover, inadequate strategic planning, and HR being perceived as transactional paper pushers and not transformative talent management leaders and therefore isolated from institutional leadership and institutional-wide planning. In fact, there’s a great book related to this topic that some colleagues within the HERC community wrote entitled, Human Resources at the Cabinet’s Table: A Guidebook for HR Transformation in Higher Education, Heuer, Danielson, and Robole (2012). Check it out for great ideas for addressing some of these challenges.

In your own words, define what it means to be a leader?  Do you think anyone can become a leader? Why or why not?

First, leadership means being a sponge. As a sponge, I am always taking in new notions, best practices, visual information, cues from my colleagues, and great ideas from other organizations. For me, it’s important to steep myself in all of these things and use what I learn to be effective in addressing our organizational vision and mission, communicate with our many stakeholders, and advocate for what I feel is best for our organization.

Second, leadership means to be inspired and be inspiring. I’m a big online and traditional print reader, conference goer, webinar attender, and appreciator of art and design. I am inspired by what I learn and sometimes in the unlikeliest of places and try to inspire others by bringing new ways of thinking, doing, and addressing the needs of our organization to those I work with.

Third, leadership means sometimes generating new ideas and making decisions that make some folks uncomfortable. As a leader I’ve learned to be okay with occasionally being unpopular and keeping my eyes on the big picture of the mission and goals of our  organization.

Forth, leadership means knowing when to back away. Sometimes it’s important to pull back and wait to move an initiative forward when the timing doesn’t feel right or the consensus isn’t there.

Fifth, leadership means admitting when you’re wrong or something’s not working. I’m an advocate of the “rip off the Band-Aid” approach when it comes to these situations.

In your opinion, what’s the biggest challenge facing human resources related professions and professionals today?

Simple. Not enough time to do it all.

What words of advice would you give to a college student considering a career in your field? To someone looking to transition careers?  To someone in your field that is feeling burned out or turned off?

What I do is association management in the higher education human resources and faculty development field. There aren’t a lot of advanced degree programs in the association management sector but there are in higher education administration. A great resources for learning more about association management and even becoming a Certified Association Executive (CAE) (something I’m in the process of doing myself) is the ASAE: The Center for Association Leadership, http://www.asaecenter.org. They have great online resources, webinars, courses, annual meetings, books and a fantastic community of professionals with deep experience in association management. They also have a mentoring program. I highly recommend becoming a member and taking advantage of all this organization has to offer. 

In the spring of 2000, Ms. Aebersold founded the Northern California Higher Education Recruitment Consortium (HERC) while working in the Provost’s Office at the University of California, Santa Cruz and she currently serves as Executive Director of the HERC’s central office. HERC is a non-profit consortium of over 600 colleges, universities, hospitals, research labs, government agencies, and related non- and for-profit organizations. Consortium members share a commitment to hiring the most diverse and talented faculty, staff, and executives. HERC offers jobseekers access to over 18,000 jobs at any given time.

Hiring decisions often involve two careers. HERC provides jobseekers with the most job opportunities and unsurpassed search technology, enabling dual-career couples to find the right jobs within a commutable distance of one another.

Ms. Aebersold is recognized within the Academy as a program expert in the dual-career field and has spoken widely at professional conferences on the topic, including: the American Council on Education, the College and University Professional Association- Human Resources (CUPA-HR), the National Conference on Race and Ethnicity in Higher Education (NCORE), and the ADVANCE Big 12 Workshop on Faculty Diversity to name a few. Ms. Aebersold was interviewed for two of the most influential research studies on dual-career issues in the Academy: Schiebinger, Henderson, and Gilmartin’s, Dual-Career Academic Couples: What Universities Need to Know, published by the Michelle R. Clayman Institute for Gender Research at Stanford University in 2008; and Wolf-Wendel’s, The Two-Body Problem: Dual-Career Couple Hiring Practices in Higher Education, published by Johns Hopkins University Press in 2003. She was also interviewed for articles on the topic which have appeared in the New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Boston Globe, and Diverse: Issues in Higher Education and featured in a story about dual-career issues in the Academy for National Public Radio’s nationally syndicated “Marketplace” program.

Ms. Aebersold holds a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from the University of California, Santa Cruz and a Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology from John F. Kennedy University. 
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The next participant in The Field Guide’s interview series – “Nine Questions” – with HR thought leaders is Matt Adams, Chief Talent Strategist for NAS Recruitment Communications. Below, Matt gives us his thoughts on everything from recruitment as a customer focused function, the evolving demands on HR leadership, some helpful advice for job seeks, and much more…

Tell me why what you do is rewarding, challenging, and I suspect in your opinion (and mine) quite awesome?

Awesome is a great word for it. I learned a long time ago how rewarding it is to not only find your own dream job but to help someone else find theirs. As a marketer I’ve always taken special pride in knowing that my efforts don’t just push a product. Recruitment marketing actually helps organizations find great talent (and vice versa). The best part of my job is hearing the end results of a successful campaign and thinking about how our part in the process positively affected the lives involved.

Do you believe in the notion of professional regret? Why or why not? If so, what’s been your biggest professional regret?

Yes. I think that if we are honest with ourselves, regret is a natural part of life, both personally and professionally. The “What could have been?” line of thinking haunts everyone. The question then becomes what you do with that feeling. The mindset I’ve always tried to take is that regret is a natural part of evolution and a critical component of the learning process. In reality, most of the decisions I make are shaped by previous failure(s). Ultimately that helps me get better at what I do.  

What do you think has been the most significant game changer in your specialty area of human resources over the last 5 years? Over the course of your career?

The last five years have brought a virtual lifetime of evolution to the recruitment marketing space. When you couple the highest unemployment rates that most of us have seen in our lifetimes with the advent of social media and mobile communications, it is hard to recognize where things were five years ago. If I had to name the single most significant game changer, I’d probably have to say social media. Social media has changed the very fabric of communication and has permanently altered the way organizations correspond with candidates. It is fascinating to watch and we have only just begun.

Where do you see your area of specialty heading in the next 5 years? Do you think that’s a good or bad thing?

As much as things have changed over the past five years, I believe the pace of change moving forward will only accelerate. The mega shift we are witnessing, in part thanks to social media and smart phones, is a change from ‘advertising’ based communications to ‘marketing solutions’. Word of mouth has always been a powerful method of persuasion and with the technology platforms available now it is exploding. As far as the net affect of these trends I believe they are inherently positive. A world with more open, transparent and real time communication provides power for people to make better and more effective decisions.  

In your opinion what’s the most important part of the talent management puzzle: attracting talent, acquiring talent, developing talent, or retaining talent – or something else entirely? Why?

I’ve always been partial to the attraction of talent. If you begin with the right talent both from a skill and from a cultural perspective, everything else becomes that much easier. To me that makes it the most critical piece of the puzzle.  

What do you think is the biggest failure of most organizations when it comes to their talent management strategy? Is there an easy fix, a difficult one, or can it be fixed?

To be blunt, the biggest failure I see is organizations that do not treat candidates as if they were customers. Candidates are indeed customers and treating them as anything less is doing your organization a huge disservice. The talent supply and demand dynamics certainly ebb and flow but as the unemployment rate continues to recover, we will definitely see organizations begin paying attention to the candidate experience once again. It won’t be easy but with commitment and some help from new sourcing technologies it can certainly be done.  

In your own words, define what it means to be a leader? Do you think anyone can become a leader? Why or why not?

Leaders come in all shapes and sizes and there are certainly many effective leadership styles. To me, the most effective leaders are the ones who lead by example. A leader who is not afraid to practice what she preaches or dig in to help where needed shows that they care beyond the words that they speak.

In your opinion, what’s the biggest challenge facing human resources related professions and professionals today?

Two things: a skills gap and resource limitations. The skills required of today’s HR leader are very different than they used to be. Leaders today must be savvy communicators, forward thinking marketers and metrics driven. This is a unique skill set that varies greatly from what the job required in the past. Shrinking this gap is a challenge we are likely to face for some time. In addition, the strain of resources has choked many HR leaders from doing what they know is right for their organizations. HR Technology has evolved rapidly and funding has not been allocated to the level necessary to invest in solutions that could improve their work output and productivity. My prediction is change will come but only after the pain is acute. There are some forward leaning organizations who have the vision and resources necessary to move forward and I believe they will be the clear winners as the economy continues to rebound.  

What words of advice would you give to a college student considering a career in your field? To someone looking to transition careers? To someone in your field that is feeling burned out or turned off? 

I’d offer the same advice to all of the above and that is to ‘Be Nimble’. The ones who fall behind are the ones who are unwilling or unable to change. We all feel trepidation in regards to change but that is the constant in today’s business climate. Above all else, be open to trying new things and exploring the possibility of what could be.

Anything else you would like to add?

Just a thank you to you Erik. Erik and I have never met. We’ve never spoken over the phone. But I came across his blog recently and reached out via LinkedIn. We connected and the result is this blog post. The sharing of ideas and the openness for collaboration are virtues that I greatly admire and I applaud him for taking the time to share his world purview with all of us. Keep it up my friend!

Matt Adam serves as EVP & Chief Talent Strategist for NAS Recruitment Communications, a leading provider of innovative recruitment marketing and human resource communications solutions. Matt has worked with a wide-variety of organizations to develop effective recruitment marketing strategies that define and shape an organization’s recruiting efforts in today’s digital marketplace. Matt is a featured industry keynote speaker on Best of Class Career Websites, Employment Branding and Mobile Recruiting Technologies. He can be reached at madam@nasrecruitment.com or via LinkedIn.

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The next participant in The Field Guide’s interview series – “Nine Questions” – with HR thought leaders is Jack Dempsey, CEO of Pretium Solutions. Below, Jack gives us his thoughts on everything from the future of training, getting a seat at “the table,” the challenges tied to successful talent management, growing through adversity and more…

Tell me why what you do is rewarding, challenging, and I suspect in your opinion (and mine) quite awesome?

I help individuals be more successful in their professional and personal environments. I have learned common sense is not commonly practiced. An individual who performs well in their professional position improves their business. Improved businesses provide a valuable service and stable incomes for employees and fair returns for their investors.

It is challenging because change is threatening and causes fear. We push people out of their comfort zones where they can improve and grow both professionally and personally.

Do you believe in the notion of professional regret? Why or why not? If so, what’s been your biggest professional regret?

Regret? Yes I do believe in it. As you grow and you realize your past performance could have been improved with a different approach using new skills. You will naturally have some regrets. It is these regrets that create the change today you need to make. Regrets shouldn’t control your life they should be learning points in your journey. My personal regret is not finishing my college degree right after high school. Going back as an adult with a family is much more difficult. Hindsight is 20/20!  

What do you think has been the most significant game changer in your specialty area of human resources over the last 5 years? Over the course of your career?

The biggest game changer has been the move from a command and control management environment to a true teaming environment. Generation X and Y have changed the communication and contributions of all employees, some companies are having a difficult time adapting.

Where do you see your area of specialty heading in the next 5 years? Do you think that’s a good or bad thing?

Training is going to more of an on demand option. The amount of change in most companies is astonishing rate. The training department is having a difficult time staying ahead. Training needs to move from not only providing knowledge but must include behavior too.  

In your opinion what’s the most important part of the talent management puzzle: attracting talent, acquiring talent, developing talent, or retaining talent – or something else entirely? Why?

Recognizing and retaining talent is the most important. In our consulting business we have uncovered many pockets of unrecognized talent. These individuals often get looked over and become disgruntled and start looking for another job because their manager or supervisor does not recognize or allow their talent to be expressed. Poor leadership skills lead to poor results. Talent management skills and true leadership skills are lacking.  

What do you think is the biggest failure of most organizations when it comes to their talent management strategy? Is there an easy fix, a difficult one, or can it be fixed?

They don’t have a talent management strategy. First of all many companies don’t have a performance management strategy therefore it is very difficult to have a talent management program because you don’t really know who has true performance or who doesn’t. Talent management starts with effective performance measurement and management. The fix is not easy because companies have to do things different to get different results. Change is very difficult, it takes constant vision and pushing to the new standard, you can’t relax even a little.  

In your own words, define what it means to be a leader? Do you think anyone can become a leader? Why or why not?

A leader’s role is to create the greatest level of value from people, processes and resources. Yes, I believe leadership can be learned. There are many excellent leaders inside companies that go unnoticed because they are not charismatic. You don’t have to be a charismatic to be an effective leader. We just notice the charismatic ones more.

Leadership is about utilizing effective leadership skills and having the moral courage to act on what is needed.

In your opinion, what’s the biggest challenge facing human resources related professions and professionals today?

Earning a seat at the strategic table. Human resources professionals need to know the business inside and out. They need to be strategic growth partners in the business. We have seen many instances where HR is perceived as the PC Police or as an obstacle to operations or sales. HR professionals need to move beyond subject matter experts to becoming a strategic business partner inside the business.  

What words of advice would you give to a college student considering a career in your field? To someone looking to transition careers? To someone in your field that is feeling burned out or turned off? 

Human resources is a great profession. We help organizations navigate the most critical aspect of a business the people who operate and run the business. Done right HR is performance based, motivational, and keeps the company within all legal guidelines.

I have talked with many burned out HR professionals. Anecdotally they are burned out for several reasons, the position is not valued therefore it becomes understaffed and leaders who consistently make decisions without consulting HR and putting the company in some type of legal jeopardy. HR can often see problems but don’t have the power to effect the change that is needed. All of these issues cause burn out. To HR, learn different skills and become part of the strategic solution and learn to attack from a different position.  

Jack Dempsey has 26 years of extensive training, curriculum development, and consulting experience that has taken him to all 50 states and numerous countries, helping companies to develop quality training with traceable Returns on Investment. His diverse professional expertise in telecommunications, casino, retail, and customer service industries gives Jack an unparalleled understanding of what it takes to reach participants on a human level and impact change in organizations. Rising through the ranks of direct sales and direct customer interaction to executive leadership, he understands how to relate and impact a wide array of audiences. Jack carries current certifications in Achieve Global, Behavioral Science Research Press, and Miller Heiman. His extensive knowledge of these training platforms is often utilized by his clients as he helps work with them to launch new training initiatives. He works closely with such clients as the U.S. Army, Charter Communications, Player’s Island Casino, Harrah’s Casino, and St. Louis Connect Care making certain that training curriculum is delivered in the most effective manner to change behavior and not just provide “good ideas.”

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The next participant in The Field Guide’s interview series – “Nine Questions” – with HR thought leaders is Deb Andrychuk, Vice President of Media and Strategy at The Arland Group. Below, Deb gives us her thoughts on everything from asking CEOs difficult questions, the impact of social media, the power of doing one’s job well and more…

Tell me why what you do is rewarding, challenging, and I suspect in your opinion (and mine) quite awesome?

I love what I do because at the end of the day, I am helping clients solve recruiting problems and attract talent for their organizations. Even better, we are also fostering relationships between job seekers and our client partners via the events that we help promote, the social media content that we provide & manage and the recruitment media outreach that we structure and put into place. One of my clients recently showed me an employee newsletter where one of their new hires was sharing how he got his job (a second career for him) through an online ad that I recommended and how he felt he had found his true professional match. I was thrilled that we could somehow be a part of a positive life changing event for this man.

Do you believe in the notion of professional regret? Why or why not? If so, what’s been your biggest professional regret?

Nope. I believe that I am the person that I am today because of the 100+ times that I have fallen flat on my face. Failure always means that I had the guts to try. I do believe that a person should own up to mistakes, make amends and then move on. I love that I have never been afraid to try new things!  

What do you think has been the most significant game changer in your specialty area of human resources over the last 5 years? Over the course of your career?

I think the biggest game changer by far in recruitment advertising in the last 5 years has been social media. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, Instagram have become an integral part of the strategy for almost every single one of our clients and candidates expect to see a presence on all of these platforms. Over the course of my career, I would say the biggest change has really been the shift of working with just HR generalists to working with talent acquisition teams and leaders who specialize in recruiting human capital. From a technology standpoint, the biggest change occurred when Monster went live, taking newspaper job postings to online ads…and the space continues to evolve rapidly. Now it’s all about social sourcing, SEO, talent networks and building your employment brand.

Where do you see your area of specialty heading in the next 5 years? Do you think that’s a good or bad thing?

I see us doing less and less work with media consulting, especially job boards and focusing more on social media and employment branding. We have no choice in moving to more socially based recruiting platforms because that is where the candidates are. I think that it’s good and bad. It’s good because there is an opportunity to connect in the environments online where candidates feel comfortable. The bad part is that many companies are still tentative in their social approach or have not fully bought in to using social media.  

In your opinion what’s the most important part of the talent management puzzle: attracting talent, acquiring talent, developing talent, or retaining talent – or something else entirely? Why?

I think that it goes without saying that people want to work for good companies. If companies would focus on doing the right things by their customers and their employees and keeping the triangle balanced, I think that the challenge of attracting & acquiring talent would be a quick fix. And, if you are hiring the right people who will in turn also do the right things, then developing and retaining your people isn’t a problem either. Companies spend a lot of time and money trying to “sell” candidates on what they aspire to be. I tell companies that you need to be real, transparent, truthful. Fix what’s broken so you don’t have to spin the opportunity to get people in the door.  

What do you think is the biggest failure of most organizations when it comes to their talent management strategy? Is there an easy fix, a difficult one, or can it be fixed?

I think the biggest failure of most organizations is not valuing the leaders in HR/ Talent Acquisition or funding their projects so they can be successful. I always want to ask CEO’s, “If people are your most important asset, then why does the majority of your advertising spend go to marketing and a paltry percentage go to recruitment advertising?” Companies need to recognize that recruiting talent needs to be ranked highly on the priorities list if they want to see change.  

In your own words, define what it means to be a leader? Do you think anyone can become a leader? Why or why not?

I think a leader is someone that you want to learn from, someone that has characteristics that you admire or want to emulate and someone who knows how to get the best out of their people without riding them and instilling fear. I know everyone can’t lead. Some people just aren’t cut out to put their necks on the line and they don’t like making unpopular decisions. I am really lucky because I work with some talented folks that don’t need constant direction from me. But, I am proud of the fact that I can be direct and honest with them and I’m always there to listen to them. I might not always agree with what they say, but I believe everyone has a right to voice their opinion. At the end of the day, I am just looking for ways to improve their lives and mine.

In your opinion, what’s the biggest challenge facing human resources related professions and professionals today?

I believe the biggest challenge right now is that most HR folks have been faced with budget cuts and have also had to cut staff. Most of the human resources people I work with are seriously overworked and are being forced to “do more with less” every day. But, here’s the really fun part, most are facing an increase in hiring and don’t have the tools or the people to deliver in an efficient manner. I feel sorry for my clients and friends who are trying to make things happen on a shoe string budget. I think that anyone trying to elevate their recruiting programs to the next level, needs to learn how to tie what they are doing to the overall profit of the company. If you helped hire the biggest producer in sales…being able to translate what you want (new tools, more money, additional headcount) into how the company will benefit (higher quality candidates, lower turnover, lower training costs, etc.) will help you get senior management’s ear.  

What words of advice would you give to a college student considering a career in your field? To someone looking to transition careers? To someone in your field that is feeling burned out or turned off? 

I would say that if you are looking at getting into recruitment advertising as a profession, start networking early and reach out to smaller agencies and see if they will take you on as an intern . I know our firm would definitely be open to mentoring an ambitious and bright college student! If you are looking at transitioning into this field, it’s best if you have a background that offers applicable skill sets. The obvious is to hire someone with a marketing/advertising background, but we have found that our some of our strongest employees have come to us with journalism backgrounds. If you are in recruitment advertising and burnt out, you need to take some time off and decide whether or not you’re just not a good fit for the job or if you just need a break. I always tell friends, “ You can’t be one foot in, one foot out.” If you work for a larger company, see if you can make a lateral move. Sometimes people get burnt out or bored because they have been in the same position with little or no new challenges for too long.  

Before joining The Arland Group more than 4 years ago, Deb Andrychuk worked for Monster.com for nearly a decade where she was responsible for developing recruiting strategies for Fortune 500 clients across the US and served as a key member Diversity/Military Media team which focused on educating and encouraging clients to include these recruiting programs into their current strategies – Deb has worked with some of the largest brands in the world and has added immense knowledge from each. At The Arland Group, Deb manages the Talent Acquisition Services Team and is responsible for developing strategies for improving recruitment processes, retention, diversity initiatives and overall recruiting ROI for clients. She works with various vendors in the human capital vertical including but not limited to job boards, ATS vendors, print partners, job distribution tools, CRM’s and social/professional networking sites. Deb is passionate about staying abreast of cutting edge technology and is well versed and capable to help clients of all sizes with employment branding, social media solutions, mobile and digital solutions, web solutions and more. She lives in Indianapolis with her husband and kids. In her off time, she enjoys working out, traveling, reading and cooking.

The Human Resources Field Guide
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Kicking off The Field Guide’s new interview series with HR thought leaders, dubbed Nine Questions (super original, I know) is Jessica Holbrook Hernandez, the President/CEO of Great Resumes Fast. Below, Jessica gives us her thoughts on everything from why she works in her chosen field, to challenges facing newcomers, to what it means to be a leader and more…


Tell me why what you do is rewarding, challenging, and I suspect in your opinion (and mine) quite awesome?

I love what I do so much that I can honestly say it doesn’t feel like work at all. I think the most rewarding part is helping people find careers they need and love. I also love educating people about how to job search and write resumes. The most challenging part is probably trying to help those people who don’t understand what we do to see the value in it. 

Do you believe in the notion of professional regret? Why or why not? If so, what’s been your biggest professional regret?

I don’t believe in regret. I think everything works out for good. People should never live life in regret. Sometimes we don’t make the best choices and that’s OK. It’s OK to fail, to make mistakes and to not always get things 100% right. What’s important is to learn from it and move on to bigger and better things.  

What do you think has been the most significant game changer in your specialty area of human resources over the last 5 years? Over the course of your career?

The economy. So many more people are unemployed now than were unemployed five years ago. It’s sad to see but also has upped the ante when it comes to job search. Now, there’s much more competition out there. 

Where do you see your area of specialty heading in the next 5 years? Do you think that’s a good or bad thing?

I see the resume writing industry growing and adapting to technology. It seems like every day there is a new tool, app, Web site or service that is changing the face of job searching. I see the industry growing and changing with the introduction of these new technologies and I think it’s a great thing!  

In your opinion what’s the most important part of the talent management puzzle: attracting talent, acquiring talent, developing talent, or retaining talent – or something else entirely? Why?

Choosing the right talent! Interviews can be rigorous but as an employer you never really know how someone is going to work out until they are on your team and you see them day in and day out. To me, you try to choose the best person possible and you do your due diligence to ensure you choose the right person but there’s always an element of it that seems a little bit like a gamble.  

What do you think is the biggest failure of most organizations when it comes to their talent management strategy? Is there an easy fix, a difficult one, or can it be fixed?

Developing talent for forward progression. Most organizations don’t start grooming people to move up to the next level. They just choose people and promote them and don’t always provide them with the right tools or training to be successful.  

In your own words, define what it means to be a leader? Do you think anyone can become a leader? Why or why not?

A leader is someone who serves others and sets a great example. A leader isn’t someone who sits at a desk and barks orders. A true leader shows others what to do, how to do it, the way to act, motivate, work, etc. They also serve the needs of those under them and around them. I think anyone can be a leader but I think there are those who are born to lead and who have an innate talent to be successful as a leader. 

In your opinion, what’s the biggest challenge facing human resources related professions and professionals today?

All the legalities! Nowadays you have to be so careful giving references, verifying employment, checking backgrounds and conducting completely impartial searches for talent. HR has to be politically correct, completely confidential and frankly always on their toes!  

What words of advice would you give to a college student considering a career in your field? To someone looking to transition careers? To someone in your field that is feeling burned out or turned off? 

(a) It’s a great industry if you love helping people find employment! I would recommend getting certified and starting out by helping those around you. Family, friends, and colleagues are great individuals to work with to gain the necessary experience.

(b) As a resume writer you don’t need a degree or a certification to be successful but it’s helpful if you don’t have any experience interviewing clients, reviewing resumes or writing them. I was blessed enough to have worked in HR as a hiring manager for ten years before I made the transition into starting my own resume writing company. So I knew exactly what a resume needed to be to get the employer’s attention.

(c) Take a deep breath and a few days off. I think it’s possible to get burned out in any industry no matter what you do. It usually means you’re spending too much time doing it and stressing yourself out. I’ve always found that getting away for a few days or a week has refreshed my purpose, excitement and renewed my motivation to dive back in. Maybe all you need to do is give yourself permission to take some time off.  

A nationally recognized resume expert, Jessica Holbrook Hernandez is President/CEO of Great Resumes Fast and a former human resources manager and recruiter. Leveraging more than ten years’ experience directing hiring practices for Fortune 500 companies, Jessica has developed proprietary, innovative, and success-proven resume development and personal branding strategies that generate powerful results for the clients of Great Resumes Fast. As a global resume authority and trusted media source, Jessica has been featured and quoted numerous times on CNN.com, Monster.com, Job Talk America radio, SmartBrief, International Business Times, and more. Jessica also has her Bachelor of Science degree in Communications/Public Relations from the University of North Florida.

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