On April 14, 2020 we welcomed KrisTierney as our new Vice-President, Human Resources & Learning.

Early this month I had the opportunity to speak with Kris about her experience as a Human Resources Professional in Ontario today.

Here are some highlights from that discussion.

Congratulations on joining HRPA!  Can you share with us some of the things that attracted you to the role?

Kris: Thank you so much! There are several things that attracted me to the role, but in particular, I was struck by the focus and strength of the current strategic plan. The four key themes of the plan resonated with me on a personal and professional level, and I felt that I could make meaningful contributions in all areas.

My background will allow me to influence the plan and collaborate with the team to make it a success. As soon as I read it, I thought: “that’s a mission and a vision that I can get behind!” Plus, as I continued discussions with various members of the HRPA team, I was inspired by their commitment to drive the necessary changes that will benefit our HRPA team, our members, and the public at large.

I feel fortunate that I have worked with some very people-focused CEO’s and executive teams in the past, who have embraced HR as a strategic priority. However, I know that there are many business leaders who underestimate the strategic significance of highly trained and skilled HR Professionals in their organizations. HRPA is driving to change that, and I knew almost immediately that it’s a movement I want to be a part of.

You’ve been an HRPA member for a long time and you are also a CHRL, tell us about some of the changes you’ve seen in the HR profession in your 20+ years as a senior HR leader?

Kris: I remember when I first started studying business – the relevant HR course in the program was simply called “Human Relations”. It was more of a study in human behaviour and psychology than people strategies and workplace standards!

Over time, I’ve seen the wave of change in our profession gain momentum; first in education as HR became its own stand-alone degree, then when business leaders starting to adopt the idea of strategic HR, and finally with the passing of the Registered Human Resources Professionals Act, in 2013.

The trend that, I believe, has been the most significant is the shift in how HR is perceived and valued by business leaders and employees.  We are seen as experts. Increasingly, managers are reaching out to their HR colleagues – not as simply those who do hiring and firing – but as partners and trusted advisors.  We now co-create solutions to our workplaces’ most difficult problems.  Despite this great leap forward, there is still more to do to advance the HR profession and cement HR’s value in all organizations and across all industries.

With the increasing complexity in workplaces today, what value can HR professionals bring to their organizations that will really make a difference to the company and to the employees who work there?

Kris: The COVID-19 pandemic has been a game changer for all of us, and I am sure it will define our life experiences for the future.

In particular, HR has been thrust into the spotlight over the last few months and boy, have we risen to the challenge! But, what we HR Professionals know is that we deal with things like this daily, granted on a much smaller scale. What I mean by this is that HR always has its eye on government policy and changing workplace standards. HR always has its eye on its company’s workplace policies and how it will impact the business. HR always has its eye on the employee experience and each individual’s changing personal circumstances. HR always has its eye on keeping payroll going. And so on.

In my view, there are two sides to HR: technical and human, and both can be quantified. On the technical side, good HR can ensure business practices and workplace standards reduce risk for an organization, including financial, reputational or legal risks. If not handled well, these can leave a lasting, and negative, legacy for a company that can be costly and time consuming. There is a lot to consider when setting up and running a business of any size, and a skilled HR Professional will help the business and its leaders navigate the various employment related rules and regulations. In doing so, business leaders will be left to focus on being successful rather than mitigating HR related damages.

But, let’s not forget the “human” in “Human Resources” where employee engagement, discretionary effort and retention are all key factors in organizational performance and productivity. Humans are complex and emotional beings, and ideas on a page or rules in a book can’t begin to address how the human experience impacts an organization, both positively and negatively. High vacancy rates, high turnover, and low engagement can cost businesses, potentially through lower sales, higher expenses, and wasted resources. HR Professionals as people experts can advise and counsel the business and its leaders to uncover, define and develop its culture to keep employees engaged, inspired, motivated and performing. The business wins financially, leaders win with high performing teams, and employees win with fair and inspiring workplaces.

I am not sure how organizations can win without HR Professionals on board.

You’ve joined HRPA at a time that HR professionals are spread thin in supporting their organizations with the global COVID-19 pandemic.  What advice do you have for HR professionals to take care of themselves in these very challenging times?

Kris: First, let me say that I hope everyone is keeping safe and is doing well. HR Professionals are typically the first ones in the organization to lean-in and support employees and managers through challenging times, and often make personal sacrifices to do so.

So, my best advice is to take care of yourself as well, both physically and mentally. If you can, take time to rest and refresh. Find what works for you and build it into your day. You can also lean on each other for support. Stay connected via the HRPA Community, because no one understands what you’re going through better than other HR Professionals. Be honest with yourself and how you are feeling, and don’t forget that your company’s EAP applies to you too! Be well, and know that you are valued and valuable; the employees, managers and businesses you are supporting feel your impact.

Please see Kris full bio here.

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