Tell me about your current job. What
are your main areas of responsibility?
KD: I lead the HR function for Town
Shoes Limited. We run five brands in
Canada: Town Shoes, The Shoe Company,
Shoe Warehouse, Sterling Shoes and now
DSW Canada stores. When I started two
years ago, HR was just one person. My
main role today is leading my team and
working with our senior executives to execute
our people strategy, which is aimed at
supporting our growth needs. We have just
fewer than 3,000 employees across Canada
and 200 stores.
What do you love about your job?
KD: My team! I’ve been really lucky. I’ve
been able to create my team from scratch,
and I picked all my favourite people from
past work experiences. They’re an “A-Team”
and they work so well together. It’s a total
honour to work with them every day.
What are the challenges you
experience in your job?
KD: I’d say our biggest current challenge is
wanting to do everything right now. But we
have to respect our capacity as an organization
and as a team. We were a family-owned
company for 62 years that grew moderately,
then we jumped into a corporate culture,
and now we’re in the midst of a U.S. acquisition.
That’s a huge culture shift to go
through in the last two years! The way our
deal is structured is that DSW in the U.S.
owns 49.2 per cent of our company and
they have plans to purchase the remaining
shares. Our focus over the next few years
will be one of accelerated growth across
Canada and my team will need to continue
to deliver a people strategy that will grow
with our business.
What’s key to leading HR during a
difficult time for a client organization?
KD: It’s being accessible to your people,
and listening to them. When I was at
HBC, we went through a couple of different
acquisitions. I don’t think anything can
replace the power of an open door and oneon
one communication, especially during a
time of change. A big part of my role is to
be there for our senior leaders as a sounding
board. Also, the key is to honour your
culture. A lot of times in Canadian retail,
whatever you have built as a company can
be broken right away if you forget what
makes you special.
What skills are important
for success in HR?
KD: Understanding your business first and
foremost – that’s something I learned early
on in my career. You need to understand
the business first before you can build and
execute a people plan. I also think it’s really
important in HR to balance being that
listener, but to also be able to push back
when you need to challenge your partners.
Also, you need the ability to blend your
HR knowledge and expertise with what is
reality for your business. It’s about understanding
that day-to-day business operates
a lot in the grey.
What tips do you have for new grads
or those in entry-level HR jobs who
want to move up the ladder?
KD: For me, the advice would be to pick an
industry that you’re interested in. You don’t
have to stay there forever, but at least pick
one you’re somewhat interested in. I also really
encourage recent grads to work in new
sectors. Work with people in different industries
and find out what interests you.
Finally, be fierce when pursuing opportunities!
For example, a lot of companies will
say they don’t have any internships, but that
doesn’t mean they won’t create one for the
right person. Sometimes, someone will find
me on LinkedIn and send me a really awesome
note, and it gets them in the door.
What’s the future of HR?
KD: It’s technological; it’s big and bright, for
sure! The vision that comes to mind is my
first cell phone. I think of that phone versus
what I have now, and that’s how I think
of the future of HR. We all know our jobs
are going to change drastically. Everything
will be online; we’re just scratching the
surface now. In my personal view, employees
will have a stronger and stronger voice.
Tomorrow, employees will be rating their
employers, bosses, colleagues. That will significantly
Finally, there’s the “gamification” of HR. I
don’t think any of us can begin to imagine
where that will end. When you think of a
world of apps and cellphones, imagine taking
that into the world of HR. Things like
recognition and rewards will all be online.
Employees may play a game online to learn
how to sell shoes. Companies will need to
treat employees almost like members of a
social media club, and that will be a whole
new world. n
44 ❚ SEPTEMBER 2015 ❚ HR PROFESSIONAL