need to keep these people engaged because
they are so marketable and always at risk.
I’m not a consultant. The borderline be-tween
a consultant and a coach is blurry
sometimes. If you think about an athlete’s
coach, it’s not dissimilar. I draw on my di-verse
background and coaching experience
to help you be a more successful manag-er
or leader, not give you the answers. My
role is to help you find different ways of
looking at situations, encouraging you to
try different approaches, analyzing the
merit of those approaches and pointing
you in a direction of new leadership ideas.
What do you love about your job?
RB: I love working with talent. I’m fortu-nate
to work at both ends of the spectrum.
As they face their challenges and are work-ing
to develop solutions, my role, almost
like a kaleidoscope, is to turn it one or two
notches and help them see it in a differ-ent
What are the challenges you
experience in your job?
RB: The challenges are making sure I tru-ly
understand what my clients are dealing
with and strategizing, in my own mind, an
approach to help influence their thinking
to a certain point. Also, being able to iden-tify
where I can add the most value.
What’s key to leading HR during a
difficult time for a client organization?
RB: To understand, depending on the
business challenge, that you really are the
custodian of the culture. It’s an incredibly
valuable and precious role. And no matter
how discouraging the situation is, you can
never stop being that champion. It is up
to you to help the organization navigate,
culturally, intellectually and emotionally,
during those difficult times.
What skills are important
for success in HR?
RB: If there’s one skill that HR profes-sionals
must have, it’s understanding their
role and what is relevant to their business.
They must be, first and foremost, business
people who come with an expertise in hu-man
capital management relevant to their
individual organization, industry sector
and strategic challenges. They can’t do that
without understanding their business.
Emerging theories and concepts must be
seriously considered, but in the end it’s a
little like a cafeteria. You only put on your
plate what your business needs – not be-cause
it’s the latest and greatest thing to
do, not because it’s the latest jargon – but
because it’s relevant.
What tips do you have for new grads
or those in entry-level HR jobs who
want to move up the ladder?
RB: You have to love what you do. The
work of HR, the passion I had for what
I did, I really think that’s what helped me
be successful. And secondly, in today’s
competitive arena, you have to work as
hard as you can. And I’m not just talking
about hours. I’m talking about trying to be
the very best that you can. Trying to learn
as much as you can so that you can be rel-evant
and contribute to the business that
you’re in. To have an understanding of
what your role is and where you can truly
contribute. It’s actually very simple to un-derstand
but hard to do.
The HR field has been evolving.
What changes excite you the most?
RB: I’m thrilled about the spotlight that is
coming to shine on the profession of HR.
I’m incredibly excited about the business
role that it’s taking on and the recognition
it’s receiving as a true partner in the business.
There’s now an understanding that the most
valuable assets ride up and down the eleva-tor
and walk in the door every day. We have
the expertise in managing the most impor-tant
assets of any organization.
What’s the future of HR?
RB: The future of HR is aligned with the
challenges of businesses in Canada, North
America and globally. Those challenges are
around how we can continue to create share-holder
value when growth is not apparent.
When you are limited in growth, there is tre-mendous
pressure on cost and efficiencies
and this requires strategic HR strategies.
Secondly, how do you manage in a dif-ficult
economy where there is no growth,
especially in resource-based businesses?
When a company is continually contract-ing
and stretching, how do you keep the
culture healthy? How do you attract, how
do you retain and how do you appeal and
align the different demographics within
One of the biggest pressures for busi-nesses
is increasing globalization. As a
result, businesses are much more com-plex
and HR is, therefore, much more
The role of HR overall is to be deep-ly
seeped in the business they’re in and
have a profound understanding of the ex-ternal
pressures that are coming to bear on
their businesses. HR must balance the hu-man
capital management challenges with
the business challenges and offer expertise
and solutions around organizational issues,
which are financial, structural and human. n
In a Nutshell
First job: I was 14 years old and I
worked at a retail department store
Childhood ambition: Believe it
or not, I always wanted to run a
Best boss and why: My second men-tor
at Shell. At the time, I thought
he was really tough and constant-ly
challenging. But I look back now
and realize he was an incredible
mentor. Every time he challenged
me, it was about making me better.
Current source of inspiration: The
people I work with. My commitment
to each and every one of them indi-vidually
and collectively motivates
me. It energizes me.
Best piece of advice ever received:
Never give input to anyone who
doesn’t ask for it or who isn’t pre-pared
to act on it. That has stood the
test of time for me.
Favourite music: I’m very eclectic.
I love Motown music, pop music,
even opera. I just like music, period,
because I love to dance.
Last book read: I’m always reading
books on leadership. But I also read
books on diverse leaders, like Steve
Jobs and Conrad Black. There are
lessons to be learned from each and
every leader’s history.
46 ❚ JULY/AUGUST 2016 ❚ HR PROFESSIONAL