What’s key to leading HR during a difficult time for a
DB: For me, HR leadership is something you have to demonstrate
every day. It’s in the example you set in every workplace interac-tion.
The test of how well you demonstrate it is if people feel they
can turn to HR in difficult times, knowing they can rely upon that
same leadership when the going gets tough. Consistency of execu-tion
and building strong, resilient relationships are both key.
What are the necessary competencies for success in HR
and how do you think those have changed throughout
DB: I don’t think the essential competencies have changed that
dramatically. Well-developed communication and interpersonal
skills, strong analytical and problem-solving skills, and the ability
to change focus rapidly remain as critical today as they’ve always
been. But today, there are a number of well-regarded college and
university programs available to HR practitioners; and the certifi-cation
programs available through HRPA and other organizations
have significantly enhanced the knowledge and competency base.
I think generalists can now develop particular competencies
through specialization in any one of the various HR functions.
What tips do you have for new grads or those in entry-level
HR jobs who want to move up the ladder?
DB: I’ve always been a strong proponent of the life-long learn-ing
model. That includes on-going, formalized training as well as
experiential learning. The personal attributes you bring to your job
are just as essential to longevity and success in HR. Developing
and adhering to a strong set of personal core values to guide your
decision-making is important, as is being prepared to stick your
neck out in defense of those values. Be patient and persistent.
Some of the best ideas or solutions will be rejected because they
are simply before their time and change may have to occur else-where
before your idea can gain traction. If it is worth pursing,
be prepared to seize the opportunity when it arises. Lastly, always
take the long view and the high road. Professional and personal
integrity are simply too critical to risk being compromised for the
sake of expediency.
The HR field has been evolving. What changes excite
you the most?
DB: To me, it’s the way HR’s role continues to evolve. We’ve come
such an incredibly long way from the department that processed
paycheques and benefits. Executives now understand that HR
plays an essential role in the execution of the people component of
the business plan. HR is becoming the change agent that supports
the CEO and the organization. Also, HR is increasingly being
asked to act as the organization’s “conscience,” assisting the C-suite
to assess various strategies against corporate culture and values.
It’s really a very exciting time to be in this field.
What’s the future of HR?
DB: When I first worked in an office environment, correspon-dence
was transcribed from Dictaphone tapes on an electric
typewriter and the only phones were land lines. So, advances in
technology have definitely had a significant impact on the HR
function. Those advances have changed the way we communicate
and the use of business analytics has increased the effectiveness
and depth of our organizational understanding. At the end of the
day, we have a greater number of tools to acquire information as a
basis for decision-making – but they will never replace the judg-ment
of a skilled HR practitioner. So, I think the future of HR is
very bright indeed. And for recent entrants to the HR field who
are committed to continuous learning, they can be assured of a
challenging and rewarding future. n
First paid job: At 13, I was
“promoted” from volunteer Sunday
school piano accompanist in the
church basement to full-time paid
organist and choir director. I kept
the job right through high school.
Childhood ambition: I wanted to
be a locomotive engineer. The
fascination with trains and train
travel has never left me.
Best boss and why: Two stand
out, both of whom I very much
respected and genuinely liked.
What they had in common was
how freely they shared their
experience, which really taught
me about sharing knowledge to
Current source of inspiration: I’m
a member of the Advisory Board to
the Public Sector Human Resources
Council, a branch of the Conference
Board of Canada. It gives me an
opportunity to see the Conference
Board’s latest research and to help
prepare the Council’s programs for
my peers working at the regional,
provincial and federal levels of
the public sector. I’m frequently
inspired by those meetings to see
how I can apply new concepts
within the policing sector or my
Best piece of advice ever received:
Always take the high road. This
came from one of my “best
bosses,” when I was considering
a shortcut to improve the bottom
line results. It impressed on me the
importance of taking the long-term
view and the importance of building
and maintaining strong partnerships
and working relationships.
Favourite music: I listen almost
exclusively to jazz these days.
I’m particularly fond of the bebop
era, but I enjoy everything from
early ragtime and stride piano to
Last book read: A Higher Loyalty:
Truth, Lies, and Leadership
by James Comey. Whether or
not you accept his defense of
blowing up Hillary Clinton in the
days immediately before the U.S.
election, there are some excellent
anecdotal stories on leadership that
resonated with me.
64 ❚ NOVEMBER 2018 ❚ HR PROFESSIONAL