of how change impacts employees. Leading HR includes bring-ing
the team along this journey by encouraging both outside and
inside views, research and fact-based decision-making, continuous
improvement and learning, etc.
What are the necessary competencies for success in HR
and how do you think those have changed throughout
MA: I think they really have changed. The competencies of
great communicators (listening, focusing on opportunities ver-sus
problems, maintaining a win-win mindset) are still important.
In addition to being a subject matter expert and employee advo-cate,
other important competencies include dealing with paradox
and ambiguity, managing to the mission and purpose, and dem-onstrating
managerial courage and fierce candour. The ability to
establish clear priorities will always be a critical competency, but
with the accelerated pace of change, business and aligned HR pri-orities
seem to fall into different time horizons (now, near term
and longer term) and are regularly adjusted. I’m a big fan of David
Ulrich; his newest book, HR from the Outside In, references being
a strategic positioner, credible activist, capability builder and
What tips do you have for new grads or those in entry-level
HR jobs who want to move up the ladder?
MA: Be curious; really curious. Demonstrate integrity. Make
collaborative decisions. Say “yes” to projects that take you out of
your comfort zone and into the business. For new people enter-ing
the field, identify mentors who can help you determine what
new skills and competencies you need and how to position your
strengths. Seek out both specialist and generalist opportunities.
The HR field has been evolving. What changes excite
you the most?
MA: There are a few things: One is the expectation that at a senior
HR level, you must contribute to the business strategy. That
excites me. It’s not only required, but expected, to come to the
strategy conversation with knowledge about what is happening
outside your doors. Second, much of the HR administrative work
will be managed through artificial intelligence, machine learning,
digital solutions or offshore in the coming years. This means HR
resources can be engaged in making a bigger contribution. Third,
the generation of people entering the workforce is smart, creative
and fully digitally enabled. Newer workers challenge those of us
who bring tenure, experience and competence; this is helping the
organization evolve some of our longstanding beliefs and prac-tices.
I love spending time with our newer-to-the-workforce folks.
What’s the future of HR?
MA: In my crystal ball, the focus of HR will continue to be on
enabling the success of the business through its most important
asset, its employees. As a function, we must continue to present
our value proposition to the company. I don’t think that require-ment
will ever go away because HR, while viewed as an important
function, is typically an expense to the business. That said, I think
the future is exciting and will require intellectual dexterity and
agility as more complex issues and global influencers impact com-petition
for both customers and talent. n
First job: I scooped ice cream at
Baskin Robbins all summer. The
best part about the job was that
the person who drove me home
got a free ice cream.
Childhood ambition: I wanted to
be a veterinarian or a teacher.
Best boss and why: My best
boss hired me into a position
that was a significant stretch
assignment. She was a strong
business leader, so I learned
how the business operated; that
experience shaped my view of
how critical it is to understand the
business in which HR operates.
She was generous with her time,
provided candid and constructive
feedback, and allowed me to
Current source of inspiration:
Global travel. My personal goal
is to keep adding to the count of
UNESCO World Heritage Sites
I have visited. Last year, I hiked
Best piece of advice ever
received: “Intellectual curiosity is
a sign of a great HR professional.”
It came from one of my first
managers, Gerry Nichols at the
Bay, when I was the HR manager
at the Queen/Yonge flagship store
Favourite music: I love all music,
all genres. My favourite music is
lots and loud!
Last book read: I usually have a
few books on the go and alternate
between business reading and
books for the book club. I just
finished reading two good stories:
Forgiveness by Mark Sakamoto
and Warlight by Michael Ondaatje.
I just ordered Talent Wins: The
New Playbook for Putting People
First by Ram Charan, Dominic
Barton and Dennis Carey. I also
read many periodicals, webcasts
and newsfeeds, like Flipboard, and
listen to podcasts.
54 ❚ OCTOBER 2018 ❚ HR PROFESSIONAL