“IF YOU’RE NOT TREATING PEOPLE
PROPERLY, THEY WON’T BE AS
ENGAGED AND WON’T GIVE YOU THAT
EXTRA DISCRETIONARY EFFORT.”
– MARDI WALKER
Bay in downtown Toronto as a sales clerk. I had an interview
with a lady from the personnel department, a department I knew
nothing about. I saw her around the store; she could go into any
department and she knew everybody. I wanted to find out what it
was all about. So that’s what I decided to do.
What was your first HR job?
MW: I got hired at Canada’s Wonderland before the park opened.
I started more as an admin person and it was an hourly contract
job. Whenever anyone quit, I’d go into the HR manager’s office
and ask if I could have the job. Finally, I got my shot and became
the full-time HR coordinator. The park was just opening, so the
job was heavy on recruiting and training new staff. I loved it.
Tell me about your current job. What are your main
areas of responsibility?
MW: It’s a generalist role in that I’m responsible for anything
and everything to do with human resources, from recruitment to
compensation, to performance management, HR strategy engage-ment,
talent, all of that. You name it.
What do you love about your job?
MW: With any of my jobs, it’s always been about the people.
When you leave, you don’t miss the work but you miss the peo-ple.
That’s the main thing I love here. But what I also love is seeing
people grow – watching them achieve their career aspirations and
knowing I had a hand in that. When you’re in sports, there is a
lot of energy, especially on game day, when everyone is so excited!
There is never a dull moment.
What are the challenges you experience in your job?
MW: Definitely one is resources versus budget. There are lots of
things you want to do, but you need to be creative to find ways to
get them done. Also, with the team’s performance there are natu-rally
a lot of ups and downs. And right now, a big part of my job
is managing change; people don’t like change. So we have defined
a clear set of vision and values, and we drove that conversation
around “Who We Are.” Everything we do comes back to those val-ues.
I think that has resonated very well, and we’ve built rewards
and recognition around that.
What’s key to leading HR during a difficult time for a
MW: In my experience, communication is the key to everything.
You can say 80 per cent of business problems are created by poor
communication, and then 80 per cent of business problems can be
solved by great communication. Being transparent, talking to peo-ple
and keeping them informed – and listening to them – is what
it’s all about. Reinforcing values and sticking to them is also key.
What are the necessary competencies for success in HR
and how do you think those have changed throughout
MW: Definitely business acumen. When I started in personnel,
that wasn’t even a thing! But it’s really key to understand the op-eration.
I find also that if you have experience outside of HR, it’s
really valuable. It helps you understand better how an organiza-tion
runs, and combined with that is flexibility and adaptability.
Different parts of the business can’t be managed alike and you can’t
put everything in a box.
What tips do you have for new grads or those in entry-level
HR jobs who want to move up the ladder?
MW: I would tell them not to sit and wait for an opportunity to
drop in their lap. Grab it; go for it! Don’t be afraid to take some-thing
outside of HR, because they can always go back in. Keep
learning and know that the more well rounded they are, the better
off they will be. Stay up with their reading and participate wher-ever
possible. And of course, network whenever they have the
The HR field has been evolving. What changes excite
you the most?
MW: Technology, for sure, because it takes some things away
and also really helps you with others, and you can leverage it.
Technology will never take away the profession of HR, but it will
change the way we do things. The focus on the employee experi-ence
is also very interesting – if you’re not treating people properly,
they won’t be as engaged and won’t give you that extra discretion-ary
effort. And, I think the fact that HR really is a key strategic
business partner now, and can help drive the business, is exciting.
What’s the future of HR?
MW: People are the key to the success of an organization and HR
drives that. To me, HR is a true business partner. You’re there to
support every facet of the business and to make sure they succeed.
I always tell my team, it doesn’t matter what department – we’re
there to help them be a success. Be a mentor, not a tormentor! n
HRPROFESSIONALNOW.CA ❚ JANUARY 2018 ❚ 49