Janet joined McLean & Company in June 2021 as Director, HR Research & Advisory Services. In this Q&A, Janet talks about her background, what drew her to this role, and what challenges are top of mind for HR leaders.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
My experience includes over ten years of conducting and writing HR research and providing advisory and consulting services to HR leaders and practitioners. Prior to that I spent several years as an HR practitioner focusing on employee development, instructional design, and the implementation of technology solutions. I live in upstate New York and have worked from my home office for 15 years now. I think it prepared me well for our new ways of working.
What does your role as Director, HR Research & Advisory Services involve? What drew you to it?
In my role, I provide guidance and insights to HR leaders and practitioners, facilitate workshops, lead research projects, and contribute to thought leadership. What drew me to this role was the emphasis on providing practical guidance. While I like knowing why something happens and answering the big “what if?” questions, what really matters in my role is making it happen. In McLean & Company I’ve found an organization that measures success by the value its research and advisory services bring to its members.
What fuels you?
From a work perspective, I like the feeling I get when I have a positive impact on people and organizations. On a personal level, it’s my family. I have three great children, a great husband, and two dogs that keep us all in line. To avoid burnout, I make time for reading, cooking, walking, and taking care of my plants and gardens.
What is one thing you’d like to learn this year professionally? Personally?
Professionally, I want to learn how to be a more effective leader in this new world of work. The pandemic changed the very nature of how people get work done. It’s up to all of us to figure this out and specifically up to leaders to figure out how to manage change and help people and the organization succeed and grow. Our new Return to the Workplace Research Center has a lot of great information about hybrid working, and I’m also leading a project on Leading in a Hybrid Environment – watch for that coming soon!
Personally, I’m relearning how much I love getting out in nature. That’s been something good that came out of the pandemic. I’ve taken up backpacking and canoeing and am in better shape than I’ve been in a while. Next up is learning how to fish.
What is top of mind for HR leaders right now? What challenges do you see for them in this moment?
Several things come to mind based on the conversations I’ve been having:
- Rapidly evolving skill needs. HR knows they need to reskill the workforce for the future of work, but they don’t know which skills are needed for the future. HR also needs to equip leaders to manage change and lead a hybrid workforce. Like evolving skill needs, that’s one of those “we don’t know what the future of work looks like” issues because HR is dealing with it in real time.
- The prioritization of employee experience specifically around engagement, careers, wellbeing, and an evolving value proposition.
- Diversity, equity, and inclusion. This has been top of mind for HR throughout 2020 and into 2021. Events of 2020 ushered in a year of reckoning, and HR is working hard to embed equity and inclusion into everything it does.
How did you get your start in HR?
I find that many people got started in HR like I did – accidentally. For over ten years, I worked in various roles in the claims department at an insurance company. I was often asked to be the trainer for a new process or system. I enjoyed helping people learn to do new things and was a voracious learner myself. So, when a new training position was created, it felt like a natural fit. From there, I expanded my knowledge in other HR domains including technology, people analytics, talent management, and instructional design.
What advice do you have for someone starting out as an HR leader?
Absorb the culture, build relationships, know the business, and think strategically. And don’t be a jerk.
What do you do to take care of yourself?
I prioritize alone time. My days are filled up with rewarding work, caring for others, and checking off things on my to-do list. Taking some time every day to be alone makes me a kinder, more thankful, and positive person. I practice mindful wellbeing to stay healthy mentally and physically.
What books/TV/social media/activities are you into right now?
I just started reading The Extended Mind: The Power of Thinking Outside the Brain by Annie Murphy Paul. It’s about how elements from outside of our brain, such as movements our bodies make, enhance our mental processes. It’s research based, which I always like. One takeaway so far is that walking, exercising, and moving our hands help us think better than we do when we’re sitting down. So, I guess I’ll be standing and using my hands more during calls.
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