Introducing Jason McDowall, Executive Advisor at McLean & Company

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Jason joined McLean & Company in August 2022 as an Executive Advisor. In this Q&A, Jason talks about his career, what drew him to this role, and what challenges are top of mind for HR leaders.

How did you get your start in HR?

Jason McDowall headshot

I am very proud to have a career in leadership that spans across a range of sectors, including Banking, Telecommunications, Insurance, and Retail. I spent the first part of my career as Learning and Development specialist for a top-tier financial institution, designing learning assets and Talent Management strategies. These hands-on experiences partnering with the different HR groups gave me an awareness that I was part of a larger community of practice, and this moment is something that I will never forget. In my leadership roles I was given the opportunity to lead several large-scale HR projects, which led me to discover my passion for the HR profession – specifically, how we need to collaborate as a collective. More recently, I had the privilege of leading the COE of Learning and Development in a national retail grocery chain that supported 120,000 employees.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I am a husband and a proud “dad” to a 90-pound Goldendoodle. When I am not in the city, you can find me at my happy place at my cottage in the Kawarthas. Professionally, what I enjoy most is working with organizations to understand the art of the possible when it comes to HR solutions.

I am also part of the Start Proud mentorship program, where senior leaders in Canadian businesses mentor LGBTQ+ young professionals who wish to grow their networks and business acumen. Lastly, I am often called on to be a keynote speaker at L&D national conferences, where I speak about how we can “run learning like a business,” something that I am extremely passionate about.

What does your role as Executive Advisor involve? What drew you to it?

What drew me to this role was the opportunity to work with many amazing organizations and support them on their HR journey. With ongoing collaboration to be seen as a trusted advisor is something that I had been practicing in the many companies that I have worked for, but to be able to do this on a larger scale was something that has and continues to excite me. As an Executive Advisor, I partner with our Leadership members to build out meaningful and executable strategies for their HR priorities. I listen and ask questions to understand their emerging issues, challenges, and longer-term strategic objectives, acting as a navigator and thought partner to help them leverage the full suite of McLean & Company resources, diagnostics, and training offerings.

What is top of mind for HR leaders right now? What challenges are they facing?

  • Leadership development is an evergreen topic. How do we accelerate the development of first-time frontline leaders and avoid making hiring errors in who we place in frontline leadership roles?
  • The role L&D can play and how they can support the overall HR strategy and the measurable, reportable impacts.
  • Developing more robust HR analytics capabilities that are relevant to the business and help the organization improve the effectiveness of key strategic decisions continues to be a big opportunity.
  • Managing culture is an essential topic. The most progressive HR leaders are recognizing that culture needs to be proactively managed and tended to – actively managing culture can be the gateway to creating sustainable competitive advantage.

What do you do to take care of yourself?

I am lucky to have a very supportive husband who allows me to have a very structured work-life balance. I love being able to create and explore new opportunities and this gives me energy to tackle the “big” things in life that we all face. The second most fortunate thing that allows me to have a self-care moment is my cottage. Being able to shift out of thinking mode and do more hands-on activities also rejuvenates me, not to mention that swimming in a cold lake really perks you up to start the day.

What advice do you have for someone starting out as an HR leader?

Learn, listen, learn, listen. Some of the best experiences that I have had is when I have taken a moment to stop and listen. There is so much value from those who work around you that instead of always talking, take a moment to listen and learn. We have the unique opportunity in HR to have a direct impact on how employees experience work, learn, grow, and develop in their careers. Lastly, taking stretch opportunities outside of your regular role will allow you to expand your understanding of the entire organization and give you a holistic view of how we are all interconnected at work.

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