“The biggest challenge companies face is to ensure that people can bring their whole selves to work but at the same time contribute to something bigger.”
Karen Rivoire is an accomplished leader with a unique combination of HR, communications and brand experience. She has been responsible for defining and delivering innovative and meaningful global human resources strategies for many different companies and organisations, like Millward Brown, Unilever, Sony, etc., with a strong focus on attracting, retaining and developing top talent. In this interview, she shared her thoughts on current trends in the recruitment and HR industry, especially when it comes to employee engagement and company culture.
Karen, tell us little bit more about yourself and your professional journey.
This is who I am in about 140 characters: mother of 3 children & global CPO (Chief People Officer) aligning people’s experience & company purpose by inspiring innovative people strategy.
What does the role of Chief People Officer include, and how is it different from an HR manager role?
A CPO crafts and facilitates of all the people stuff in an in an organisation, whereas an HR manager supports one area or one leader. The exact role of a CPO depends on the the company. If a company is in growth or turnaround phases, a very specific set of talents is required. The size and scale of the company also changes the focus that a CPO may have at any given time.
Whatever the context, however, we have to treat people as people. We have to be clear on where the company is going and why, and ensure that we listen carefully to what people are saying and adjust accordingly – without moving away from what we stand for.
What are the projects you’re currently working on?
I am in transition right now, and enjoying working with a number of tech founders on their people strategies whilst I look for my next full time role.
What are the main HR challenges of the companies you meet and/or work with?
I meet a lot of companies who have scaled so quickly, they no longer know who they are. Purpose-led, founder-led companies are great but scaling should not drive out the core values of the organisation, and scale is no excuse for being unclear on who you are as a business.
The biggest challenge companies face is to ensure that people can bring their whole selves to work and at the same time contribute to something bigger. Technology can help us listen to the individual heartbeat, adapt solutions accordingly, and connect people to build something bigger and more purposeful. I believe that when this happens, companies are able to play to their full role in society. Companies will have to step up to the challenge as other institutions fail to build trust.
From your experience, what is the best way for employers to understand what’s important to their people?
Employee listening has evolved from internal employee surveys, to employee engagement, to internal and external trust heat maps that allow rapid action. The technology that allows this should speed up, but not totally replace human intervention. As HR professionals, we must listen for the weak signals and make sure people know who to speak to.
How has recruitment changed in the last few years with so much of it going digital?
Recruitment has not evolved as quickly as it needs to. There are pockets of excellence that blend technology and human intervention, but recruitment practices will have to evolve far more quickly for companies to get access to a more diverse talent pool. Until we are able to get beyond ‘double degree’ status we will miss out on the edgy, quirky talent businesses need to reinvent themselves before a new competitor disrupts their industry. We need to spend far more time automating the culture/value fit and how we put together diverse project teams rather than always fishing in the same pools.
In your opinion, what will be the main HR and recruitment trends in upcoming years for SMEs, bearing in mind that finding talent has become easier, but selling to talent is more difficult?
I see three clear trends/issues:
- Defining who the company is and what it stands for will be essential for HR to lead.
- The rest of HR’s time will be spent on creating the environment that brings their promise alive everyday. I think the total reward and performance space is still too clunky at the moment, and will require attention so that people feel valued for their contribution – not just in salary terms, but their total reward package.
- There will be more and more blurred lines across HR divides, like talent and rewards, so that individuals and their work lifecycles drive choices, rather than them being driven by processes.
What’s the most important piece of advice you can give to CEOs, founders or anyone else dealing with HR in a company of any size?
Be yourself and stand up for what you believe in. Be the change you want to see. People join companies but leave people and teams if the balance is wrong between value-driven leadership, great products, and challenging work and purpose. If that happens, you will not retain the best people and this will damage your bottom line directly.