18 - The Shelf Life of HR

Tyson built her ‘kid a cage’ during early mat leave and we sit down with her friend Ana Araujo, Director for Talent Acquisition & Learning and Development for The Hudson’s Bay Company, a 66,000 person global retailer. We all get fired up about a stupid HR tweet and HR’s moral high ground, we discuss the wonderful journey of how Ana left the People profession for operations and returned to it all the wiser, and have a good hard chat about when the right time to leave HR and become an artisan barista might be (2026).



Release Date: October 19, 2021

[00:00:00] Female Presenter: Warning. This podcast is about the realities of working in People Operations. This is not a stuck-up, PC, compliance-based, or employment law podcast about stuffy outdated HR practices. Shit will get real here and we assume no responsibility.

[00:00:16] Tyson Mackenzie: We had a strict no-alcohol policy, and everybody was like, "Oh, don't drink, HR is here." Meanwhile, I'm like mid-crack of beer.

[00:00:24] Alexa Baggio: If they're that disengaged before, they're going to be that disengaged in the office, just be sitting at their desk looking at Facebook.

[00:00:29] Tyson: They are going to find ways to fuck off.

[00:00:31] Female Presenter: This is the People Problems podcast with Alexa Baggio and Tyson Mackenzie.

[music]

[00:00:40] Alexa: All right, Tyson. What's up?

[00:00:43] Tyson: It's been one week into my maternity leave, and I am officially bored out of my mind. I literally save tasks because I'm like, "Okay, what can I do today?"

[00:00:53] Alexa: What have you done? What are you going to create [unintelligible 00:00:55]?

[00:00:55] Tyson: Today went for a walk, I went for just over a 7-kilometer walk. So that was the big event, but tomorrow, I have planned to build my Pack 'n Play which is basically like a little cage that you put the baby in when you need to go around and do some.

[00:01:08] Alexa: Kids in cages. Are we really [unintelligible 00:01:10] to that?

[00:01:09] Tyson: Yes. [laughs]

[00:01:10] Alexa: Okay. Got it.

[00:01:10] Tyson: I think we used to call them playpens when I was growing up.

[00:01:12] Alexa: We used to call playpens, yes. Now we call them kids in cages or Pack 'n Plays.

[00:01:18] Tyson: Pack 'n Play.

[00:01:19] Alexa: Pack 'n Play. That's great.

[00:01:20] Tyson: That's tomorrow's big event.

[00:01:21] Alexa: Well, you seem to have the luxury of having started your maternity leave prior to baby where sometimes people run right smack dab into baby and they never got a chance to transition.

[00:01:33] Tyson: I had some vacation I had to use. It was like a "use it or lose it" situation and I'm like, "I'm going to use it." I'm just riding vacation right now. My leave won't start till Monday.

[00:01:43] Alexa: All right. Well, I don't feel strongly about "use it or lose it" policies, but if it forces you to take vacation, I guess I won't hate on them.

[00:01:50] Tyson: It's more like--

[00:01:50] Alexa: I'm glad you're getting some you time.

[00:01:52] Tyson: Yes, exactly. It was like I couldn't take vacation all summer. It's like, "I'm going to use it now." Apparently, if you really relax, then that's when the baby comes. I'm just doing literally everything to make this child come. [chuckles]

[00:02:05] Alexa: All right. Let's go, girl. We're ready for you to be here.

[00:02:08] Tyson: Yes. Seriously.

[00:02:09] Alexa: Amazing. Well, I'm glad it's going well, and I don't think you'll be bored for long. I hear babies are a lot of work. I don't have any, but that's what I hear.

[00:02:16] Tyson: I literally texted my mom today and I'm like, "I actually can't wait until I have diapers to change," but I did watch an entire season of The Real Housewives of New York in the last two days. That's been fun. I never get to do stuff like that.

[00:02:25] Alexa: Oh, [unintelligible 00:02:26] are they still making that?

[00:02:27] Tyson: No, no, I'm way back. I'm at Luann getting arrested.

[00:02:31] Alexa: I was going to say before Bethenny Frankel got absolutely terrible.

[00:02:35] Tyson: She's in it now.

[00:02:37] Alexa: The Countess.

[00:02:38] Tyson: The Countess just got arrested. [chuckles]

[00:02:41] Alexa: Amazing. I love it. Nothing like some good trash television to help you relax.

[00:02:45] Tyson: Love it.

[00:02:45] Alexa: Speaking of trash, Tyson, I am moving us to our Pops in the News segment.

[music]

In our Pops in the News segment, this week is a little bit of a break from the norm. This is not an actual news article. This is a viral tweet and I am doing this for our Pops in the News segment because it makes my blood boil. This tweet, Tyson, before I read it to you has-- and I don't even know if I'm on Twitter, I don't think I'm on Twitter, 25,000 retweets, 2,612 quote tweets, and 166,000 likes as of this moment in time. I believe this came out yesterday, maybe two days ago, and it's climbing. This is a viral tweet. This tweet is by-- I don't think this person was famous or anything. They have maybe a couple of thousands followers. The tweet is, "HR is not your friend. HR is the police."

[00:03:50] Tyson: Who has time to like shit like that? Honestly, I'd like to know who's liking that and what would be the purpose behind liking something like that.

[00:03:58] Alexa: No, it's not just liking it. There's 166,000 likes, and there are a ton of comments and the comments are horrific.

[00:04:06] Tyson: The comments are mostly people bashing. The comments that I read very briefly are mostly people trying to stand up for HR and I imagine the quote tweets maybe are as well, I honestly didn't look. I should maybe quote tweet it and say something.

[00:04:23] Alexa: I feel like we need to get a viral following for this podcast to this tweet because this is why we exist, Tyson, because this shit is crazy.

[00:04:29] Tyson: I know. It's literally why we exist.

[00:04:32] Alexa: Yes. There are some real gems in the feedback though. I just want to go out on the limb in saying I'm going to be a hater. This is crazy. I don't know who this person is. I don't know why they're saying that. I don't know what person in their organization came down on them and they didn't get the answer they liked. Now they're like, "Okay, let me make this horrible tweet."

It's not the nicest thing to say, but it is exactly the problem with the brand of HR and all of the responses are also the problem because a lot of them are trying to be helpful, and they're not being helpful. I'll give you an example. This person writes back, and it says-- point by point responding, she seems to be responding to cliches of HR. "HR is not your friend. No, we are not. Stop trying to weaponize this as a negative. Is marketing your friend, finance, project management? We're a business function just like they are. Be friends with people, or animals, or rocks, not business functions."

It's like, "Okay, this, again, is not the problem. This is also not the argument." There are a bunch of responses like that in this chain. It is just a bunch of like, "We're all missing the point here," but I'll just leave it with you, Tyson, to say that this is why I want to rebrand [laughs] the whole fucking history.

[00:05:45] Tyson: I get it. We had a very quick conversation about this beforehand, and the one thing that stood out to me is I don't understand why HR has to be on the moral high ground. I don't want that kind of responsibility in my life. I'm not here to be your moral compass. I think what maybe some people are trying to say, like, "Oh, no, we're not your friend, we're not here to be your friend," maybe is what that person was trying to get at, but this is the business, and it's our business.

[00:06:17] Alexa: It's not about being your friend, or not your friend, or--

[00:06:19] Tyson: That's what I mean. It's not a moral high ground. It's not about that. That's not what HR is here to do. It's not to be your friend, or not to be your friend.

[00:06:29] Alexa: Right. Then there's this quote that's like, "Don't blame HR for your service or organization being incompetent at their jobs." It's like, "Well, okay. Yes, but if HR works for an incompetent organization, isn't it all the same problem?"

[00:06:42] Tyson: Yes.

[00:06:43] Alexa: People are just yelling past each other.

[00:06:45] Tyson: I had someone writing to me on HR Shook asking about-- "As HR, do I work for the company, or for the people?" I think was the question. I'm like, "But both. Why do they have to be two separate pieces?" The company is the people, the people in the company. We don't have to make these things completely dichotomous, right? That's the sweet spot.

[00:07:13] Alexa: Yes. The same person who had one of these terrible rebuttals was like, "HR only cares about protecting the company. Oh, you misspelled legal." It's like, "No, that's not the argument." Yes. In theory, that's legal's job truly. Again, it's not "or", it's neither. [chuckles] It's both. It's not, "We protect the company, or we protect the employees." It's both. Our job is to make them go together. Literally, that is the job. Everyone's yelling at each other, but everyone's missing the point.

This tweet was just-- I had to stop, and we had to talk about it because I was just like, "This is the problem." This is why this industry doesn't change and gets such a rap, is because everybody's like, "HR is the police," and everybody's like, "We're not the fucking police." People are like, "HR sucks." It's like, "It's not my job to be your friend." It's like, "Ugh, we've [laughs] all missed the fucking memo. We've lost the plot." Then I see 166,000 likes, and I'm like, "I can't do anything that gets 166,000 likes." So, now I'm pissed. [laughs] Mostly, this is just because I can't get anybody to do anything I do 166,000 times.

All right, any other thoughts before I introduce our guest? Because I would love to get her thoughts. Our guest today is Ana Araujo, a person who loves people, who fell into HR by accident, while learning about people, and what makes them them. The most comprehensive HR professional you'll ever meet with more than 26 years of working in the people space, her career has taken multiple twists and turns including client-facing roles, as well as time working in operations, and is currently the Director of Talent Acquisition, and Learning & Development for the Hudson's Bay Company, a large Canadian retail organization with over 66,000 employees worldwide. Welcome, Ana.

[00:08:49] Ana Araujo: Wow, Tyson, and Alexa. That's quite the intro. I didn't know that about myself. I knew the first sentence though. That article is so triggering. Yes because-- I'm going to take you back to where I started in HR, and I did fall in it by accident. I took business administration in college. My story is, I've got a European background, and my parents really badly wanted me to be a hairdresser, to the point where my father actually said to me, "You go to hairdressing school, and I'll pay for you, but if you want to do anything else, no, you're on your own."

At the time, we were talking late '80s, and early '90s, I'm very young, at the time, I was like, "No, screw you. I'm going to put myself through school, but I have no idea what I want to do." I took business administration. It was the easiest thing to take, took another arts course, whatever. In my third year, there was an HR management course, and I'd never heard of the concept, and then there was an HRIS course, and I loved-- first of all, found out that there was this component of business that actually took care of the people that work for it, for the business.

Where I was working at the time in retail as a cashier/customer service rep, we had a personnel department, and they scolded me when I walked into work with a miniskirt or wasn't adhering to the dress code policy, or I didn't have hosiery on or whatever. Then what I was learning about what HR could be in school, that's what fascinated me, and I got lucky. There was an HR secretary job posted. We're going back to 1994. It was an HR secretary job and it was a regional role. It covered half of Ontario. I was like, "Well, I took two HR courses. I can do this." I applied, interviewed, got the job, and the minute I walked into this office, I was public enemy number one, and I was not expecting it.

I was in an office with our regional leaders and he had a regional secretary, some district leaders who had district secretaries. Then there was the HR manager, female, the only female in the office amongst a bunch of men who were smoking and I was her HR secretary, and when I say the way HR was treated back then in the '90s, everything was handwritten back then, I'm really aging myself. We had two computers and we had to sign out these computers. There were four secretaries at the time, and I had to go in really early or stay really late to get access to these two computers because, the operations, the male-facing roles took precedence.

I'm saying male-facing because, at the time HR, was a female-dominated role. I know it still is today, but it's changing. I just remember that fire in me, like, "Why do people hate us? We are here to help the business and to help the people work together really well. Hey, business, don't you need your employees to be super engaged and optimized to sell whatever product you're selling? Hey, employees, don't you want to be able to partner with the business? We're the glue. We're like the catalyst, the bridge that brings it all together."

[00:12:18] Alexa: Good HRs. Good HR is the glue. Ana, do you have any insight now that you're looking back on it to say, why do you think you walk into such a hostile environment? Was it just the people before you? Was there something before you that happened or just perception or what?

[00:12:35] Ana: I think it was because, at the time, HR was creating a lot of policy and procedure, so we had been labeled the police and we were generally the gatekeepers of whatever these policies and procedures were. I think it got lost on a lot of leaders that the policies and procedures were put in place because they asked for them. We got tasked with them, put them in place to protect the business generally.

So I think at that time, it was like, "Okay. In comes the police," and I stayed in HR, had a baby, stayed in HR for three, four years. It was always like a battle to get any training strategy, whatever we were trying to work on. The business was asking for it. We would put it together, give it to the business, but, well, in comes HR policing everything, so it was this big cycle.

When I came back from my maternity leave, there had been an organizational change. I stepped out of HR and then worked-- and then stepped into an operational role, and that was supporting the regional leaders and the district managers. Now, I was on the other side, and I spent nine years there, and I learned what made up the P&L, what levers you had to push and pull to drive your profits, learned everything about what made a business a business, its retail, market share, and the dreaded word of penetration of our flyers and our advertisements and everything.

A few years later, I guess I'm talking like 2007, I come back into HR and I'm equipped with all of these tools. I know how the business runs now. I had a bit of-- I had power or I felt I had power. Now I could partner up with the business and be like, "Well, let's drill into your P&L. You're telling me that your employee strategy isn't working and that your salary rate is really, really high. Let's drive in there," and that helped me gain a lot of respect, I think, but I wouldn't have gotten it if I didn't spend the time in that operations field.

[00:14:47] Tyson: Going back, I wonder if part of the reason why-- and maybe this is a reach, but HR was the female-dominated role in a male-dominated world, and we in HR were just the ones like the scapegoats for having difficult conversations that the men didn't want to have. Having to tell someone that their skirt is too short or shit like that when we're talking that personnel department.

Ana, you were actually someone who told me early on that I should work in operations to get an understanding of how that works. Then work as HR, go into operations, and then go back into HR to really understand the business and understand how to partner better with HR. I think that that's first of all, I haven't done it yet, but really good advice. Still on my bucket list of things I want to do.

[00:15:40] Alexa: She's like, it's great advice. I'll take it eventually.

[00:15:43] Tyson: It seriously is. It's on my performance reviews all the time. I'm like, "Look, I got to get out of HR for a little bit." That's amazing. Let's drill maybe a little bit more into that--

[00:15:55] Alexa: Can I just say something? That's, first of all, incredible because I'm the person that comes from the operations and the business side and is now in HR, gone the other direction. We're yin to yang here. You said a bunch of words that I've never heard 99% of the HR people and people I've worked with say. You said P&L, profit and loss statement, you said profit drivers, you said market share, you said penetration. You said things that are core business categories of understanding that I cannot believe we are not educating the people community on.

I just paid my own accountant to teach a group of our People Ops society members about business fundamentals and business accounting because I was like, "You cannot have a seat at the table if you do not understand what a P&L is, if you do not understand how an income statement works. If you don't understand the structure that everyone in the C suite is using to make decisions about this business, how can you possibly be effective? You may just be in charge of one line item, the personnel line item, happens to be the biggest line item in the expense category almost always."

I think that is such awesome advice and such a great story to tell people in this industry that it is okay to get out of the HR tunnel and to get some of these other skills and it is only going to benefit you, especially when they're true business skills. I don't think everyone needs to run away and get an MBA by any means. I think that's a really awesome trajectory. Go ahead, Tyson. I know you were going to ask another question, but I just wanted to like, "Yay! Hallelujah. Let's double-click on this."

[00:17:35] Tyson: Even just double-clicking on that a little bit further, you worked with operations and you go back into HR. When you were in operations, could you see why maybe HR was demonized at all? Did you have a good working relationship with HR? Tell me a little bit about your relationship experience working with HR.

[00:17:55] Alexa: Maybe classify your operations role a little bit more, just so people know the difference.

[00:17:59] Ana: I was in a role-- so I was supporting operation leader. The way that-- I don't want to get into the details, but the way that the retail business-- it was a company called Zellers, which is like Target-Walmart mix. Tyson, you'll remember. Our-

[00:18:18] Tyson: [unintelligible 00:18:18]

[00:18:18] Ana: -district operators were responsible for driving this profit and loss statement, and supporting the stores with merchandising, inventories, all of that stuff. I'm at a loss for words because now you told me I use good words and now I'm searching for them.

[00:18:39] Alexa: You can say P&L again. It makes me blush a little.

[00:18:42] Tyson: Just don't say penetration anymore.

[00:18:45] Alexa: I was going to say you said the dreaded word penetration, I was like, "It's not always dreaded. It just depends on the context." [laughter] How do you think Tyson got pregnant? Different penetration? Oh, okay. Sorry.

[00:19:04] Ana: I got to see how the business worked. I was in retail, but I think it works for everything. Even with this last organization that I'm leaving tomorrow, sadly, it's taken me a while to figure out and I've had to push and fight, how does this business work? How do we make money? Why can't we do this? Why can't we do that? Took me a long time to really understand. I think that that makes you really, really strong.

When I was in that operational role, I did have an appreciation for how they saw HR, but I also found appreciation for what HR was trying to do with the business, the missing connection was almost like, "You're not communicating. You're totally speaking the same language, but you're not really communicating business. You're asking for this. HR, you're delivering that, but you're not understanding what the business is asking for. It's not connecting."

I think a big one for HR too, there's this very wise person who works at the organization that I do right now, who said to me, "If HR wants to continue to be treated like overhead, then you continue to act like overhead." What she was getting at is you are not sharing with the business what your return on investment is. If you're going to initiate a training program, or if you're going to put together a procedure, be prepared to show the black and white number stuff. "This is going to cost this, but the return on investment is going to be this. We're losing people, the loss of people is costing us this, and to hire it's going to cost us this. Let's invest in our people, it's a lot cheaper."

[00:20:55] Alexa: Right. We're struggling to recruit and we're hearing that we don't have X, Y, and Z. We're going to get X, Y, and Z, and it's going to cost us this, but we're going to get-- we're going to keep people two years longer which is going to save us X. You have to make a mathematical argument almost always

[00:21:10] Tyson: Yes. Especially, I think I know the organization that you're referring to, which also works in billable hours, when you throw in that, and I grew up in that organization, so that was my first intro to HR, it was in a world that used billable hours, and since leaving that kind of organization, it's insane the difference that you feel. It goes from, how many admin hours is this going to take, to feeling like I have just won the lottery with like an unlimited amount of time that I can dedicate to like training and HR and stuff.

Understanding the type of organization that you're working in and how that can actually impact that admin hour that you're using, that has a huge, huge impact to their business and all of their metrics just go down. That's another huge component that people need to consider I think.

[00:22:10] Ana: Yes. In speaking to that too though, I've recently discovered a way to kind of tap into that admin hour where we've got our leaders in some organizations working really, really hard, and you've got your employees not working very hard because the leader's taking on the brunt of the work. Being able to put that together and present it to leadership to go, "Your hour that you are billing costs $100 an hour," I'm making this up, "But if you were just to take time to actually lead and allow your employee that costs us $50, look at that return on investment. Guess what? Now you can lead. Now you can utilize some admin time to actually do what you're supposed to be doing rather than doing the work." That's the connection I think HR needs to make with operations.

[00:23:06] Alexa: Yes. It's so funny and it's so awesome to hear you articulate this, and I really, really hope people are paying attention to what you're saying. I hope they're not overwhelmed by like, "Oh, well, now I have to use numbers all the time." No, it's about making an argument. You touched on a couple of really important things. One, I think, is that HR, like you said, if you think of yourself as overhead, you will continue to act like overhead and people will continue to treat you like overhead.

Nobody wants that. You don't ever want-- overhead is effectively-- just saying it's overhead, it assumes it's like some sort of fat that needs to be cut from the organization versus if you were to think of yourself as a venture capitalist, you'd say, "Well, it's my job to make investments and it's my job to justify each of those investments. I'm going to make an investment in this team over here, and I'm going to make an investment in this program over here. My job is actually to get as much return on investment for our people as humanly possible. I just invest in people, I don't invest in companies like a VC."

You have to think of yourself as an investor. You have to be able to articulate that argument. I also think what you're saying, and I don't know if you know that you're saying this, is HR people have to be able to value their own time.

Not only do you have to be able to say, "Hey, exec, I need you to stop wasting $1,200 an hour doing administrative work that someone else can be doing for you, or one of your managers can do for you because it actually costs us $600 an hour less when they do it, and that's what we pay them for," but also, "Hey, HR, when you are asking for services and tools and infrastructure and communication skills--"

I mean, it's why the HR tech stack and so much of the stuff I think companies use to articulate things to their teams is still so stuck in the fucking stone age because HR can't go to the executive team currently as an HR blanket statement stands right now and say, "Hey, exec team, if we buy this tool or we get this infrastructure change, or I get this system, or I get this, whatever it is, that I want that I've done all this work to find, I save myself and the HR team X number of hours doing stupid shit we shouldn't be doing because we should out be with the team, paying more attention, finding new things to invest in."

They haven't learned to talk about themselves as, "Hey, my time is valuable and my time is one of these things that needs to have ROI. Stop paying me to do Ben Admin shit when I can just buy a better Ben Admin tool. Stop paying me to post shit on an intranet. Stop." You know what I'm saying? I think that line of thinking translates not only from the professional all the way through to how you manage a group of people because you can't articulate that argument. I see it in candidates. I see it in internal people. I see it in HR and I see it in candidates.

I'll see people do this all the time. They'll make an offer to a candidate and they'll be like, "Well, here's the salary. Here's the benefits we offer. Here's the bonus, here's the equity, whatever," and there's no value attached to anything over the salary and the bonus. I'm like, "You dismissed this huge opportunity to articulate to this person another $50,000 for the value. What are you doing?" It's just they haven't thought about how to think of value in a way-- because I also think a lot of people get scared about not feeling human when they do this. They're like, "I don't want to think to be a number," because people are all about people analytics now, so it's like, "Oh, I don't want to review a number. It's a human thing." Most people get into this because they're good with people, they like people.

My question for you is because I'm so happy you're talking about this, nobody can see me, but I'm like, "Yes, let's go. You're speaking my language," what do you think about people who-- now that you've done this and you're like, "I've been in operations, I see the argument," how do you get some of the human side back into this and your storied career?

[00:26:33] Tyson: I just want to say before you answer that I have had the very huge pleasure to get to work with Ana. She is the most human-centric individual that I have ever known in my entire life, so just a quick caveat, but now--

[00:26:46] Alexa: See? HR people are not the police, whoever that prick on Twitter is. Also, some of her tweets are pretty terrible. There's one about her being on the rag, and I'm like, "Why are people following you? This is terrible." Anyway, speaking of being human, Ana.

[00:27:00] Ana: I mean, if you want us to be the police and you want to pay us to be the police, so we can-- No.

[00:27:05] Alexa: That's fair. It's a framing thing. If you pay me to be the police, I'll be the police, but I would argue you shouldn't be paying anybody for that.

[00:27:11] Ana: You don't need to, right? I think that's the big one. I think to answer your question about how do you humanize numbers, first of all, we're all in business. We're all making money. If you're working, you're getting paid to make the company money, so don't forget and don't lose sight of that. My big thing with the team that I have right now is you can't lose yourself in the business either. How humans function and human connection, how you-- I talk a lot to my team about technical skills versus soft skills and connect with humans through soft skills and all of that stuff. You can't forget. We're not working with robots. We're working with people and people are influential, and you can engage people. I think that-- I'm having a difficulty finding words, but it's--

[00:28:06] Alexa: How do you not get jaded, right?

[00:28:08] Ana: Yes. I think you just stay true to yourself. I have done this in my career and I think I've probably shared this in the past with Tyson. I've gotten so greedy in my career in HR and been on such a high that I've forgotten to be human and I've forgotten to treat the people who reported to me like humans. I've had to take a step back because I've realized very quickly that now they were hamsters running on this wheel as was I and they're running right behind me. Nobody's getting any shit done.

[00:28:40] Alexa: Do you have an example of that? Do you have a specific example of how you recognize that?

[00:28:44] Ana: I want to use an example right now, but I'm trying to be political. Yes. I mean--

[00:28:54] Alexa: I just think it's super relatable if people are like, "Oh, yes, wait a minute. She's talking about something that might or may not be happening here." No worries if you can't put words to it.

[00:29:02] Ana: No, I'm going to share a story because I think it's important and it's a good lesson in-- if you're working for a leader who tends to take on a lot and get right into the weeds because all they're focused on is that bottom line and all they're focused on is what their client, their servicing needs, but you've got a whole team behind you that's ready to support you, and you are not utilizing and tapping into their skill sets or listening, they're going to leave and it's going to get not only very expensive for the organization, but it's going to get very emotional for you yourself.

This is the situation I've just been in and part of the reason that I'm leaving an organization. It's interesting, the departure of people creates a lot of emotion because you've made connections with each other. I'm hoping that this light bulb has gone off in this specific person that I'm thinking of, and people where you need to step out of it-- and for me, if I even go back to when I was a leader, I was in a job where some weeks, I was working 60, 70, 80 hours, it was ridiculous. I had to learn a life lesson. My daughter was diagnosed with an illness, I don't want to trigger anybody, but an illness, and I missed it.

It was right in front of me, but I missed it because I was so focused on that bottom line, and so focused on winning. It wasn't until I stopped and took a step back that then I realized, "Oh, okay, I'm doing a disservice not only to my family, to myself, and to my employees, and then I just let them take it on a little bit."

[00:30:49] Alexa: HR people are people too.

[00:30:52] Tyson: Honestly, again-

[00:30:54] Alexa: That's my rebuttal to Twitter.

[00:30:56] Tyson: I can't stress this enough though. When I was working with you, Ana, you are just such a warm and open person, and it's so easy to talk to you. I remember going into your office, and it was all set up like a spa. There's crystals everywhere. The energy is just so good. You have so much amazing energy.

[00:31:11] Alexa: Oh, it's your fault Tyson's all about the crystals. Oh, I get it now.

[00:31:16] Tyson: [laughs] Yes. You just exhibit such a strong positive energy that, I think, helps you so much to be human-centric. What I love about that is though, it comes with high expectations and truth and telling it as it is. I remember working on your team and knowing that you were someone that you could go to and open up to, but also that I would be coming back with advice or information or something that was like, "Hey, this is a path forward."

Again, bringing that to the way that we work with our clients and the business and the way that we work with our teams and our direct reports and that sort of thing, it's just about having such an ability to create a rapport quickly, but then it's not just warm and cozy. It's not like a warm hug all the time. It's like, "No, I have an expectation of you and this is what I'm going to do. This is what you're going to do," and living it up that way.

I'm answering for you because I've had the pleasure to work with you. I just think that it's so important to understand that human-centric piece is not all bad because that building trust is what allows us to get in the door with the business. It's super important to have that ability and that skill.

[00:32:35] Ana: It's a balance. I think I spoke in an earlier podcast about how an HRBP needs to be very influential. I guess I just said a lot to just say that, Alexa, it's like the balance. It's a balance of understanding how the businesses run, but also understanding that you need your humans to run the business.

[00:32:57] Alexa: You're the bridge between the two.

[00:32:59] Ana: Understanding that you can't be too much on one side and too much on the other side. It's being in the middle and creating that perfect balance.

[00:33:10] Alexa: What do you think people miss? That's the ideal, right? You've obviously had a very storied career, and you've got a bit of a business background. I think it's not at all surprising to me why you've been so successful while you're working at a huge organization, and you have a very senior position there. My question is, what do you think people miss? If you were going to go back and talk to your 21-year-old self who was about to go down this path, what would be the things you'd tell yourself?

[00:33:35] Ana: I would tell myself that [chuckles] you're selling lipstick and bras. That's what the organization you're working for is selling. The organization you're working for in another place is maybe shipping out merchandise, you're helping-- It's not that big of a deal. If you're not happy where you are at any point in life with in your career, take that leap of faith, take a risk and make a change. I will tell you guys, I've been in a career for 30 years. This is the first time I've had to make a decision to leave an organization to do something better because a good opportunity was presented to me.

5 years ago, 10 years ago, I was scared shitless. I wish I could go back to my 21-year-old self and say, "Don't get stuck where you're not happy and don't be afraid to do something different." I think that that's probably what I've been sharing with Tyson, which she's remembering because I believe that HR has a shelf life. I feel like I'm getting close to the shelf life. I know that a lot of people that I've spoken to who are around my age, who've been in HR a long time, they've hit that shelf life and they've left and they're doing something else. That's because dealing with people and finding that balance, it's almost-- Yes, it's hard.

[00:35:01] Alexa: That is such a fascinating way to think of this though because I think so many people go into this career and they're lifers. They're like, "I am going to-- I fell into this and 30 years later, here we are," or like, "It's what I know. It's what I do. I'm in this lane," and I think it's a very special profession to have history in because there's not a lot of people that can do it.

Nobody wants to get that tweet. Nobody wants to be the friend that everybody forwards that tweet to and goes, "Yes, your job sounds like it sucks." Nobody wants to be that person, but this concept of treating it with shelf life and making it something that it's hard to do, so you shouldn't overdo it, you should get good at it, you should do it in your prime, and it's useful.

I have a mentor of mine. He's an investor of mine. He's a mentor. He was the president of a university for many, many years. He was the president of a public company or CEO of a public company for many, many years. He was an academic before that. He was in business before that. He's just had this incredible career. I said, "I don't understand. How do you go from being the president of a university for 20 years to being the president or the CEO of a public company for 15 years?" He said, "Alexa, it's all people, it's all the same stuff. I've literally used the same skills."

If you start to think of HR, it's like, well, if you're the people that understand the people, there's literally nothing you can't go do. It is the most transferable skill set there is. There's not a single client-facing/product-facing role that's not relevant to, a team that doesn't need that. I love the idea of like, "Let's think of this as a finite career that needs to be done the right way for the right years at the right time," and not like, "Oh God, I got to psych myself up to do this for 50 years." [laughs]

[00:36:40] Ana: I know what I'm doing next. I'm going to be a barista at a coffee shop.

[00:36:45] Tyson: [laughs] That's awesome.

[00:36:46] Alexa: What's your favorite drink? What are you excited to make the most?

[00:36:49] Ana: I like an Americano Misto with two pumps of vanilla from Starbucks, but I really like artisan coffee shops. I don't need to make money, I just need to break even and see my regulars. That's what I'm doing next.

[00:37:03] Tyson: It's amazing.

[00:37:04] Ana: After this job that I'm taking in five years, that's what I'm going to do.

[00:37:08] Alexa: I love that.

[00:37:09] Tyson: I need to ask you, so I'm going to switch gears, I just really want to ask you about being an advocate for HR, not just to the business, but to other HR teams, and just in general. Again, you're definitely someone who I think is outspoken and you stand strong as an advocate for HR. I'd love to hear just a little bit about that.

[00:37:33] Ana: Yes. Gosh, it keeps throwing me off because I don't like talking about myself, but this is what the podcast is about.

[00:37:41] Alexa: You did agree to be interviewed on a podcast, Ana.

[laughter]

[00:37:47] Ana: I think I'm an advocate because I truly, truly believe in it. If I believe in something, I'm going to advocate for it, regardless. Being in HR, People Operations, it's about connecting a business idea and somebody to do your business idea for you. If you can find that right mix of somebody who's super excited to do it and you can engage them and train them and give them all the skills and they're happy and they're going to sell your product for you, that's what HR does. They work with the leaders to create that workforce plan, another cliche term, I know, but to really connect employee with jobs. We're like matchmakers. [chuckles] I think about organizations-- I'm going to go back to this tweet you're talking about because I do think there are a lot of really crappy HR people out there.

[00:38:45] Alexa: Obviously, yes, we didn't get here overnight, Ana. [chuckles]

[00:38:49] Ana: I know. I don't like that when something like that happens when this tweet comes out and it's probably because of an experience with maybe somebody who didn't advocate properly for the role or who didn't understand what they were doing, maybe got put into the role because they were a TA person, and then got thrown into HR, client services, whatever it is, just like any job, you have to find the right person. I think that's why I continue to try to advocate for really good HR people.

It's evolving. It's constantly changing. I bought my [unintelligible 00:39:25] proceed change management things. I'm taking a three-day course. I want to understand more about change management as well, but HR is ever-evolving and we have to move with the trends, and we can't stay behind.

[00:39:39] Alexa: We got to connect you to Jesse Markhoff, our prior guest. She's all about behavior change and change management. What do you think are the biggest things that people in the profession can do to advocate for themselves? What do you think people can be doing to advocate for-- I would regard you as this new guard. You're of the mindset of a new guard of the profession. What would you articulate to people who may be-- for the profession as a whole should be doing, to advocate for it?

[00:40:08] Ana: I would say to continue to advocate to be in the role, or if you're in the role and you're finding you're not getting into that sweet spot, first of all, consider if you're in the right role, first and foremost. You can be super academic in HR and take all of the theory courses you want to take. It does not apply to the real world. When you get in the real world, if you can take that academic stuff and put it aside, take a little bit of what you've learned, but put it aside and really, really take the time to understand the business and the people that are doing the business.

You're going to advocate for it. I would say really strong HR professionals, get your seat at the table, get to the table. If the business is blocking you from HR, getting to the table, you don't want to be in that business anyway. I would say for business leaders, allow HR a seat at the table. This is your glue. This is for who's going to help you identify those gaps. I think I said it earlier, the levers you need to push and pull to support your people in delivering whatever product you're wanting to sell, whatever you're trying to earn. You're not going to be able to do that if you don't have somebody or a group of people who can help you achieve that.

Focus on operations. Do your job, or focus on being the CEO, do your job, or the finance, do your job, but then understand that you need somebody within the profession who's got experience to help you get connected to people, to the business, let them do their job. We've seen this a lot, right, Tyson, where we've seen business leaders try to do HR work and it never works.

[00:41:58] Alexa: It literally never works. It's funny how that happens.

[00:42:01] Tyson: Honestly, going back to your first point from someone who has their master's in HR, it is an absolute useless piece of paper, amount of time, amount of money. You absolutely-- I get this question all the time. "Do I need to do my masters, blah, blah, blah, whatever?" Absolutely not. School of Hard Knocks is where you learn HR. Not through masters, not through education.

[00:42:23] Alexa: I don't know a single person in this profession that's looking for any of that credit.

[00:42:27] Tyson: Not even close.

[00:42:27] Alexa: I mean, we're talking certifications, credits, like maybe some skills, maybe some interest in different things, but mostly stuff like, "How much do you know about the business? How much have you worked in other professions? How much do you know about humans?"

[00:42:37] Tyson: The most learning that I did in that program was when we'd have our hour-long lunch and all the HR managers would sit at a table and we'd just talk about what we were doing at work, or on breaks, we'd talk about what we were doing. That was the best part about it; meeting people and learning from people. Learning from the books and the profs, they don't know what they're talking about. They don't know how this stuff works.

[00:42:59] Ana: You don't need your letter. I don't have letters.

[00:43:02] Tyson: I'm getting rid of all my letters. I just dropped a few letters. [laughs]

[00:43:08] Alexa: We have to have a ceremony, like a letter-dropping ceremony for Tyson when her [unintelligible 00:43:14] expires or whatever it is. That's awesome. All right, ladies. Well, I hate to do it, but we got to move on to People Problems.

[music]

Tyson, speaking of, what's our People Problem?

[00:43:35] Tyson: This one is right on, I think, topic and we talked a little bit about it, but the question is from a listener. "I love the company that I work with, but there is a lack of growth. What would you do?" Lack of career growth.

[00:43:49] Alexa: Career growth. Okay.

[00:43:51] Tyson: This is a situation where they actually do love the company that they work with. I know we touched on this a little bit differently before when we talked about it, like it doesn't really matter, the company, you should be committed to yourself.

[00:44:04] Alexa: Also another vague question, they're always a little vague.

[00:44:07] Tyson: They're always so vague.

[00:44:08] Alexa: They're always a little vague.

[00:44:09] Ana: It's vague, but I get it. I get it because another story example, I've worked in an organization where there was no-- literally no plan for career development, training, succession planning. I know those are all HR jargony words, but there's no plan for that. What happens is you hire employee B to come in as whatever, hydrogeologist, they can't be that forever. They're going to want to grow in their career eventually, and if you don't have a plan for that individual, they're going to learn all they can learn, and now you've done a really good job of training somebody up to leave you to go for another organization who values career development and training.

So I would say if you are in HR and you're working for an organization that's lacking that, I would try to see if you are-- if the leaders within the organization have-- you can get buy-in to create something, it doesn't need to be complicated, can be a simple nine-box thing. It doesn't take a long time to test it and pilot it. If there's energy around it and you can sell them on what that return on investment might be by doing this, awesome, your goal-- continue. You're doing your job.

If there's no appetite, [chuckles] that's my advice because you'll be frustrated, that individual will be frustrated because HR tends to get all the calls from the employees saying, "I want to grow my career and I want to develop. My manager's not supporting me with training," you as an HR VP or whatever your position is, you are going to continually get blocked. Now you're in the middle between employees saying, "I want to train and develop," and a leader saying. "I can't invest in that employee. We don't have money to do it." You're not going to be able to do your best work as an HR person.

[00:46:03] Alexa: Amen. [chuckles]

[00:46:05] Tyson: I was actually in this situation, so I can speak from a personal perspective as well, just that I did absolutely love the company that I worked with more than anything and I still think about this company all the time, and I speak highly of it, but I was completely roadblocked. There was no way, I saw no career progression at all. You take a look around, you know that there's no options for you.

I did leave and something that I was told-- I don't know if this was on Instagram, something I saw once, it said, "Don't ever get too committed to a manager, a company, or a role, but to commit to your own personal mission," and to work for your own personal goals versus trying to get too committed because, unfortunately, that manager might leave. That company might go under, might take a turn, might lay you off. Something might happen, and your role at that company could change, right? So you don't want to get overly committed to anything, except your own personal mission.

Honestly, as much as it was like-- it's hard, it's actually so hard and emotional leaving a company. I'm sure you're going through this right now leaving. I cried and it's hard. It's really emotionally hard, but I don't regret a single thing about leaving. Since then, my career has just taken such a turn and it's been such a positive thing that I've done. I love the new company that I work for. There's lots of good companies out there, right?

[00:47:34] Alexa: Yes. Look, that's the only way you're going to get personal growth. If you stay stagnant at a place, that's on you. I think it sounds like this person knows they want growth, and if this is not a growth-oriented company-- first of all, companies that don't grow don't tend to do very well in the long-term. They don't tend to survive as well or as long, but second of all, if that's what's personally important to you, then you're just not going to be able to do it at this organization. You've got to go, to Ana's point. If they're not willing to take it on, they got to leave, and they're going to hear that if they just continue to roadblock growth in general.

Actually, Tyson, your story is reminding me of when I got into-- I was a college athlete. I played tennis in college. My [unintelligible 00:48:15] deciding between all these schools, right? I was like, "Oh--" when you're-- whatever, 16 at the time, you just think this is the biggest decision in the world because in the States, it's like where you go to college, your alma mater, it's this huge thing. You think you're going to be branded with this shit for life. Then you kind of are, but it doesn't make or break you, but at the time you're 16, you can't regulate your emotions. You're like, "Oh my God, this is everything."

My mom, I was getting recruited to play tennis at the time, my mom was like, "Alexa, you need to go where you're going to be happy if you break your leg because there's a real chance that happens, and you get injured, and it's not about the tennis team or the coach or the locker rooms or the facilities or this season that they play, or if you like the other girls on the team. You have to go to a place that you are going to be happy you're there, and you are happy with what that's going to do for you and the other people and the opportunities that you have, kind of regardless of what happens with all this other stuff."

I think that's a really perfect sort of analogy to what you're saying, where it's like, "Don't get overly committed to this. All you can commit to is what you want for yourself and how that fits in your journey." That means people leave companies all the time and it's scary. If you know you want growth and you know you want career trajectory, you got to go. I will say, and I've had many employees say this to me before, and I've actually had a couple of employees say it, and I think it's awesome, which is some people don't want that, and it's okay.

[00:49:25] Tyson: Growth? People who don't want growth? Yes.

[00:49:26] Alexa: [crosstalk] I've had people be like-- Yes, like, "I'm not interested outside of doing something in a client-facing role where I can work pretty much 40 hours a week. I make a steady paycheck and I can have a family and go do whatever with my husband or my kids or my--"

[00:49:38] Tyson: We need those people. [chuckle]

[00:49:39] Alexa: Yes. You absolutely need those people. Those people, worker bees make the world go around, man. It's totally okay if whoever asks this question is listening. If you don't want growth, that's also totally fine. It's not-- there's no judgment here, man. I wish I could be--. I often think about going and being a barista, that's actually probably really, really hard work on a regular basis, but you just want to show up and do your work and check out. Cool, more power to you. You just got to decide what you want.

If your organization's not getting there, it's an opportunity to try to get them there. If you can get them there, it could be an awesome opportunity to be like, "I got these people to their first set of management trainings or development skills or levels," or whatever it is you decide to do, but, to Ana's point, if they're not listening and that's important to you, diminishing returns at this point, the longer you stay, the joke is further on you. Get the fuck out.

[00:50:30] Tyson: Yes. Have that conversation first and be an advocate for yourself. You have to have to be an advocate for yourself. If I've learned anything working in HR, the squeaky wheel gets the grease. Ak for higher pay, ask for that promotion. Don't ever be afraid to do that.

[00:50:46] Alexa: It doesn't have to be enormous. If you've got an executive that's scared of this new first-time CEO, whatever, you can make this stuff incrementally. You can make it very palatable. It's actually a really good skill. I know organizations that they're randomly promoting people every three to nine months on average. There are not huge pay bumps, there are not huge changes, but there are increases in responsibility, and keeps people engaged, keeps people thinking about what they're doing, keeps people thinking about your product.

There's lots of ways to do it. You just got to make sure you're not talking to a team that's not interested. It may just be that your executive team doesn't know what they're doing. If you took on the role and said, "Well, let me try to do this for us," you may shine like a rock star or you might just get shut down, in which case you should get the fuck out. [chuckles] All right, ladies. Ana, where can people find you if they like talking to you and they like what you have to say?

[00:51:32] Ana: I think I do have a Twitter account. I'm not active on it. I would say LinkedIn.

[00:51:37] Tyson: Any lasting pieces of advice for anyone in HR?

[00:51:43] Ana: Yes. Understand that HR has a shelf life and don't be afraid to step out of HR for a while and come back in. I've been in client services, client-facing HR for all of my HR career, except for the time I've spent in operations, and I'm going to do something in talent, acquisition, learning, and development. What? I've never done that, but I'm going to jump in, learn all I can, and that's okay. It's okay. It's another area of HR. It's different though.

[00:52:20] Alexa: It's another way to grow. You don't just have to grow up. You can grow sideways. That's okay too. I love that. Ana, it's been a pleasure. Thanks for being here.

[00:52:28] Tyson: Thank you so much, Ana, sharing this wisdom. Honestly, I feel like I need to say this one last time, but you have had such an impact on me and my career and working with you was so impactful. Hope people enjoyed this episode as much as we did.

[00:52:42] Ana: People can't see how I'm so blushing.

[00:52:47] Alexa: Yes. I can attest to that.

[00:52:47] Ana: You know what? I've got a learning mindset and I learned, I think, just as much from you, Tyson, so right back at you.

[00:52:57] Alexa: Well, fucking kumbaya, kids.

[laughter]

[00:53:00] Ana: Good luck with the baby.

[00:53:02] Tyson: Thank you.

[00:53:03] Alexa: This episode was executive produced by me, Alexa Baggio, with audio production by Ellie Brigida of Clear Harmonies. Our into music was also done by the wonderful Ellie Brigida of Clear Harmonies. You can find more information about us at future episodes at peopleproblemspod.com or follow us at PeopleProblemsPod on all things social. Thanks.

[music]


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