Get ready for an enlightening podcast episode with CHRO Keith Vavra of ST Engineering North America, who shares his journey from operations to HR, highlighting the importance of talent development and understanding the business side of HR. He dives into enhancing the user experience during HR transformations and the value of learning from failures. Keith also emphasizes the need to consider scalability and long-term impacts when making HR decisions. Tune in to discover strategies for boosting productivity, acing talent acquisition, and mastering HR leadership. Plus, he offers tips for work-life balance and shares a book recommendation for transforming workplace dynamics.
In this Episode of Talent on the Rise
- CHRO Keith Vavra shares valuable insights for current and aspiring leaders in HR and talent acquisition.
- Building authentic partnerships and improving productivity are essential for HR's success beyond traditional HR functions.
- Gaining business acumen is critical for a career in HR and driving successful HR transformations.
- Consider the end user and the future when building a transformation strategy.
- Talent acquisition plays a crucial role in organizational success, and supporting it ensures better candidate experiences and employer branding.
- Balancing specialization and broad expertise in HR can lead to a successful career in HR leadership.
- Work-life balance varies for each individual, and prioritizing what aligns with your values is key to avoiding burnout.
Listen Now & Read On for the Episode Recap
Building a Successful HR Career
Keith shares his career journey from starting in operations to moving into HR, emphasizing the importance of talent development and the joy of working in HR with a focus on the human element. "Interestingly enough, I started my career early on as we all did in college, studied nursing and found out quickly that nursing wasn't necessarily the niche that I was hoping for. So as such I kind of moved gears and started operating operations and for enterprise holdings...I really started in my career on the operational side and then moved into HR. And I haven't looked back since, and so that's kind of where I've ended up. And it's a passion."
Gaining Business Acumen in HR
Keith highlights the value of understanding the business side of HR by building strong relationships with other departments and learning how the company generates profits and manages costs. "So, if you have the opportunity. Work closely with your finance partners, get to know their day to day, and understand from a business perspective, you know what what's keeping the the business running... If you can speak the language of your partners in the business, you're going to have much more street credibility with them."
Enhancing the End User Experience
In HR transformations, Keith advises focusing on improving the end user experience, considering scalability, and listening more to understand the needs of stakeholders. "Everything that I do from a transformation perspective has to enhance the end user experience. If it's not going to do that, then for me, the ROI isn't worth the investment.”
Learning from Failures
Keith Emphasizes the importance of celebrating failures and learning from them, as well as networking with other HR professionals to gain insights and help each other look out for potential issues based on their experiences, too. "One of the things is the failures. And I keep failures at the top of the list, because I never want to make the same mistake again. And so when you look at transformation, you want to pull from your history and pull from your failure so that you don't repeat... so that you don't make that same mistake, either in the current organization or a future organization."
Considering the Future in Transformations
When evaluating solutions in HR transformations, Keith stresses the need to think critically about scalability and the long-term impact of the technology or program on the organization. "Because yes, it does take human capital to keep the business running, but there's a lot more components in that. And if you can speak the language of your partners in the business. You're going to have much more street credibility with them, as you… want to launch and do things that may be outside of the norm of what the business construct normally has or is."
Creating Authentic Partnerships to Boost Productivity
According to Keith, productivity is not solely an HR responsibility. It flows across different functions and is crucial for an engaged workforce. Authentic partnerships with internal and external stakeholders play a pivotal role in driving productivity. As he puts it, "I think if you have a non-engaged workforce, they are going to be less productive." Engaging high-performing employees and creating a career-focused culture are vital to maintaining productivity.
Talent Acquisition: A Critical Role for HR
While talent acquisition may not be Keith's primary passion, he recognizes its importance and ensures it receives the necessary support. A successful talent acquisition function involves employee branding and providing state-of-the-art tools to recruitment professionals. Candidates' perception of an organization and the recruitment process can significantly impact employer branding and the overall candidate experience. For Keith, aligning company values with candidates' motivations is essential for attracting and retaining top talent.
Balancing Multiple Hats in HR Leadership
Aspiring HR leaders often wonder whether to specialize in a single area or gain experience in multiple HR functions. According to Keith, both paths can lead to success. He advises HR practitioners to take on various roles to gain a comprehensive understanding of HR's impact on the organization. However, some HR leaders may prefer to specialize in a particular discipline, allowing them to focus on mastering that area and becoming subject matter experts.
Traits of Successful HR Leaders
To thrive as an HR leader, Keith highlights the importance of listening, absorbing knowledge, and gaining expertise from colleagues. Emphasizing good sense and a strong moral compass is vital to making sound decisions in challenging situations. He advises aspiring leaders to follow their passions and be unafraid to step outside their comfort zones to find their unique path to success.
Work-Life Balance: A Personalized Approach
In the fast-paced world of C-suite leadership, work-life balance is critical to avoiding burnout. For Keith, the key to balance is physical fitness and family time. He suggests that everyone should find their own work-life balance, which might include activities that contribute to physical, mental, and emotional well-being. A supportive organizational culture that values work-life balance empowers employees to maintain high productivity and engagement.
Book Recommendation: "The Fish Philosophy"
The book "The Fish Philosophy" made a significant impact on Keith during a transformational phase at his organization. It focuses on turning a toxic work environment into a positive one by changing employees' mindsets. The book's message extends beyond HR and leadership roles, emphasizing the value of creating positive change in any situation.
In a world where HR plays a pivotal role in shaping organizations, Keith's insights shine as a beacon for aspiring and seasoned HR leaders alike. His journey from diverse experiences, his emphasis on understanding the human element, and his practical advice on business acumen and transformation provide a roadmap for success. By focusing on fostering authentic partnerships, adapting to change, and maintaining a healthy work-life balance, HR professionals can truly unlock the potential within themselves and their teams. As you embark on your own HR adventures, remember that the path to excellence is a continuous learning experience, and Keith's wisdom will undoubtedly guide you toward making a lasting impact in the dynamic realm of human resources.
This article is based on an episode of Talent on the Rise, Brazen’s podcast about transformative leaders and how they got a seat at the table. Subscribe in your preferred podcast app.
Advice for CHROs Based on Keith's Podcast Episode
What makes a good CHRO?
A successful Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO) embodies a versatile blend of qualities, drawing from diverse career experiences to gain a comprehensive understanding of the human element within an organization. They possess a strong sense of business acumen, foster authentic partnerships, and prioritize enhancing the end user experience. A good CHRO learns from failures, thinks critically about transformations, and adapts to change, continuously striving for improvement. They excel in listening, adapting, and making ethically sound decisions. Achieving work-life balance, valuing continuous learning, and promoting positive change define their approach. Keith Vavra's insights in this podcast episode underscore that a strong CHRO navigates the HR landscape with authenticity, adaptability, and a commitment to both personal and organizational growth.
How to become a CHRO?
To become a successful Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO), aspiring individuals should emphasize building strong relationships across departments to grasp the business side of HR, while also prioritizing the end user experience in HR transformations. Additionally, they should embrace failures as learning opportunities, foster authentic partnerships with stakeholders, and ensure a balance between specialization and versatility in HR leadership.