Navigating the New Age of HR

People People

June 19, 2023

Margaux Morgante

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5 min

Meet John Odike, Vice President of Human Resources at Wesley Enhanced Living.

Unlock the keys to building a strong workplace culture and driving employee engagement. Learn from HR expert John Odike as he shares practical advice for career success in the ever-changing HR landscape.

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In today’s fast-paced corporate world, the role of Human Resources has evolved far beyond its traditional boundaries. As business strategies become more intricate and employee-centric, the function of HR has taken on an even more pivotal role in the journey to success.  

To delve into this dynamic landscape, we sat down with John Odike, the Vice President of Human Potential at Wesley Enhanced Living. Originally from Nigeria, John moved to the United States in the late nineties to complete his MBA. As part of his program, he did a rotation in HR at Horseshoe Casino in Bossier City, Louisiana, where he fell in love with the profession.  

“What I loved most was the exposure it gave me in understanding how organizations work and how people play a critical role in business success. From technology to processes and operations, if you don’t have the right people, it’s not going to work,” John shared.

Today, he is shaping the future of HR with his unique blend of business acumen, social prowess, and a deep understanding of human potential.  

Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity

What makes you a good fit for a career in HR?

My background has always been in business, accounting, and analytics. Walking into my first HR role, I realized I could marry that with understanding how to use the workforce to impact the organization’s goals and objectives – the bottom line. Making those connections came naturally to me.  

As a person that truly enjoys social interactions, building networks within the organization at all levels was easy, allowing me to understand the business.  

My favorite thing is working with people and the interconnectivity between people and business. How, if you put people in the right positions, and give them the right tools, you can build an organization from nothing to something successful. It’s an amazing thing to see.  

What is a memorable moment in your career–something you are proud of?

One of the things I always look back on is getting recruited by the owner of an oil and gas start-up to help put together their infrastructure. There were just four of us. We went from 4 people to a global organization of 1500, with offices in the UK, Nigeria, and the US. It was a fulfilling accomplishment, and the organization is still doing well today.  

Communication is key when managing human resources amidst such rapid growth. From the start, we had a clear focus in terms of what we wanted to accomplish. Everyone was clear on the strategy and their role in implementing it. We used a stage gate process where at the end of each stage, we would stop, do some tweaking, and ensure our approach was sound. Making sure the key people involved were focused on the right tasks.

How do you earn and keep your seat at the executive table as an HR leader?

I’ve been lucky to work with organizations and boards made up of people who see the value of investing in people. Typically, the critical information that executives are looking for is whether or not we have the right people in critical roles, or whether our benefits and wages are competitive in our industry. They also want to know why turnover is happening–and what we can do to retain employees.  

In the last 15 years, HR has evolved from a primarily administrative function to something much more dynamic. HR today is about understanding your workforce, and how that workforce is integral to making your business successful.  

My team needs to be seen as a team of partners for leaders–a team that looks at every aspect of the business–things like our work environment, wages, benefits, succession planning, employee engagement, and how we recognize and reward our team.  

Unfortunately, HR departments sometimes focus on the wrong things, or things that don’t necessarily matter to employees. The key here is analytics. Analytics gives you the data you need to understand your employees' engagement and what you need to focus on and improve.  

How do you build a strong workplace culture?

Building a successful work culture is not easy. Culture is the shared values, beliefs, behaviors, and norms that exist in your organization. At Wesley, we’re values-driven, our key values are Grace, Honesty & Integrity, and one of the things our senior leaders try to figure out daily is how to get people simply to do the right thing in their roles and functions.  

In everything we do, including our partnership with Kudos, the focus is on ensuring our values are front and center for all employees. Recognizing and rewarding people for living those values using Kudos cements a lot of the things we’re trying to accomplish. We’re using that lever to get our culture to stick.

What advice would you have for someone building a career in HR?

First, education matters for someone trying to get into HR; it’s essential to know the principles of Human Resources.  

Also, getting affiliated with the right HR organizations, because networking is key. SHRM, the Society for Human Resource Management, has been a great association to participate in. I’ve learned so much by networking within SHRM in terms of policies, compliance, ordinances, working with the department of labor, and different policies and laws.  

Next is embracing continuous learning. You can never learn enough, especially in this industry. Every day there’s something new–new initiatives, technology, and concepts. People are constantly coming up with ways to make our jobs easier, and having the right mentors and subject matter experts lined up is key.  

Finally, it’s imperative to understand the business that you work in. For every company I’ve worked with, the first thing I need to understand is how the business makes money – their bottom line. If you understand that, you can gear your HR practices to ensure you’re accomplishing the company’s goals and objectives.

Looking ahead, what do you see as your biggest challenge?

There are so many technological advancements, so I worry about whether we are positioned to compete in the next 5-10 years as an organization. I wonder if we’ve put the right tools in place to attract the workforce of the future. So, I’m focused on making sure that, from a technology perspective, we have the right tools in place. And taking that further, are technologies talking to each other?

What are the biggest opportunities? What are you most excited about?

Coincidently, also technology. Specifically, analytics. The amount of data and information that exists for you to make a case for HR tools and programs is incredible. Having data that tells us exactly what our employees need is so helpful. For example, our survey results continuously showed that our employees weren’t feeling recognized and appreciated, leading to our partnership with Kudos. It’s much easier to go to your Executive Team when you can show them trends. HR leaders no longer rely on personal intuition or opinion. There are a lot of “a-ha moments” when you have those conversations.

Thank you, John, for sitting down with us and sharing your experience and knowledge!

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About Kudos

Kudos is an employee engagement, culture, and analytics platform, that harnesses the power of peer-to-peer recognition, values reinforcement, and open communication to help organizations boost employee engagement, reduce turnover, improve culture, and drive productivity and performance. Kudos uses unique proprietary methodologies to deliver essential people analytics on culture, performance, equity, and inclusion, providing organizations with deep insights and a clear understanding of their workforce.

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