Taking a Bold Approach to HR That Challenges Norms and Leans on Authenticity

People People

February 9, 2023

Margaux Morgante

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5 min

Meet People Person Rebecca Lee, Director of People at Kudos

Rebecca Lee, Kudos' Director of HR. Kudos® is an employee engagement, culture, and analytics platform, that harnesses the power of peer-to-peer recognition, rewards, values reinforcement, and open communication to help organizations boost employee engagement, reduce turnover, improve culture, and drive productivity and performance.

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People People is a series covering the best and brightest HR leaders of today and tomorrow.

When it comes to business, Kudos' Rebecca Lee is most passionate about how it gets done. Hint: It’s the people!

Choosing a career in HR

While Rebecca didn't always know she wanted to work in HR, it wasn't long after starting postsecondary education and internships that she realized it was a perfect fit. While studying Business at Concordia University of Edmonton, Rebecca was drawn to her management and leadership development courses.

"It's not just about being a people person," she (somewhat reluctantly) states. "To me, that’s only one part of the equation, which is probably the worst thing you can say as an HR leader. But for me, it's also about helping the business. I'm interested in solving business problems, and my worldview is that in order to solve them, you need to lean into the people side of things, because ultimately, business is done by people."

And that's just one way Rebecca breaks the mold of what you might imagine as an HR leader, or as she prefers, people leader.

HR is your friend. Most of the time.

When it comes to the stereotype of HR being the fun police, Rebecca believes that things have gotten better in the field. But there's still a long way to go.

She explains that in many ways, it's easier to be a neutral third party all the time and, yes, sometimes being the fun police.  

But she chooses the more complex path of adapting to each situation with authenticity.  

That means being approachable, always professional, and willing to hold space for whatever conversation needs to be had. "Sometimes they're easy, sometimes they're really hard," she explains, "but if there's a need to discuss it, I'm happy to go there. And so that's why for me, it's more about the consistency in being genuine versus holding a hard line." For example, suppose someone asks for advice. In that case, she'll be open and honest and work from her personal playbook, but if the conversation relates to an internal policy or labour law, she'll put on her people leader hat and approach it meticulously and objectively.

But the reality of working with people stays the same.

People are complex, the real world can be messy, and HR leaders are here to work alongside the business & people to solve problems.

Who’s in charge of culture here?

Another hot take from Rebecca? Culture doesn’t live in the people function. “Obviously, people teams play a big role in shaping and supporting culture,” she clarifies, but to her, everyone plays a role in bringing it to life through their behaviours, interactions, and relationships.

"It's how we talk to each other, or, how we come together to do the work. Culture comes to life in interactions, whether that's at the 1-1 level or in a big group; it's actually quite decentralized."

If Rebecca had to pinpoint who she thinks are the primary stewards of culture, she thinks it’s managers and leaders.  

"They need to drive it," she explains. "They need to be vigilant about being aware of where the needle is when it comes to culture. And I think that they need to get ahead of it because it's such a powerful tool that can make or break your success in achieving business objectives."

However, people teams are the voice of culture when it comes to programs.

"Programming is where the rubber meets the road," Rebecca explains. "It doesn't matter how great your strategy is, if you can't translate that into action, it actually means nothing." Mic drop.

And to Rebecca, it's the people team’s role to call out cultural implications when rolling out new initiatives. Questions like, is this consistent with our culture? Are we pivoting our culture by doing this? People teams need to push leaders to answer those questions as new ideas are designed and developed, and guide them through programs that support the company's people.

What does the future of HR look like?

In the coming years, HR departments will be pushed to prove they are executing on promises related to DEIB, work-life balance, flexible work environments, and more. It’s also the right thing to do. "The new generation of workers will hold organizations accountable to their promises. They want to know what programs you have in place to execute the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and ESG initiatives you have built strategies around and identified as organizational priorities."

For Rebecca, this is now non-negotiable, and many organizations need to catch up in this respect. It's time to walk the talk.

The other big thing on Rebecca's radar? People analytics.

This is an arena where many people teams are playing catch up compared to other departments like sales, marketing, and operations. For example, one historically popular metric in the people space is time to fill open roles. "Shouldn't we be more concerned about the stay rate and quality of some of those hires?" Rebecca challenges. "We need to get more creative in terms of the outcomes we're trying to measure, and reverse engineer from there to figure out what data points we need."

Demonstrating the ROI of people programs will be critical to bringing and keeping these leaders at the executive table. "There's a story to be told here, and we have the data to tell it."

Final thoughts and advice for HR leaders

The people function will see some big changes over the next few years. People pros are levelling up, skilling up, and realizing that they need focus on integration, whether it be around tools & technology available to support the people space or tucking into enabling efficient/effective business operations".

Rebecca's hope? HR leaders call out the cracks they see, and are courageous enough to lean in and create some change.

Know an amazing People or HR Leader you think we should feature? Send us a note at marketing@kudos.com

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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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