Rebecca Pound stands out as a trailblazer in Human Resources, with an illustrious career marked by her unwavering commitment to fostering positive workplace cultures. Her journey, which began at Mount Royal University, has led her through roles at impressive organizations like ATB Financial, FortisAlberta and Alberta Investment Management Corporation (AIMCo). Rebecca’s unique approach to HR is highlighted by her emphasis on using data-driven decision-making, delivering action-focused training, and coaching with genuine empathy.
At ATB, Rebecca identified trends within employee sick leave data that was the catalyst in overhauling the organization’s mental health strategy. At FortisAlberta, she was the force behind the company’s first Diversity & Inclusion Committee, championing the origin and success of five employee resource groups. Her recent transition to the role of Manager, Employee Experience at AIMCo signifies her continued dedication to enhancing employee experiences and leveraging her skills in cultivating organizational belonging.
In our recent sit-down with Rebecca, she delved deep into her HR journey, sharing insights from her vast experience, the challenges she’s navigated, and her vision for the future of HR.
Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Like many of my colleagues, I fell into HR. I went into university majoring in business. But it was HR that truly resonated with me. I had one fantastic professor in particular – the impact she had on me is unforgettable. She believed I had a natural mind for HR and shared that she always looked forward to reviewing my work. Her encouragement and feedback were instrumental in building my passion for the field and ultimately changing my major to HR.
The TSN turning point, if you will, of going from university to hands-on reality was realizing that HR is a much more data-driven field than I was anticipating. Unfortunately, the stuff we worked on in school focused on policy creation. We didn’t really focus on how to tie those initiatives back to core business functions.
As a young HR Coordinator out of university, watching my director present extremely data-informed proposals was eye-opening, and I’m so grateful I had that lesson early on in my career. The lightbulb clicked – what makes you a strong HR professional is having data insights and approaching your work strategically with a mix of analytics and intuition.
Call me when you’ve figured it out! It’s something that you always have to manage. But one thing that helps me is Franklin Covey’s concept of big rocks vs. the gravel. Make sure you’re scheduling time to move those boulders forward versus sorting gravel and tinkering with those more minor tasks. If I notice I’m getting too caught up in that “gravel work,” I schedule time for the big rocks.
There’s a difference between an organization that walks the talk and an organization that does mental health programing as a checkbox activity. Meaning, having an Employee Family Assistance provider, and posting an article during Mental Health Week are bare-minimum table stakes. Employees can see through recycled lunch and learns and pamphlets.
Organizations that are taking serious steps in this space, however, are doing the work to dismantle or redesign historical policies and practices that contradict creating positive mental health environments.
The biggest bang for the organization’s buck here is ensuring your employees clearly understand the resources they have access to, and there are no barriers preventing them from accessing. The second step is working with leaders to express the critical role they play in supporting the mental wellness of their team. Their job is, first and foremost, to reduce stigma.
In my opinion, why leaders most commonly shy away from having mental health conversations at work is their perceived fear around needing to “solve” the problem for the individual. Managers are not expected to have the capacity or skills to counsel employees – that’s not their job! What organizations need to do is upskill their people leaders in how to notice signs of declining mental health, how to confidently approach that individual, and guide them to the mental health resources available.
TL;DR answer: Organizations who are doing workplace mental health well have an elevated level of leadership maturity, and HR policies and practices that are reflective of a humanized approach.
Through my research and previous partnership with Kudos, I’ve learned that what people really want at work is to be seen and noticed for positive output and outcomes. Beyond a fair salary, recognition is one of the most critical factors for an employee. A platform like Kudos is vital to any organization because it provides an avenue to share gratitude across geographies – and gratitude is a powerful stepping stone in cultivating organizational belonging.
One thing keeping me up at night is the average person’s capacity to absorb and apply new information today, given their job demands and external distractions. In my role, I’m creating programs and running initiatives to educate, inform and empower the people in my organization when it comes to mental health, wellness, employee experience, and more; I want to ensure my work is always seen as enrichment (because it is) and not just another to-do.
One thing I’m exploring is a new concept around organizations evolving from enforcing policies to following principles. I.e., if your organization is mature and ready for it, have north-star principles around how you do business vs. static rules. This allows some grey area and especially rehumanizes the HR approach. One-size-fits-all human resources policies don’t work when you’re striving to build inclusive workplaces.
Thank you, Rebecca, for sharing your insights and experiences with us!
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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.Talk to Sales