Emma Bott: Can you tell me about your background including your education and past work experience?
Kira Bocian: I completed my Bachelor of Commerce with an HR Major and Business Law minor at the University of Alberta School of Business, convocating in 2008. I achieved my Certified Human Resources Professional (CHRP) designation in 2009. All throughout university I worked at Chili's Texas Grill as a server, this helped sharpen my skills in being able to talk to different types of people, multitasking, thinking on my feet, sales (i.e. up-selling menu items), negotiations, and reading people, in order to give good customer service. I started my HR career at CN Rail while I was still in university. I worked at CN full time during the summer and part time during my last year. I travelled all over Western Canada to small rail towns to recruit for Operations positions such as Conductors, Track Maintainers, etc. This introduced me to the ‘world of HR’ and helped me build my self-confidence and independence early-on in my career. After this, I worked at MNP, a large public-practice accounting and professional services firm, for 4 years in their HR department. I started at Rohit Group in May 2012 as HR Coordinator, and got promoted the HR Manager less than a year later. At the time, I was the youngest Manager in the whole company, as well as the first (and only) HR Manager for the organization.
Why did you decide on working in Human Resources?
All through high school, I wanted to be a lawyer….. as far back as I can remember, this had been my dream career. However, when I was doing my first year of general studies in university, I learned more about the HR profession and how integrated it actually is with legal concepts such as employment law, contract law, etc. Also being interested in the business world, I found this to be a match made in heaven!
What is the most interesting thing about working in Human Resources?
I enjoy being able to recruit and hire high potential employees and see them progress in having successful careers (in front of my eyes!). I feel partially accountable for setting them up for success! I also enjoy seeing how implementing different HR policies and procedures can assist an organization with their financial and operational goals.
Is there any common misconception about Human Resource in your opinion?
If someone is looking for a career that is based on being “touchy feely” and/or going into the profession because “you like people”, this definitely is not a career for you. In fact, this is a major misconception about HR and is absolutely the wrong reason, in my opinion, to pursue this career path. Another misconception is the under-valuing of having a marketing and sales skillset in the HR role. There’s a quote I really like by author Philip Kotler: “The sales department isn’t the whole company, but the whole company better be the sales department”. This is especially true to HR – not only are you ‘selling the dream’ of working for your company (in order to attract and retain top talent), but you also sell internal employees on the value of their roles within the organization.
What is the most difficult part about working in Human Resource?
You have to remain neutral and do what is best for the business, while still being mindful on the impact of the staff. As such, you cannot be “friends” with people in order to maintain this neutrality and avoid any optics of favoritism. Also, you never know who you will eventually be “sitting across the table from” (i.e. terminating) so you need to maintain that cognitive distance. Sometimes you know things about people that they don’t even know you are aware of. You have to maintain strict confidentiality on many matters.
In your opinion, what is the main goal of a Human Resources department?
To assist the company with their financial and operational goals, add efficiency, open up opportunities, and to protect the company from a legal perspective.
How did actually going to work in an HR department compare to your expectations? Did you expect something different?
I’ve always considered myself to be a “business person” first and an “HR person” secondly. Because of this, I feel that being in HR has fit my expectations of the role. One skillset that is extremely important in HR is learning how to negotiate. At Rohit Group, I have worked with some of the best negotiators in Edmonton and this has really been an advantage to me, to be able to learn from them and hone this skillset.
From conversations with other Human Resources professionals, I know that something they worry about is firing or letting people go from their jobs, what advice do you have for the person who has to fire someone?
Conducting termination meetings are always my least favorite part of my role, however, it is necessary for maintaining an optimum and high-performing workforce. No turnover is as bad as high turnover for an organization. Often times, the company is actually doing the employee a favor by not keeping them in a role that they are not excelling in. When I do terminations, I always think to myself “how would I want to be treated if it were me on the other side of the table”. I always ensure people are treated with respect and dignity going out, as this is most often very traumatic news that you need to deliver to them. I try to make the experience as smooth and pain-free as possible, as this is in everyone’s best interest.
What advice do you have for the students that are thinking about going into Human Resources?
My favorite piece of advice is always “pick a boss, not a job”. A great boss will be the single biggest determining factor on your job satisfaction and success. I’ve been extremely lucky to have been able to work under some very intelligent, dynamic, and supportive bosses in my career so far and I wholeheartedly believe that I would not be where I am without their support, coaching, and feedback. I try to give this same kind of mentorship to my team that reports up to me. At the end of the day, I am only as successful as my team and their successes and/or failures are also mine as well, as their leader.