Bruce O’Neel is the vice president of total rewards and HR operations at CSG International, a market-leading business support solutions and services company serving the majority of the top 100 global communications service providers. In this week’s Workday Community Voices, O’Neel shares insights and lessons learned from more than 20 years as an HR leader, on topics such as maintaining a strong culture through growth, how HR contributes to business direction and strategy, and what he’s learned about people.

What is the greatest challenge facing your profession today?
One of the biggest challenges for HR is migrating from an operational focus to a business partner focus. HR can often be seen as a very tactical part of the business, processing payroll and bonuses, hiring staff, and dealing with employee relations. While these are important elements of HR, the value proposition is delivering a people strategy that is aligned to the business strategy. For example, CSG is transitioning many of its products from legacy technology to cloud-based and hosted solutions. HR is developing a talent strategy to support this new direction that will address issues such as what to do with current skill sets and how to get the new skills we will need. To be credible in HR, you have to be a business leader first.

Leading a team is more than just a professional obligation; employees want to know you genuinely care about them holistically.

What are the most significant technological advancements impacting HR and how?

Technology has enabled a highly mobile and connected workforce, making it possible for employees to work remotely with a high degree of productivity. This has catapulted the work-life balance discussion to the forefront of employers’ minds. It has also fueled discussion about flexible work arrangements for all levels of employees and put pressure on policy makers to reconsider workforce classifications (e.g. Fair Labor Standards Act designations).

Technology has also put data at the forefront of decision-making, enabling employees across the organization to easily access information and manage more by fact. With advances in analytics, HR is able to tell compelling stories about its workforce that can add great value to business strategy and decisions.

In your opinion, what tactics are the most effective in attracting and retaining talent?
First, clearly define what success looks like for people in their roles and empower them to achieve it – intrinsically motivated employees want to know where the goal line is. Then, reward employees for their achievement beyond just compensation, through recognition, giving credit, and continuing to challenge them. Care about the people that do the work. Leading a team is more than just a professional obligation; employees want to know you genuinely care about them holistically.

As a company grows and changes, how do you ensure that the culture remains strong?
Leadership. Building a culture is not grassroots or programmatic. Strong, high-performing and employee-engaged cultures are reflective of a leadership commitment that emulates a genuine and authentic top-down approach. It is more than words posted in vision, mission, or employee value proposition statements – employees look to their leaders to drive the company culture. The shadow that is cast is the behavior that gets replicated.

What is the greatest insight or lesson you’ve learned about people working as an HR leader?
Hire for attitude and aptitude while looking for people that are intrinsically motivated and team oriented. Individuals that have the desire and capacity to learn, while maintaining a positive disposition can do just about anything they set their mind to. As a leader, there is nothing more rewarding than giving someone an opportunity in a role that is not in their current “sweet spot,” and watching them grow and succeed.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
The ability to fly. Being able to quickly get from one place to another, the adrenaline rush of soaring through the air and going into a dive, and the tranquility from drifting aloft away from the cacophony of life’s daily noise – if only! Flying also has a metaphorical leadership connection to me – challenge yourself to achieve new heights and don’t let your feathers get too ruffled by circumstance.

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