Earlier this week, local HR professionals converged on Search Solution Group’s headquarters in Charlotte’s bustling Lower Southend neighborhood in a remarkable display of unity, knowledge-sharing, and empowerment.
The occasion? “Women in HR: Career Acceleration and Workforce Trends,” a pivotal event that sparked insightful discussions, forged new connections and celebrated the strength of women in HR.
The event was a resounding success, drawing a packed turnout that underscored its significance within the local HR community. The panel discussion, expertly moderated by Janet LaBar, President of the CLT Alliance, featured influential leaders from renowned local companies, including Wray Ward, Rack Room Shoes, Dentsply Sirona, and Tepper Sports Entertainment. Together, the panelists shared their invaluable insights on various topics impacting HR professionals, making for an enlightening and empowering evening.
An Evening of Empowerment and Insights
As the event unfolded, it became evident that the audience was in for a transformative experience. The panelists, representing diverse backgrounds and industries, brought a wealth of knowledge.
Employers’ changing expectations around remote work, post-Pandemic, was one of the first topics of discussion. LoriAnn Boyer, VP of HR, Wray Ward, discussed the importance of relying upon technology, citing her experience working in remote and onsite roles and recognizing the merit and benefit in both.
“It’s important to have the right tools and technology to keep you connected,” she Boyer said. “With remote, connection and communication are the key things to keep you productive and feeling like you’re belonging. It’s supervisors making sure they’re touching base and connecting with them. Looking for signs of stress as well from isolation and anxiety, if they’re seeing signs of it, to offer resources to their direct reports. It’s making sure whatever communication tools you have, you’re at least checking in every single day with your direct reports and training your supervisors to do the same.”
Julie Barr, Vice President of Human Resources at Rack Room Shoes, mentioned that a hybrid remote schedule works well for Rack Room Shoes, which expects employees to work three days in-office and two days remotely. She stressed top leadership’s involvement in communicating expectations has been a big part of why this is successful at Rack Room leading expectations from top leadership.
Tepper Sports, however, is taking a different approach to remote work.
Kisha Smith, who works for Tepper, mentioned the changes that the COVID era brought to Tepper Sports, increasing flexibility with remote arrangements and underscoring performance’s importance. Pre-COVID, she mentioned, “remote work wasn’t a thing,” but COVID changed things.
“I think all of our lives have changed,” Smith said. “I think it’s for the better, and what we’ve embraced at Tepper Sports is a flexible work environment. That means I need you to be where you need to be, when you need to be there, and you have to make an adult decision on when that is. So, at the end of the day, our thought process is: we’re going to have a flexible work environment, and we’re going to treat people like adults because that’s all we employ, and we do that intentionally. And we’re going to address and hold you accountable to performance… That’s our new way of working, and it works well.”
As the conversation turned to DEI, the panelists had equally insightful commentary. In response to a question about what a successful DEI policy looks like,
Melanie Jenkins, Global Director of Diversity Equity and Inclusion at Dentsply Sirona shared that DEI efforts start early at her organization: “We pride ourselves on going to college campuses and recruiting the most talented individuals to join our organization to make sure that we’re continuing to thrive,” said Jenkins. “But once we get them in the door, there are a plethora of ways that we work to attain and develop these individuals,” mentioning diversity and leadership roadmaps to help them own their own journey, for example. “At Dentsply Sirona, we know that innovation helps us continue to thrive as an organization. And in order to have that innovation, you have to have a diverse workforce.”
A Dynamic Panel Discussion
Janet LaBar, the event’s moderator, skillfully guided the conversation, ensuring a balance of perspectives and a focus on actionable takeaways. She emphasized the importance of collaborative efforts in driving change within the HR landscape.
The panelists echoed LaBar’s sentiment, emphasizing the need for action and collaboration.
One common theme throughout the discussion was the continuous need for organizational change.
Kisha Smith, for example, spoke on the importance of “intentionality” to impact internal processes to create necessary changes. Reflecting on her experience of implementing a behavioral-based interview process, which is panel-based, bringing diverse individuals together from across an organization to interview potential talent, she said:
“It boils down to intentionality. Everything must be intentional about what you do. Specifically in the HR space, holistically. The organization that we were, an NFL franchise single team, once upon a time, operated a lot differently than how we operate today. We are truly functioning as a sports and entertainment business, not a franchise – it’s different – so we show up differently than we might have twenty years ago. HR is in its infancy stages in many of the various sports entities, and I would say my organization wasn’t any different.”
“So we’ve had to do some things differently from a process perspective,” Smith continued, “to get a nice diverse group of talent that then diversifies the entire organization, and then we work better together because we’re doing things differently. But that started with something very simple as a behavioral-based interview process.”
“So you got the job because you should be there, not because you knew someone,” Smith asserted. “Something as simple as taking a process that never existed and embedding it into the business, we are a more diversified workforce than we have ever been, and I’m super proud of the progress we’ve made so far.”
A Celebration of Achievement
The event was not only about discussions and insights; it was also a celebration of the remarkable achievements of women in HR. Attendees were encouraged to share their success stories, fostering a sense of camaraderie and inspiration.
Melanie Jenkins talked about failing on her way to success: “Being bold is scary,” she said. “But the scary piece that no one really wants to talk about is failing. You’re going to fail – all of us, at some point, have failed big-time. What I always like to say is, though: When you fail, fail forward. Learn from it, understand what your challenges and opportunities are, pick up the pieces, and keep going. That’s how you continue to thrive in life, professionally and personally. Don’t be afraid to go after and chase your dreams. The worst thing that somebody can do is tell you no.”
A Community United
“Women in HR: Career Acceleration and Workforce Trends” showcased the power of community and collaboration in Charlotte’s HR landscape. It proved that the entire community benefits when professionals come together to discuss critical issues and share knowledge.
This event was a testament to the resilience and ambition of local HR professionals, particularly women dedicated to driving positive change in their field.
Before and after the panel discussion, attendees engaged in lively networking sessions. These moments allowed for many individuals to establish meaningful connections, with seasoned professionals providing guidance and mentorship to younger counterparts.
As attendees left the event, they carried with them a renewed sense of purpose, an expanded network of connections, and a commitment to making a difference in their workplaces and communities.
The success of “Women in HR” is a reminder that the path to progress is paved with determination, support, and a shared vision. Charlotte’s HR community has taken a significant step forward, and the future looks brighter than ever.