Claudine Ricard, the newly appointed CHRO of Solotech in Montreal, has seen plenty of change when it comes to human resources, through jobs at Honeywell Aerospace, CGI and TC Transcontinental. And her passion for the profession, along with a focus on growth and coaching, keep her excited about the opportunities ahead
Q: How has the profession of HR changed over your career?
A: It’s a great time to be in HR. It’s definitely exciting. For anyone that wants to make a big difference, there are so many more opportunities in our field. The higher objective is really to create a great work environment that connects with the workforce's aspirations. I remember my first job at Honeywell Aerospace, and people were still calling HR the personnel office, managing the payroll. And the perception of most people was it’s about hiring and firing. And [while] it was already much more than that, over the last 15 years, there are some pioneers that have changed the function... some leaders in large organizations that have put HR at the core of what is leveraged to be successful as a business. Therefore, HR has become much more about the strategic aspect, the talent component of the business strategy, and making sure that you are capitalizing on your [human resources].
Q: What are some highlights of your career?
A: There’s a common denominator, which has always been growth, [such as] personal growth as I’ve learned through different roles. What I’ve enjoyed the most, which represents probably the highlight of my career is being associated — and it was not by design — with the very accelerated growth of an organization, being part of a large business transformation, and also large mergers and acquisitions. It’s about growing and not losing the essence of the organization. You cannot do the conquistador approach; it’s the balance of maintaining the DNA of your culture while respecting the local leadership, and also learning the best practices for the two organizations joining together. And that is crucial. To me, the role of the CHRO is about driving the best culture for organizations, by the leadership and the environment, so that you have the right setup to be able to be very attractive and to retain the workforce. And that is probably the biggest part of my role, to make sure that, in our company, we think about that and it’s top of the agenda and HR can support that, to help people feel they’re part of a culture, that they want to bring their best, that they have opportunities to develop themselves.
Q: What are some of the newer challenges for HR?
A: The change in the work, the way people work, the future of the business, new business, the globalization — all of those economic factors create an imperative for how you think about the people in the business. Finding and retaining your talent, making sure that you add the best talent for the right job, it’s a big, big challenge. It’s so hard to attract talent and to retain them. There’s the generational factor, there is the notion of new skills that need to be developed. There’s also the notion of the scarcity of the workforce, the war for talent. Employers need to create a pipeline to develop relationships with talent way upfront to be... attractive to the workforce. So, you need to be very creative.
Q: Why is mentoring and coaching so important to you?
A: I always encourage everybody to think about the spirit of continuous learning. Everything is connected and changing and it’s going to just accelerate. So, it’s important that, as people and as leaders, we think about “What is my continuous learning path?” And the first thing that is essential before you even start is to be self-aware. And then I am a true believer of learning on the job. Yes, you can go to university or get a certificate, but then it’s all about how you apply that learning on the job and, to me, coaching and mentoring is supporting all of that. And I say to people “Let go of your comfort zone, it’s important to explore, and you’re never going to be ready. If you wait to be ready, you will never move.” And this is also my philosophy for how I see HR developing the workforce. They don’t need to be ready, they need to learn.