HR leader profile: Iris Nikolic of Dexcom Canada

'HR can be quite isolating, due to the confidential nature of it, so it's nice to be able to connect with others'

HR leader profile: Iris Nikolic of Dexcom Canada

Having worked at three companies since graduating, Iris Nikolic says it’s all about connecting with the mission of each organization, along with their work and impact on the community.

That’s a big reason why she became an HR business partner at Dexcom Canada in February 2022, a company that opened in Canada in 2016 with the goal to bring its CGM (continuous glucose monitoring) solution to the diabetes community

“Through the interview process, both with the recruitment team and then the leadership team here, I could really sense the passion for the work that they're doing and the difference that it makes. And I wanted to be a part of that,” she says.

“It's truly rewarding to be part of something where you're able to have an impact in in terms of what they're doing and the mission.”

Working with people

Nikolic knew early on that she wanted to work in human resources, largely because she enjoys working with people.

“As cliche as it sounds — I feel like everyone says that — but I really do, I love working with people, I love working with employees and the management and the leadership team, being able to have an impact in their career progression, and helping them, being a champion for their work, and then also being there to solve issues or challenges that they may be facing.”

So, when it came to choosing between a career in accounting or HR, the latter won out.

“I was like, ‘I'd much rather or prefer to work with people than with numbers, and I feel I made the right decision in that regard. So it's been a great journey, and I love it, it’s very rewarding.”

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Over the years, it’s been great to see how HR decisions impact an organization and the employees, says Nikolic.

“Sometimes it takes a long time to see the fruits of your labour come into effect, because the programs that you put in place, you may not receive the feedback right away, but you will see the benefit of it maybe months or even years down the road,” she says.

“Whether it's wellness and health initiatives, or the programs for employee development when it comes to their career progressions, or working on succession planning, those kinds of goals I really enjoyed.”

Growing from 20 to 100

Nikolic’s first job was at Motion Metrics International, a mining tech company. When she joined, it only had about 20 employees. By the time she left seven years later, the staff count had grown to 100.

“It was more of a startup at the beginning… so it was really rewarding working at that company and being able to champion the different programs,” says Nikolic.

Previously, the company didn't have an HR department, relying largely on payroll or accounting, and Nikolic says she enjoyed working with the leadership team and “having the opportunity to really grow it from the ground up, everything from the company policies to dealing with employee relations, the benefits program, health and safety — in all of that regard.”

Motion Metrics also expanded into countries such as Chile, Santiago, Australia and South Africa, which was challenging and rewarding, she says.

“You have to be mindful of those cultures and make sure there is a nice transition, but with our overall values and the company mission, everything aligned in that regard.”

Forward-looking priorities

At the 100-employee Dexcom, one of the big priorities these days is navigating the hybrid workplace, says Nikolic.

“It's ensuring that the organization is meeting the needs of our employees. And as much as we like to feel that we're out of the pandemic, or on the other side of it, I feel like we're still dealing with it in the workplace, the landscape continues to evolve,” she says.

“We're just making sure that we're listening to our employees to understand their needs and to understand their priorities. We're monitoring the global trends, connecting with other leaders within our industry, just to better understand what are the critical [parts of the] workplace that will work for everyone.”

That includes making sure that there are no major differences, “and that those people that are within the office aren't receiving the leg up over those that are more remote,” says Nikolic.

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Other priorities include strengthening employee attraction and retention.

“There's always a fight for talent and with the new remote work options for employees, we just want to make sure that we bring the best employee experience to our employees, and evaluate what that looks like,” she says.

That includes focusing on employee engagement and recognition, along with growth and development. As an example, Dexcom offers $5,000 per year for employees to further their education and skill sets, along with providing access to thousands of training videos from LinkedIn.

“We also like to have our leaders [have] the right tools to make sure that they are well-equipped too in regards to mentoring and being that person of contact for their employees,” says Nikolic.

HR’s evolving role

Over the years, Nikolic has seen HR change from more of a paper-pusher or policing role to being more strategic, “and having a place at the table in terms of decision-making and impacting the changes, and being a change management person.”

And with the pandemic, HR has played a pivotal role, she says.

“Maybe some companies didn't even have any HR in the past, and they really saw the impact and the need for one in that regard, so I think it's ever evolving.”

As the world slowly opens again, Nikolic says she is looking forward t more in-person gatherings, particularly when it comes to HR colleagues.

“HR can be quite isolating, due to the confidential nature of it, so it's really nice to be able to connect, whether with your internal teams… if you're fortunate enough to have a larger HR team, or if you're smaller, then connecting with HR professional outside, just being able to share best practices and what the pains are that other organizations are experiencing, and learning from each other. I've really enjoyed that aspect of it.”

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