Tell us a little bit about yourself…we know that you are a referent in the HR Tech world, what made you getting involved in PR and Marketing topics?  

While never planned precisely for this outcome, my work in HR technology PR and marketing has been the perfect confluence of skills and interests. With the exception of an earlier stint as a recruiter in the public sector, most of my career has been in the tech industry as a sales rep, product manager and, eventually, marketing executive. I started Devon in 1994 because I was so frustrated by how PR wasn’t being properly used as a discipline and sought to change that – mostly through the use of technology. Coupling category expertise with PR and marketing skills has resulted in the ideal career – and certainly one where it’s not possible to ever get bored! 

Slowly we are entering an age where AI is in the spotlight of HR. What do you think is the biggest challenge that people is going to have? Will it be a competition between computers and talent or more like a complement relationship? 

First, true AI in HR hasn’t really emerged yet. There are a lot of vendors bantering about the term, however, what they really have is powered by machine learning. That said, the allure of AI and robotics is on the horizon and the pandemic has certainly increased our reliance on technologies that automate work. I don’t think computers will replace humans though – like most technological advancements, we’ll experience how removing the transactional, repetitive tasks that most humans don’t want to do will lead to greater opportunities for innovation. AI won’t innovate; humans will still own that function. 

As a crisis communicator imagine that you´ve faced many situations that were difficult and different from each other. The pandemic was a global issue that united us no matter in which country we were. How was this experience of facing a crisis that all of strategist were struggling with? Did you see some sort of collaborative and partnership attitude with your colleagues?  

Crisis takes many forms. The pandemic has been unique because it’s a short-term situation that will have long-term ramifications, including the fear of reoccurrence. I’d categorize it more as issues management because we’ve all experienced it so differently depending on our location, our employers, and our personal set of circumstances. Reflecting on “where were you in 2020?” will become as familiar as other moments in history. In the HR tech category, vendors and practitioners have done an exemplary job of banding together and collaborating to help each other. Then again, that’s what HR and those who serve the HR function do – we worry about the people first.  

What do you believe is going to be and is already being the most teachable lesson leaders had through the unique 2020 we lived worldwide? 

There are so many teachable lessons from the travails of 2020. The first is one of readiness and underscores why a digital workplace is crucial. The second is to remember that not everyone is equipped to thrive during times of uncertainty and adversity. Employers need to give employees the tools they need to alleviate stress and find pathways forward. Third, and although we’re not on the other side of this yet, remember this too will pass. Even storms run out of rain and the pandemic will abate. I challenge leaders to ask themselves: will you be proud of what you did and how you did it during 2020?  

An IBM´s report states that women occupy only 18% of senior leadership positions among 2,300 organizations surveyed worldwide Why aren’t more women promoted into leadership positions? 

Without dating myself too much, suffice to say I entered the workforce when women in leadership roles – especially in tech – was the exception. It pains me that we’ve not made the strides we should have by now – and the reasons are multi-faceted. Overall, I think women tend to be very hard on themselves. Organizationally speaking, we don’t always have the power of a strong network – specifically, someone to sponsor us within our company. And, what frustrates me the most: while we’re enormously qualified, we wait for others to notice that instead of promoting ourselves every step of the way. Lastly, we need to lift each other up. Madeline Albright, the former U.S. Secretary of State, is attributed with saying “there is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.” We need to lift each other up. 

What advice would you give to women that are struggling with “earning” their places? 

The concept of earning your place makes me bristle a bit. Why should women have to “earn” their place when others never have to jump those hurdles? So, my advice is straightforward: know your strengths; always speak your mind; and move on if you aren’t treated with the same respect you afford others. Life is too short to waste it where your value isn’t properly acknowledged. And, if an organization doesn’t place importance on diversity, equity and inclusion, they’re not the right employer for anyone. 

Jeanne Achille | Founder & CEO, The Devon Group and Chair, HR Tech Conference & Women in HR Tech 

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