HR in the Hot Seat: Susanne DiCocco, KPMG

People and change partner Susanne DiCocco opens up about industry concerns and professional obstacles.

HR in the Hot Seat: Susanne DiCocco, KPMG
Calgary-based Susanne DiCocco is not only a management consultant and certified executive coach, she’s also a people and change partner at advisory giant KPMG Canada – here, she opens up to HRM about industry concerns, professional obstacles, and the not-so-worrying rise of AI.

If you could give your younger self, or someone entering HR for the first time, one piece of advice – what would it be?

Be a sponge. Find someone to learn from and learn everything you can.
Stay connected. Relationships are key to your success.  

Is there anything exciting in the pipeline for your HR department?

For my HR Transformation practice we have so many exciting things. With the role of HR shifting to provide more proactive services and with ever changing supportive IT systems that can fundamentally alter an employees’ experience, the sky is the limit on what we can do to support people in the workplace.. I have fun every day.

What’s the biggest professional obstacle you – or your team – have faced and how did you overcome it?

My biggest challenge has been overcoming my own fears and redefining what success really means to me. I’ve worked in industry, started my own business, and in big four firms. Building a support network that included mentors, great clients, and a great team has truly been the secret of my success. Supporting young people – especially women- in their careers has truly been a gift for me to be able to pay it forward.

What’s your biggest industry worry or concern right now? 

When you hear prominent figures such as Bill Gates and Elon Musk say that Artificial Intelligence is a threat, then it is time to take it seriously.  To me, this is not a concern but an opportunity that we should all be considering how to capitalize on. In the coming years we will see exponential progress with Artificial Intelligence and robotics. Today, you can download a lawyer app which can fight a legal battle for a parking ticket on your behalf. There are already organizations that have robots with decision making abilities conducting administrative tasks. Technology is set to replace a third of human jobs by 2030. HR functions will look a lot different by then. 

If you could change anything about the HR industry, what would it be?

I work every day to change the perception of the HR industry. Often there is a negative perception of HR as the department that acts as a road block or is process heavy. The reality is that we are the industry that supports the most important asset of any organization - its people.  If people are not supported well, then how will organizations succeed? What I aim to change is HR’s traditional reliance on reactive functions and/ or programs that are out of touch with employees to ones that are strongly supported by data and outcomes.

What is the proudest moment or achievement of your HR career so far?

The proudest moment of my career has been supporting people to succeed in their careers. I’ve had people who work with me that started out in junior roles who are now on the brink of partnership. The ability to mentor and coach others to success – whether clients or my own team – is what makes allows me to look back on my career and smile.

What the most rewarding thing about being in HR?

Working with and in HR allows you to work with people every day. An HR organization can truly make or break a company. It is an employees’ first experience with any company. For me, the most rewarding HR transformation projects have a direct impact on the performance of the organization as a whole which has helped turn them around. I find it gratifying to demonstrate the impact that effective HR services, practices, and programs can have in an organization.

How do you predict the industry will change, if at all, over the next five years?

I think the advancements in technology and employees’ expectations of information at their fingertips will be the biggest disrupting factor for HR. Internally this means automation for HR roles; improvements and expansion of Self Service, and immediate access to information.  

What would you like your HR legacy to be?

I would like my legacy to be that I made a difference to people – my clients, my team, and my colleagues. And that those behaviours will be paid forward to make a difference to others.

Susanne DiCocco will be joined by Julie Kothlow, director of strategy and operations, people and change services, KPMG Canada at the upcoming HR Leaders Summit West. There, the two will host an informative session discussing HR’s role in supporting business during challenging times.

More information about the event – due to be held in early April – can be found online.


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