HR in the Hot Seat: Kristen Ruttgaizer, Igloo Software

Cited as one of the top 20 most innovative companies in Canada, Igloo Software has made a name for itself

HR in the Hot Seat: Kristen Ruttgaizer, Igloo Software
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ed as one of the top 20 most innovative companies in Canada, Igloo Software has made a name for itself helping organizations improve their channels of communication. Founded in 2008, Igloo was named as one of Deloitte’s 2015 Fast 50 – an award honouring rapidly growing technology firms throughout the nation.

And, according to Kristen Ruttgaizer, Igloo’s director of human resources, this is just the beginning. Here, she explains how Igloo manages to compete for talent in Kitchener’s tech valley and reveals her proudest moment in HR so far. 

If you could give your younger self, or someone entering HR for the first time, one piece of advice – what would it be?
The world is not black and white, and very rarely will you be in a situation that requires the same answer or advice. It’s important to truly listen, understand the business unit, as well as the business needs and the risks, before jumping into a decision. If you don’t carefully look at the grey areas, it is difficult to be a true partner to the organization and the business leaders.

Is there anything exciting in the pipeline for your HR department?
My company, Igloo Software, is experiencing major growth right now, so our current focus is evolving our talent strategy. Since we’re planning for growth again in 2018, it is important that we have a strong talent strategy to support this. Specifically, we will be focusing on our recruitment efforts, onboarding program and succession planning, including building tools and resources to support growth plans for employees.

What’s the biggest professional obstacle you – or your team – have faced and how did you overcome it?
For both myself and my team, building strong, trusting, consultative relationships with business leaders is an ongoing challenge. HR is still evolving beyond the administrative function it was formally known for. Depending on a leader’s past experiences, they may not have experienced a strategic HR partner, which makes the challenge even more difficult. In my experience, meeting regularly with leaders, having a strategic plan with clear quarterly objectives and programs, and delivering beyond the administrative needs, proves to leaders and employees that HR is more than processing paperwork.

What’s your biggest industry worry or concern right now?
The Kitchener-Waterloo tech industry is growing substantially, and the small-mid size tech companies are competing for top talent. We are navigating the best course of action when it comes to bringing talent in from outside our region; which comes with higher salary expectations, diversity into new industries for key and hard to fill roles and getting quite creative with our recruitment and retention strategy.

If you could change anything about the HR industry, what would it be?
Too often, leaders look to HR to be the drivers and the enforcers of all company policies. Generating policies needs to be a collaborative approach to the many business units of an organization and HR cannot be the only team members leading the discussion. At Igloo, this is something that I have been working on with our leadership team as we continue to improve our governance centre, so HR is not only seen as a policy department.

What is the proudest moment or achievement of your HR career so far?
My proudest moment of the past year was sitting in an executive leadership meeting and receiving recognition from our CEO, Dan Latendre. His recognition came after I implemented our culture program where we put more emphasis on defining our culture through an employee culture survey, establishing a team to revamp our mission and vision, and create Igloo’s values. It was a very proud moment to hear an executive highlight how important human resources is to the organization’s overall success!

What the most rewarding thing about being in HR?
Not to be cliché, but it really is the people, HR peers, leaders and employees. I am lucky to work with so many strong individuals that constantly contribute to my success in HR and help me develop as a professional.

Every day I get to interact with leaders and employees who challenge my way of thinking and help me understand different aspects of the business, in addition to trusting me for support and advice on the issues and challenges they are facing.

How do you predict the industry will change, if at all, over the next five years?
I’m already seeing this evolve within Igloo, but industry wide, we will see the HR department continue to evolve beyond an administrative function and be viewed by executives as a key function to round out organizations. I believe we will see more leaders valuing input from HR and will regularly consult with their HR team members. The frequently asked question from HR candidates of “Do you have a seat at the executive table?” will fade away.

What would you like your HR legacy to be?
My goal is to create an environment where all leaders see HR as a ‘strategic’ partner to their business unit, and that HR will not only have a seat at the executive table but also regarded as a key contributor to the organization’s successes.

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