HR in the Hot Seat: Melissa Quinn, Left

Employee experience leader shares her secrets to motivating employees and why businesses must stop stereotyping millennials

HR in the Hot Seat: Melissa Quinn, Left
As Left changes the world with its pioneering app technology, its employee experience coordinator Melissa Quinn is also reshaping the world of workplace culture.

Quinn, who began her career in training and development, is an HR leader whose award-winning work has had a positive impact on recruitment, retention, employee satisfaction, and engagement.

Left was a finalist for the Ultimate Software Award For Best Workplace Culture and the Venngo Award of Excellence for Financial, Physical & Mental Wellness at the 2016 HR Awards.

Quinn shares her views on embracing millennials, motivating employees, and the challenges of hiring top talent from overseas.

If you could give your younger self, or someone entering HR for the first time, one piece of advice – what would it be?
I would pass on advice that my mentor gave me: make it a top priority to go around and have conversations with people throughout the company and be a good listener. Much of what HR does, and can do for their team, is so much easier when there is a foundation of trust. Having genuine, caring conversations with people and showing interest in their wellbeing is a good first step to that. Knowing what is going on for people, outside of just work, is a good way to start those conversations and open the doors for honest communication. 

Is there anything exciting in the pipeline for your HR department?
“Failure is an option” is one of our core values, so we’re always trying new things. Some work, some don’t, and that’s ok. We’ve been measuring our employee engagement with an external program for about three quarters. We use the data in real time to assess what is going on for our team; however, we’re excited to be able to look back over the year and see if we can spot trends and use that moving forward over the next year. I think the HR industry is becoming increasingly technical, with all sorts of great new products and services, and it’s a great time to welcome change!

What’s the biggest professional obstacle you – or your team – have faced and how did you overcome it?
Recruiting technical talent, and struggling with visa approvals. In the tech industry, things move quickly and when you find an A player, you don’t have the four to nine months to wait to get them the right permissions to work in the country - particularly when your technology is quite niche, there may only be a few experts in the world, and it can be quite difficult to get them here.  

What’s your biggest industry worry or concern right now? 
Ageism. Millennials became a buzzword and a trendy scapegoat for a changing workforce. Technology is drastically changing the workforce, and we should be welcoming the various strengths and unique perspectives individuals bring.

If you could change anything about the HR industry, what would it be?
The negative perception some people have about it. First, I tell people I am an employee experience manager, then when they ask what that is, I respond it’s similar to HR. The number of times I receive the response, “Oh, you have to fire people and deal with complaints” shows that we have a long way to go!

What is the proudest moment or achievement of your HR career so far?
At the previous Canadian HR Awards, our company was nominated as a finalist for Best Workplace Culture and the Award of Excellence for Financial, Physical and Mental Wellness. I was really proud of our entire team!

What the most rewarding thing about being in HR?
Being able to shape and enhance the employee experience every day! We’re always trying to do new things to keep our team engaged, excited, and motivated. Definitely, for us, people are our biggest asset, and it is really rewarding to make sure they're well taken care of and proud to talk about how awesome their work is.

How do you predict the industry will change, if at all, over the next five years?
I think more companies are moving towards values-based leadership, and I am excited about that! It is important to know your values as a company and build a culture around that. As companies put more of an emphasis on building and nurturing a culture, they can align the organization from top to bottom on the values and their vision moving forward. I think this will also help change the negative perception that HR can get, to a more positive perception of culture creators.

What would you like your HR legacy to be?
I would like to be able to show other companies the value that culture and positive employee experiences can bring to the triple bottom line.

Related stories:
How HR can create a vibrant, sustainable culture
Why millennials have changed their mind set

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