Rogers CHRO: ‘I truly believe HR’s moment is now’

Boasting over 25,000 global employees, Rogers Communications is a giant in the media industry

Rogers CHRO: ‘I truly believe HR’s moment is now’

Boasting over 25,000 global employees, Rogers Communications is a giant in the media industry. Based out of Toronto, Canada, Rogers Communications was founded in 1960 by their eponymous leader Ted Rogers.  

At the HR helm sits Jim Reid, CHRO, dedicated employee champion, and overall strategic genius. HRD caught up with Reid to talk through his personal career path, discover how he’s navigating the COVID-19 crisis, and reveal why now is the time to be in HR.

Firstly, we wanted to know how Reid’s illustrious career in HR began and - as it turns out – it was quite the adventure.

“Believe it or not, my career began as a military officer and tactical helicopter pilot in the Canadian Armed Forces,” he told HRD. “I served almost five years in West Germany and to this day, the most challenging and gratifying achievement I have earned professionally is getting my wings as a military pilot. I truly believe that our experiences in life shape us and make us who we are. It’s some of the lessons I learned in the military that continue to help me lead HR at Rogers today.

“After the military, I ran a business and operated in multiple executive roles. Later in my career, my passion for leadership and driving turnarounds took me to lead the HR function for multibillion-dollar companies including Rogers where I have been CHRO for the last nine years. I absolutely love my job! Working as a trusted advisor to a CEO is such a privilege, being able to coach and develop leaders to be their best, while helping organizations thrive by building a winning culture and driving performance.

Bottom line, I feel like I am really in my wheelhouse doing what I love to do every day.”

HR is often cited as a Jack of all Trades – attracting people from all industries with a variety of backgrounds and skills. As such, HR leaders are able to wear a lot of hats – from negotiator to teacher to counsellor – being whatever their people need them to be at any given moment. Drawing upon these past experiences allow HR employees to grow into strategic gurus, cementing their place at the heart of an organization.

While it’s easy to look back on past scenarios with rose tinted glasses – the only reason HR can move so adeptly from crisis to crisis is because good leaders learn from their mistakes.

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“I have certainly made my share of mistakes over my career – but I’ve tried to look in the mirror and learn from them,” continued Reid. “I think my biggest mistakes have been on striving to make the right people decisions. It has never been clearer to me that having the ‘right people on the bus’, and the ‘wrong people off the bus’ is essential to drive sustainable results.

“I’ve come to realize that up to a certain point in your career, your success is driven by you. But as you become more senior, your success depends so much more on the strength of the team around you. This means making the right people decisions has to become one of our signature qualities as leaders. And today, I feel I have created a world class HR and Communications team – and I am proud to serve alongside each one of them.”

If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that the only real marker of survival is evolution. HR leaders understand what it’s like to have to transform as a result of disruption – and though we’ve never experienced anything quite like the current pandemic, organizations can draw upon past experiences to make the best of a bad situation.

“Since COVID-19 started we have had two priorities – to keep our team members safe and our customers connected,” Reid to HRD. “These two very simple but important priorities helped guide all decisions. We are a purpose led, values driven organization and our values have never been tested more than during the past 5 months.

“At the heart of keeping our team members safe is open, honest and transparent communications. At the beginning of COVID we introduced a series of new communications vehicles to keep our team members informed, connected and engaged including: weekly all-employee question and answer periods with our CEO, weekly COVID-19 information sessions where employees can ask questions to a panel of internal and external health and wellbeing experts including our in-house Chief Medical Officer, and weekly communication from myself to all of our team members about the status of COVID-19. We also quickly developed a COVID response task force to ensure we had the proper processes in place should any team members test positive for COVID-19.

READ MORE: Is it too dangerous to bring staff back to the office?

“We continue to support the mental health and wellbeing of our teams, while offering flexibility to manage work and life during this unprecedented time. We rolled out a new National Wellness Fund to our employees, offering increased benefits for mental health, access to virtual health care, financial well-being support, and access to Helm Life Online Activities for additional support for parents with young children at home. Additionally, we launched a Volunteer Flexible Work Program to give employees who are currently experiencing a reduced workload the options to reduce their work week, or take a summer sabbatical, with associated pay reductions.”

HR has never been under such immense pressure as they are right now. Managing CEO expectations, maintaining a healthy culture, and dealing with anxiety-ridden employees - it’s like spinning plates. The role of HR has morphed so dramatically in the past few months that departments are having a hard time playing catch up.

However, this disruption is paving the way for a whole world of new and exciting possibilities.

“I truly believe HR’s moment is now,” continued Reid. “HR has been at the forefront of COVID response in the workplace and it plays a more critical role than ever. Those HR teams that have stepped into the crisis and partnered with leaders to set the tone for the organization have a big opportunity to shape culture and drive business performance. And during a crisis, it starts with trust. Trust needs to be built among leaders at the top before you need it. There is no playbook for a crisis – trust is essential to make the right decisions for our people, our customers and our shareholders.

“The opportunity for HR is larger than it’s ever been, and it’s going to get even bigger over the next 10 years. Leading the market and winning is all about people and culture. 

“It’s an exciting time to be in HR.”

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