Starting with the basics: Building HR credibility

HR is in the trenches of organizational strategy and cultural development, but one national HR leader says it’s important to get the basics right first.

Starting with the basics: Building HR credibility
Public Health Ontario (PHO) was created just six years ago, bringing a range of organizations together under one banner. With more than 1000 employees, including the biggest public health laboratory in Ontario, the organization is involved in everything from infection control to environmental health.

One challenge for the organization is developing a strong culture that fits the long-serving employees, but is also attractive to candidates across all generations.

“Culture is one of the things we’re now focused on,” said Donna Marafioti, the Public Health Ontario VP of corporate services and human resources, and interim chief operating officer. The first five years were focused on growing the organization, now PHO can develop the vision, mission, mandate and values to create one internal culture – with the credibility to back up their ambitious plans.

“If you try to do anything strategic before the basics are working well and are respected by the business then you don’t have any credibility,” Marafioti said. “HR is not unlike any other corporate service, people’s expectations are often out of alignment with the resources you have. Everyone wants, and sometimes needs, more than you can give them.”

Key to trying to meet the needs and expectations of the organization is building capability within the HR team.

“A lot of people focus on the plan to improve, on the business, the customers, but it does also require a focus internally on building a strong team because you’ve got to keep them moving along on the journey with you and if there are gaps they could be losing energy or they might not be the right fit,” Marafioti said.

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