CEO Simon Evans Says Farewell to BC HRMA

simon-evans-lifetimeBy Jason McRobbie

For Simon Evans, CEO of the British Columbia Human Resources Management Association (BC HRMA), the past 10 years have been marked by milestones ranging from the financial to foundational.  As a self-schooled graduate of the “university of life”, his impending retirement in June 2014 is not so much a mission cap as a fresh start.

A Lifetime in the Service (of Others)
Born and raised in England as the youngest of three sons in a naval family, his earliest career intentions had been towards medicine. Faced with a three year waiting list to further his education, Simon went to work—and found his calling at age 18 while pumping gas for the father of a friend from school; it was noticed early on that Evans pumped gas differently than most, always with a friendly word and service that never failed to leave the customers smiling.

From management training to a move overseas to Canada with a young family to answer ever greater calls of responsibility ranging from operations to marketing, sales, and ultimately, HR—people and profitability have long been his twin passions.

“I vowed from the beginning of my journey that change is a good thing and I would not be afraid of change because if you are, growth can be difficult,” says Evans. “I think the reason I went into non-profit leadership is because my whole life, even going back to being a young lad, has been about serving others.”

That community-mindedness has extended on broader industry levels as well, ranging from the the development of culinary tourism in BC, to the establishment of go2, to his more present day championship of the Certified Human Resources Professional (CHRP) designation.

Corporate Wisdom in a Not-For-Profit World
“When I stepped away from the corporate world, I was looking to do good things in the not-for-profit world in areas I had some understanding of beginning with hospitality and the BC Restaurant and Foodservices Association,” says Evans. “Coming to BC HRMA was like a crown jewel to me because I was a CHRP—I had it when it first came along and I’ve always been involved in the management of people.

“When you first come into a non-profit after helping run a billion dollar company and the budget is now two million and you have six staff, there’s a huge adjustment from managing 7,500 people. I said, ‘I’m prepared to do that ‘apprenticeship’ as I called it then at the age of 55,” says Evans.

That attitude, paired with a fiscal acuity honed by decades with Chevron and 7-11, found ample application with BC HRMA from day one. Faced with a deficit budget, membership dissatisfaction and a board hampered by its operational role, he created a five year strategic plan focused on financial outcomes and membership growth.

Voice, Value and Viability
Grounding his strategy in “Voice, Value and Viability”, he secured strong support from the board, membership and industry, most often in person, and went on to build a vibrant organizational culture that addressed critical areas while encouraging autonomy and innovation.Within the first three years, he had BC HRMA financially stabilized, an act expected to take a decade.

Having re-established the association’s financial equilibrium in short order, retained earnings grew from $140,000 in 2004 to $1,872,000 in 2013. Moreover, BC HRMA membership has grown by 100 per cent to 5,500+, as has the profile and demand for the CHRP designation; up from 1,050 in 2004 to 3,180 in 2013. The only metric that speaks as loudly is member satisfaction which jumped from 55 per cent to 75 per cent over the same period.

Those types of figures, Evans readily attributes to the efforts of the BC HRMA board of directors, staff and volunteers—as well as the growing cognizance of HR’s strategic function as it relates to the profitability of all business.

That recognition has grown substantially since he first stepped aboard.

“I remember going to a career workshop at one of the universities within the first couple months, and there were doctors, dentists, lawyers and other professions busy answering questions,” says Evans. “I sat there for an hour and a half without one request to learn more about a career in HR.  I thought, ‘Okay, you’ve got yourself a job.”

He is most proud of how that perception of HR has changed, particularly with the younger generation. “Back then, we had less than 80 student members,” says Evans. “Over the last few years, we’ve been hovering in the range of 800 to 900. That to me is huge because they are the next generation.”

A Swing in the Right Direction
As for his own next steps, family has always been foremost for Evans and he looks forward to redefining quality time with his wife Diana, their family and friends. A book lies within him too, but a few hours on the golf course are called for first. With undiminished drive and an Okanagan home set directly into the groomed landscapes of Predator Ridge, Evans is already developing a ‘new’ hobby—helping others.

“I would like to get involved with a program that involves kids learning the principles of life through the disciplines of golf in terms of integrity, honesty, technique and all the rest of it. That’s something I would like to get moving up in the Okanagan,” says Evans.

With as many passions in life as principles behind his leadership, Simon Evan’s work ultimately continues—one story, one swing and one blue sky moment on the green at a time.

(PeopleTalk Spring 2014)

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