Courtney (McKissock) Cheyne, CPHR: 2017 Rising Star Lights the Way


Putting people first has been a hallmark of Courtney (McKissock) Cheyne. Having joined the HR function at Omicron Canada Inc. in 2012, it was three years later that a major restructuring thrust McKissock into a new leadership role as senior HR advisor for the Vancouver-based architecture, engineering and construction firm and its Victoria and Calgary locations.

Stepping up without hesitation to embrace a strategic level of responsibility, McKissock’s greatest contributions can be found at both ends of the spectrum and throughout, driving higher levels of employee engagement, anchoring HR as a key advisor and partner, and developing a positive culture company-wide.

Courtney’s star  rose even further with a move to HR business partner at BuildDirect Technologies shortly after being presented with the CPHR BC & Yukon’s 2017 Rising Star Award at the 55th Annual HR Conference + Tradeshow.

What attracted you to the HR originally and what is the most satisfying aspect of the profession to you now?
Like most HR professionals, I didn’t grow up dreaming of one day working in HR; I didn’t even know about HR as a career option until I was part way through university. I loved working with people and problem solving, so once I learned more about the purpose and goals of HR, I felt it was a perfect place to utilize my strengths and interests.

Now, I love digging in to understand the business and how to support its people to succeed and achieve their personal and organizational goals. HR is evolving really quickly; with advancements in technology and the speed of change in organizations today, it’s exciting to see how strategies around people practices are now central to business strategy—not just supporting it.

I also love how multifaceted HR has become. Every day is different and there is so much to learn and so many ways to grow and add more value to my team. It feels like the possibilities in this career are endless, which I find very gratifying!

What do you see as the greatest opportunity/challenge for the HR profession in the coming year?
I think that since the competition for talent continues to be a top concern, differentiating the employee experience at our organizations will be a great opportunity and challenge in the year ahead. Diversity and inclusion is a big opportunity for teams to explore with human capital being most companies greatest asset.

I think each organization has a unique pulse. If we really listen to and celebrate the diverse, special people who make up our organizations and allow them to thrive, we can find our exceptional Employee Value Proposition that will speak to people and will address attraction and retention concerns.

How important a role does culture play in sustaining organizational success?
It is essential. As Peter Drucker said, “culture eats strategy for breakfast,” so I believe it should be the starting point for every business and change initiative. People aren’t looking for a job anymore, they are looking for a place where they can provide their individual contributions, where they belong and they can feel whole.

It’s not about work life balance any more; it’s about work-life integration. The more people can feel personally fulfilled in their lives through their company’s purpose and their community at work, the more we’ll all benefit. It is a well functioning workplace culture that creates that for them. As I mentioned above, if you can differentiate your culture based on the values of your organization and the distinctive attributes of the people at your company, then you’re on the right path.

What advice do you have for other HR professionals seeking to connect culture to the bottom line as business partners?
Two things. First, really listen to your business partners and try to truly understand what their world looks like and how they view you as a partner. If they see you as someone who understands their world and their day-to-day challenges, who can still demonstrate value in what it means for them personally to spend time and effort supporting culture initiatives, you’ll more likely get the advocacy and change to behaviours you’re looking for.

Secondly, use data. The outcomes of culture change can be very hard to measure, but even if you can show the impact that other organizations have had on results, or small wins and alternative metrics that can demonstrate improvement, it will go a long way towards establishing credibility for focusing on culture initiatives.

If you were not a Rising Star in the world of HR, what would you be doing?
It’s hard to imagine because I love what I do. You would probably find me travelling and pursuing some of my favourite hobbies like photography and scuba diving.

(PeopleTalk Winter 2017)

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