HR LeadersTalk: Kelly Cardwell, CPHR Talks Talent, Tech and Total Rewards

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In every issue of PeopleTalk magazine we try to speak with an HR leader to get their thoughts on various HR related topics and pick their brain for some advice they may have for the next generation of HR stars who are just starting out in the profession. 

In the summer issue, Drew Railton, CPHR caught up with Kelly Cardwell, CPHR.

With more than 20 years of of experience in the HR field, Kelly has served as director of HR for Best Buy and is currently the  vice-president of HR with Bosa Properties

Here is what Kelly had to say. 

Why did you choose HR or how did it choose you?

Ironically for a person who ended up with a career working with people, I have always loved numbers. I started out doing a Bachelor of Commerce at McGill University with a specialization in accounting, intending to write the exam to obtain my Chartered Accountancy designation. I happened to take a couple of HR-related electives and became hooked on pursuing a career in human resources. I found it to be a fairly broad field for individuals with varying talents. I was able to keep “numbers” as a part of my career, finding my first job as a consultant in compensation, which suited me perfectly.

What was the breakout project or thing you did to really accelerate your career?

I believe my breakout project was the development and implementation of total rewards at Best Buy. This involved a massive multi-year undertaking to create a holistic total rewards package for the four very different businesses within the company—Best Buy, Future Shop, Distribution Centres and Head-office — involving an alignment of what employees were looking for and what the business strategy and plans were, along with market pressures.

The project, while incredibly challenging and complex, was extremely rewarding and allowed me to get a much better understanding of developing and implementing large projects involving geographically-dispersed employees in different businesses with very different objectives/needs. It also taught me the importance of communication and ensuring employees understand the

Kelly Cardwell, CPHR

rewards being provided.

What HR advice do you wish someone had given you earlier in your career?

Don’t worry about the battles, win the wars! I’ve had some incredible mentors along the way who I believe did try to tell me this…not sure I appreciated that advice then as much as I do now. I think it is such incredible advice when you have beliefs and are driving an agenda in organizations where there are competing agendas, all with their absolute merits.

What do you think is the greatest emerging opportunity/challenge for HR professionals?

I really believe that one of the biggest challenges for HR professionals is in the talent space. The world is changing at such a rapid pace and ensuring you have motivated and engaged talent to execute on your company’s strategy is becoming more and more challenging.

I believe the talent acquisition space will need to become more focused on an individual’s capability and capacity to grow into whatever challenges companies face. The days of hiring someone solely on technical expertise and years of experience is dissipating and moving to one where companies won’t be able to create static job descriptions with a list of tasks for the majority of roles within an organization.

This creates an incredible opportunity for human resources. How will we find these individuals or determine when we have found them in the recruiting process? How will managers manage employees in this more agile space? There is a great deal of change coming into the workplace that I believe human resources is in a great place to really play a strategic role in supporting those changes.

With technology advancements, what is your prediction for the future of HR as a function?

I think the future of HR will be focused more and more on how to support the organization’s drive to create an engaging environment for people. It will be about learning and development, creating more meaningful opportunities, projects, supporting change. In other words, it will continue to move away from the transactional nature of “personnel” that was the case in the past.

HR Advice for areas or hot skills you would develop as a young professional?

If I were contemplating a future in human resources, I would drive to become very proficient in understanding how technology can support the human resources function. Technology is coming in to the work place and this will change how people do their work and are supported. This means a lot of change for how human resources supports the organization.

In the broadest sense, HR is about psychology in many ways—how to motivate and harness people on behalf of organizations. I can’t stress enough how valuable my early concentration in compensation and total rewards has been in my career. Not only has it been a great differentiator that employers are looking for, but total rewards is the backbone of an organization. If you can develop this skill set It will serve you well in your organization. Even if you are generalist having compensation credibility and knowledge will truly help differentiate you. Compensation is generally useful when it comes to understanding market and comparators, but getting into the weeds of structure and alignment is something that has really assisted me as I have advanced in my career.

Do you have a mantra that helps you get through tough times?

Yes, I do…I believe strongly in perspective. When tough times hit, I like to remind myself to put things into perspective. The majority of the time, it turns out that my tough times are nothing compared to what others are going through. Then I like to create a plan to help myself move forward.

 


 

For over 20 years, Kelly Cardwell, CPHR has pursued an HR career that has spanned a number of industries in increasingly senior positions. From serving as director of HR for Best Buy to her current role as vice-president of HR with Bosa Properties, Cardwell has embodied and promoted the greater understanding of HR as a business partner. With both an MBA from Simon Fraser and a BComm with a specialization in accounting from McGill University, Cardwell shares her knowledge guest lecturing with the BCIT HR program on total rewards and HR leadership. An industry leader with 1000 employees across operations in Alberta, BC and Washington State, the Bosa family of companies encompasses real estate development, construction and property management.

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