Like a Boss: Kathy Enros
We had the pleasure of meeting heart-centric, powerhouse HR leader Kathy Enros at her ACL office this week. Kathy guided us through the family-feeling offices (pancake breakfast in full swing, of course!) and talked to us about her career journey through HR, leading by heart, taking risks, and driving home ROI on culture and engagement. We got our #HRNerd hats on and soaked up Kathy’s heart -- we hope you will, too.
Tell us, how did you get started in HR and Recruitment?
It goes back to university days. I went to Wilfred Laurier because I knew I wanted a degree but I actually had no idea what I wanted to do. Within my first year, I knew I needed to figure out a plan. Come the third year I had a breakthrough after having the most amazing professor, Tupper Cawsey, who was a lecturer and HR professor and he just sold me on HR through and through. With his approach I learned what an impact HR can have on organizational success and on people’s lives -- it just sold me and I knew at that moment that I had to be in HR.
What was one crucial turning point in your career?
I’ll tell you about a time when I was able to turn a negative into a positive. I was working at what I thought should be my dream job and while the job itself was fantastic the culture was not. It was a really unhealthy culture and the turning point was when I realized that I needed an organization that was more aligned to my values, more aligned to what I was looking for with respect to corporate culture. This was big because I realized then how important fit and culture were to me but also to everyone. Since then, culture and fit have been at the top of my priorities in everything I do at organizations whether I am recruiting or doing engagement -- it’s always #1. It was tough to go through, but as with all life lessons, the takeaways were invaluable.
What has been one of your greatest successes in your career so far?
One has to be my time at Vision Critical. It was really exciting as I was employee #65 and I helped the company grow to 800 staff. To be a key member of the team and to grow the organization to the success it was when I left makes me feel proud. We hired amazing people and we built such an incredible place to work. I think very fondly of that time in my career. It was rewarding not only for me but everyone else that was part of that journey. My time here at ACL has also been fantastic. I’ve been so proud to be a part of our cultural transformation. It was a challenge to take on - everyone was transparent with me from day one that we needed to improve things. But I love a good challenge, especially to change for the good. Now we’ve won culture awards, our engagement is so strong -- some of the best I have ever seen. It’s like a different organization and I’m so proud of impacting that here.
Tell us more about ACL, what’s it like to be here?
You know when we walked through the kitchen together just now… That atmosphere you saw, the family-like atmosphere it the real thing. We don’t have pancakes every day but it feels like this all the time. You get up and you want to come to work. Not everyone can say that. I’m so proud of that. Our people work well together and they are friends outside of work and I think that says a lot. We support each other. We feel comfortable challenging each other in a constructive way. It makes us all better for it. I think our team also feels good about being a part of something that’s doing good work, work that has a positive impact on the world.
We work with a lot of owners and entrepreneurs. Something we hear a lot is, how do you scale a young tech company and maintain culture?
Yes, I’ve definitely had to do that. Time and time again it comes down to values. Stick to values, make them front and centre, make them a constant force so that people can live and breathe them. Values keep the culture tight. When values are engrained in everything that you do everyone is pointed in the same direction and living the same things. In addition, with Vancouver being such a hot market for talent so you also have to invest in the talent that you have here. It’s hard to find people to move to Vancouver and we have big brands competing for the same talent so you need to invest in your people, offer training and education and the opportunity to move up within your organization. At ACL our CEO spends time mentoring key players, we call them Change Agents. Our perspective is that if they grow they’ll help us grow. We make them a part of key decisions and everyone wins.
What's the best advice you have received in business that you wish to pass along?
A couple of things come to mind. The first one is to not be afraid to take risks. [Your risks] won’t all succeed but if you don’t take any then you will fail. Put aside your fear and go for things. People have to just go for it.
The second is to not give up on your values -- ever. Be true to your values and be authentic. Don’t do things at the cost of your values. Try and change the situation and if you can’t then you’ve got to get out of it.
Our Beaconites love leadership. Define a leader. What are some traits you think great leaders possess?
I always say a great leader is someone people want to follow, that’s the truth of it. It comes down to this: Are people willing to go to bat for them? Are people inspired by them? In order for a leader to be just that, they have to be authentic, be a human like everyone else, build trust with individuals, support them, so that they know you’ve got their back, and be humble. Also, paint a compelling vision for the future of the organization and for their future. Weave all of that together and you will have a great leader.
What will be the biggest challenge for the generation behind you?
It’s important to start thinking about how to lead remote workers and contract workers. The boundaries our talent market are becoming more broader. Leadership styles will have to change and evolve to support new generations and how they want to work. How are future leaders going to inspire when you can’t see them day-to-day? People want to travel, be mobile, be remote and companies are going to have to figure out how to keep those superstars and ensure they have the work environment that they want. Workplaces are relaxing so much more these days. People have families, kids, and commitments and you know they might leave early but then they’re working again at 8 pm. We have to adjust because the norms are gone. I call this “life-life” balance because it’s all life. There’s no division between work and life anymore.
Any final thoughts for our Beaconites?
I’m thinking about HR and you know the great HR successes I see are not process and policy-driven; they’re more people-driven. The way I work is by the heart. I do what’s right.
In HR it’s sometimes hard to get around not being the rule enforcer but in actuality being people driven leads to better conversations and employee engagement. At ACL we have directly tied our culture scores to our valuation. When culture scores go up so does our results. That’s pretty powerful stuff. Lead from the heart.