In the latest of our HR Heads' Big Interview series, Jennifer Gaster spoke with HR leader Sonya Bielecki to hear about how she got into HR and her passion for helping companies and people be successful together.
How did you get into HR?
I was going to be a nurse.
While in college waiting for my clinicals, I was offered a job with a company called Builders Square, which is much like a Home Depot.
The Regional Director told me soon after meeting me “I feel you have serious potential in another field and if you give me the next two years, I will mentor and teach you and if you still want to go into nursing after that great, if not then you have found your career path.”
The position offered was Regional HR Director in charge of all new store openings and I spent the next two years travelling around the country hiring, training, onboarding, and much more at all new stores.
I fell in love with helping people and companies be successful.
Did you or do you specialise at all?
Organisational design and development.
I enjoy the opportunity of looking at what process/procedures, programmes, initiatives, and strategic planning can do to support not only the success of an organisation but also the success of the people who make the company successful.
What challenges do you/your team currently face?
Currently, the challenges faced are supporting companies and clients during COVID-19 and all that it implies.
At Express Employment Professionals, we have faced the challenge head-on and to support our employer community by offering support webinars focused on helping companies with remote work, COVID preparedness plans and establishing policies and procedures that better support employees during this time as well as how to effectively welcome back associates.
We have been featured on Best & Brightest of West Michigan as well as offering company-sponsored webinars.
What are you most passionate about within the HR field?
I am always asked: “Why do you like being in HR?” – my response is always the same: Human Resource is the field which allows me to live my passion for helping companies and people be successful together.
D&I is high on the HR agenda currently. What are you currently doing in this area?
In this area, we support companies by providing training, support and mentoring for Harassment, Diversity, and Inclusion.
This is something that has always been at the forefront of my business acumen. Working with a company such as Express Employment Professionals allows me the support and influence to offer clients the journey in establishing a new norm within their culture.
Diversity & Inclusion has been a major topic for many years, however, acting on and changing bias while working within the culture of any business for change is an extremely rewarding experience.
What trends do you foresee HR facing in the next 12 months?
With no clear end in sight for COVID, I think the next 12 months will be recovering from the outcome and supporting organisations and employees on how to be successful in remote work.
This will encompass the emotional and physical demands of remote work. The need for mass remote work happened so fast but what is the long-term effect of people being separated from the social aspect of employment? No separation of work and home?
On the physical aspect, not having the proper ergonomic needs met, for instance, working at a dining room chair or couch cannot work with the physical body long-term.
What will companies need to focus on in 2021 to engage the workforce that is no longer in the office?
What will companies need to provide employees for physical sustainability and safety?
Other trends are going to be the need to update policies and procedures in areas that have not been needed in the past but are now demanded for in the future.
What impact has the fourth industrial revolution (technology) had on HR?
In the past, HR was considered an administrative indirect support service division of a company.
For many small companies where there is no HR, accounting and finance handled payroll, 401K and management handled the people side.
With the fourth industrial revolution, many companies have sought the support and guidance from Strategic HR Business Partners to manage technology change, support employees through self-service, drive technology, influence change management, create an ever-changing work model, and develop talent acquisition models that will attract and retain qualified candidates not just for the job today but for what the job will become in the future.
How has the Covid-19 pandemic changed your HR delivery?
During COVID, I have had to take more of a direct facilitator role versus a consultative role when working with clients due to legal aspects and updates in employment laws and requirements.
COVID has brought to light areas where HR can lead us in a successful outcome of services during this pandemic. Other changes include training done virtually, which has been an adjustment for everyone.
What would you change with the benefit of hindsight?
Hindsight being 20/20, there are so many things we would all change.
Kind of the “If I knew then what I know now” saying.
For me professionally, I continue the course of always being an adult learner with self-awareness.
Anytime I can change my own behaviour, approach and or delivery is a real opportunity.
I believe change is to be embraced daily and not looked at with regret for not doing it sooner.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Professional growth happens over time and with experience.
Do not be in such a hurry to experience everything at once that you forget about the people you serve.
About Sonya Bielecki
Sonya Bielecki joined the Express Employment Professionals’ team in 2020 as the Director of Strategic HR. She has worked as a leader in the Human Resources industry for more than 20 years.
Having worked in all areas of Human Resources during her career, Sonya’s experience and skills allow her to focus on the vision of each organisation while providing services to enhance, improve and support a strong HR functionality necessary in every company.
Her experience includes working in various HR roles at Global Corporations with multi-state workforces, including as the Director of Human Resources at Weiss Technik North America, Training and Development with Pridgeon and Clay, and significant time in HR consulting and third-party recruiting.
You can reach out to Sonya by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org