We recently had a chance to visit with HR Pro and IRIS Contributor, Janine Truitt, to explore with her the current state of HR, starting her own burgeoning business and the joys of managing entrepreneurship and family. Enjoy!
Let’s talk about Human Resources — Did you find the profession or did it find you?
It was a little of the both. I started off in college as a Biochemistry major. My first year of Calculus courses were the bane of evil and I suddenly had to rethink my major. I didn’t want to be a business major and I wasn’t going to go into Medicine or Law. Instead, I chose Psychology with a specialization in Clinical Psychology. At that time, I thought I would go into practice- until I got through my clinical practical and decided I enjoyed diagnosing patients; but could do without the therapy aspect. I had to find a new specialization and I was looking into Master’s programs at this time also. I had the opportunity to speak with the Dean of Admissions at Adelphi University who asked me-if I knew much about Industrial Psychology. I said “no” and as she explained that it was a promising and lucrative field that would allow me to analyze work behaviors and motivations- I got excited. I ended up pursuing Industrial Psychology for the remainder of my time in college. I also went on to, minor in Community Health and Philosophy.
My senior year, I was fortunate to be hired as an HR intern at NYU Medical Center in New York City; which led to me getting my first HR related job as a Scientific/Clinical Recruiter for Aerotek Staffing. The rest is the culmination of me making strategic (and some not-so-strategic moves) to find an HR department that matched my enthusiasm for the profession and overall desire to improve the workforce.
I’ve been around a long time and have seen the changes at the corporate level — how do you think it has evolved?
I’ve been around less time, but my experience has been that there are too many unnecessary levels of both complexity and people at the corporate level. In some organizations, this is necessary because of the sheer size of the organization. However, in many cases the layers of leaders are more like figureheads and very much out of touch with the needs and wants of their employees.
Equally, I am intrigued by the myriad of challenges and opportunities that the digital age presents. Transparency is now a business imperative-whether they like it or not. There have been enough PR blunders of late to suggest that there is a necessity for businesses and leaders to run their businesses with integrity.
Has HR become too powerful there? Or do you see it more as an advocate for employees? Or do you think is there’s a good balance?
I have often wondered if it would be easier for HR if they we were charged with pleasing one party only- but alas this is not the case. HR has traditionally been betrothed to both the employees and leadership. How far HR tilts in either direction depends on the company and the standard operating procedures of the company.
HR has yet to become too powerful. I don’t think you will hear any HR professional say they have too much respect or power- it is usually the opposite. Some of the wounds HR suffers from are self-inflicted and others are the result of misguided and toxic leadership that want to run their ship haphazardly. I don’t necessarily think giving HR more power is the answer to the historical disconnect. I do think respect for the importance of the discipline and the great things that can be accomplished (when everyone is on the same page) are imperative.
After spending a number of years in that world — what drove you to make a change and start your own business.
Several things drove me to create Talent Think Innovations. I will start by saying that I had conjured the idea of having my own consulting firm someday about three years into my career. It was more of a long-term plan and something I hadn’t spent any real time working on other than the swirling thoughts of it in my head.
In hindsight there were a few events/revelations that informed my transition: Over the course of my ten years in HR, I saw a lot of things that I knew I could do better; but would not be able to accomplish while employed in HR. My career became stagnant working in the national laboratory system after four years. Conversely, the reputation and platform I was building via my blog was starting to outshine my day job. The friends, colleagues, and mentors I had amassed via Social Media became my sounding board for the career issues I was facing. Each of them told me both separately and collectively to take the leap. The near-miss government shutdown of 2013 that would have affected federal contractors, left me feeling uneasy about having my livelihood be in the hands of others. Lastly, I got tired of begging, pleading and justifying my role as a mother and a professional. Frankly, I needed more flexibility.
When thinking about such a big career move, how important is a good support system in making such a change?
I am 100% sure that I would not have made this move if I didn’t feel support from every angle of my life. I mentioned friends, colleagues and mentors were significant in helping me think through what I wanted to do and also believing in myself enough to know I could actually do it. This was huge for me.
The person that I really needed in my corner more than any of them was-my husband. Nothing I have done to date would have been possible without his support, pep talks and understanding. Being an entrepreneur isn’t easy. Having someone to support and continuously push you is a necessary lifeline you need as you continue to create and build your company.
How have you modeled Talent Think Innovations?
Talent Think Innovations exists to make the workforce and business a more harmonious place to be for the humans that drive it. My tagline for the business is: “Talent first. Think smart. Innovate always.” I believe that every business can be successful and profitable if they put the needs of their talent first, make smart decisions and allow their workforces to be driven by innovation and creativity.
My services are designed to address Talent Management needs within the organization. That means I focus on creating strategy for Recruitment, Performance Management, Employee Relations, Succession Planning among other things.
I’m not the gal you would call for the latest FMLA form, Benefits audits or Payroll. There are plenty of firms that enjoy the fruits of outsourced HR work. I have a laser-focus on working with companies that understand the importance of investing in their workforces through thoughtful strategy, initiatives and training.
In addition, I also focus on the resources aspect of the business by working with technology and HR Technology companies to improve how they service HR practitioners and other customer segments.
The foundation of Talent Think Innovations is HR, but I am seeing it evolve in many other directions. It is something I am watching and carefully taking note as I think about the long-term legacy and strategy of the company.
What have been the challenges of being an entrepreneur and building a business?
Building and running a business solo is time and labor-intensive. You are working when most people aren’t or won’t work. I work early mornings, weekends, late nights, during the kids naps, sometimes briefly during homework and dinner. When you own your own business, it is all on you and so your family and friends may have to deal with a new reality of you not being able to do certain things because of what you are trying to accomplish.
Financially, being an entrepreneur is challenging-especially when you are funding yourself. You will inevitably have to make some sacrifices and even forfeit some of what was a given when you were employed in-house.
One of the other challenges is learning to lead with your purpose. Lots of people want to offer you tips, advice or even pontificate the virtues and pitfalls of entrepreneurship when they know you are a business owner. Many of them mean well, but the truth is you need to develop a filter. Filter in the helpful, discard the rest. Your business is your baby and while no one succeeds in creating a business in a vacuum- you have to continuously remain focused on your purpose and path.
There’s also the challenge of keeping yourself fresh. At a big company there are people always around to bounce ideas and thoughts off of. There’s also the advantage of continually learning new things. How do you compensate for the lack of that?
I was a loner even when I was in-house, but I agree there is still possibility for more interaction than not. I make an effort to get out to at least two to three events per month to develop business, learn and network. I am also involved in several associations and sit on a few boards that allow me to remain current in my field. I have also created my own co-worker ecosystem of other entrepreneurs, mentors and colleagues who I remain in constant contact with for inspiration, to vent or bounce ideas off of. I am very fortunate in this regard.
What are the reasons companies seek out your services and how can someone best use your resources?
A company would reach out to me when they have a small HR department that may not have the resources, bandwidth, or acumen to develop workforce strategy. They would also hire me when they have a full HR staff, but want to reenergize their current programs, initiatives and policies by applying my methods.
I am the person you hire if you have the following situations:
- High turnover in various departments or the entire organization and want to do something about.
- Employee Relations complaints are more frequent than you would like and your internal team has been unable to address it.
- Hiring Managers complaining about not getting the service they need from the Recruitment team and you want both parties to work more cohesively.
- You are interested in rolling out an Employee Advocacy program and need to assistance with identifying brand advocates within the organization and mobilizing them.
- You’re doing great in the people department-but you need someone to come in and talk to your current HR department about what the future holds for the workforce and how they can prepare.
- You have a disjointed HR Technology strategy and need somebody to evaluate your current state and help you develop a technology strategy that can grow with you.
What do you think is going to be the primary focus of CEOs and business owners in the next 10 years?
Servant leadership. Robert K. Greenleaf first coined this term back in the 70’s, but I believe this will be more important going forward than ever. It’s the idea that leaders are servants first and leaders secondly. They serve the people (in my case) their workforce, customers and communities with a focus on their well-being. CEO’s and business owners have traditionally been focused on the opposite which is power and an accumulation of wealth.
I believe this manner of leading has created many of the injustices and disparity we see now. I think people are no longer tolerating companies that lead in this manner. The consistent ousting of companies who are corrupt or have poor practices via social media is a good indication that there is a grassroots effort to change this.
Everyone wins with servant leadership. Your customers can patronize you knowing that the product or service you created was done with their best interest in mind. Employees come to work every day knowing that you are continuously building a business that will allow them to flourish. The communities want you in their neighborhood, because your ultimate goal is to put something good back into the places where they live and raise their families.
We all care about this kind of leadership, but Millennials and even Generation Z demand it- so it must change and it will.
Talk to us about building and managing a business and being a mother to three small kids.
This aspect of being an entrepreneur is the most rewarding. It takes a lot of planning and finesse to build and manage a business with three little ones. I don’t have the luxury of picking up last minute and flying across the country to see a client with three kids. I have traveled to speaking gigs with my kids, I have had several shifts of babysitting planned to get to an event in my own town. The saying: “it takes a village…” should be tattooed to my head because it is what keeps my house and business running. My business right now functions around my kids schedules so I can run my business, but also be there for them .
It isn’t an easy task, but I have somewhat conditioned them to understand what I do. I have also been very fortunate to have clients who are also parents that either telework or work from home. This sort of synergy has made the transition a lot easier.
I was far more stressed out when I had to figure out sick days or plan who would take off for certain holidays working for previous employers. I don’t have those battles anymore. I will never have regret about whether or not I was there for my kids when they needed me the most. It may be more difficult juggling the two, but they are worth it to me.
Is this the new and future model for women running their own business?
Yes! I just read the other day that women-run businesses will provide more than half new small business jobs and a third of new jobs overall by 2018. We are creating businesses in the image of what we couldn’t get from big business.
The U.S. is still one of the only first-world countries that doesn’t have paid, federally mandated leave for maternity leave. Families are drowning in the debt of exorbitant childcare costs and costs incurred as a result of unpaid leave. Women are still being severely underpaid in contrast to our male counterparts doing similar work.
For these reasons alone, you will continue to see women create businesses to suit their lives and support their families. I am extremely supportive of women and even more so of mothers who want to take this leap into entrepreneurship.
It’s not a viable option to just sit and suffer through the continued gender inequality. Instead, we are taking the suffrage and turning it into opportunity-so future generations of women don’t have to be faced with the same hurdles.
What would you like to leave us with?
If you want to lead the Talent Think Innovations way, my call-to-action for businesses is the following:
- Take the same care to hire the right people to lead your Human Resources Programs as you would the CFO. They can make or break your company.
- Dedicate yourself to championing Diversity and Inclusion through action.
- Invest in your employees.
- Believe in your employees.
- Inspire people through empowerment and innovation.
- Lead with integrity.
- Happy employees make for happy customers.
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