Before Kimberly Nerpouni got her start in the HR industry, she worked in the IT industry as an analyst. By 2001, she was working at Macromedia building and managing a 35-person IT and Engineering Support team. During this time, Nerpouni realized developing teams was her passion, not information technology.
“I made the leap to human resources so I could focus all my energy on the connection between employee experience and high-performing teams,” Nerpouni shared with HR Daily Advisor. “I’m very passionate about creating and fostering a culture that promotes employee development, growth, and engagement.”
A year later, Nerpouni began her Human Capital career in the management consulting industry at Bain & Company. During her nearly thirteen years at Bain, she worked across the Human Resources, Recruiting, Professional Development, and Corporate Alumni functions. Today, Nerpouni is the Vice President of Talent & People Operations at JustAnswer, a leading expert question and answer online platform.
In our latest “Faces of HR,” meet Kimberly Nerpouni.
Who is/was your biggest influence in the industry?
I find inspiration and thought-provoking insights from organizational psychologist, Adam Grant. He has a great podcast, Work LIfe which I highly recommend.
What’s your best mistake and what did you learn from it?
My biggest mistake in my career was pursuing a path in IT because it was a great job and ignoring that it wasn’t a great job for me, personally. Though it was a “mistake”, I do feel it’s good that I did it because it reinforces my decision to pursue an HR career. I know what it feels like to not be doing what you love. This feels so much better!! Even on my toughest days, I am working on things that matter to me.
What’s your favorite part about working in the industry? What’s your least favorite part, and how would you change it?
My favorite part of my job is converting non-believers. I know the connection between Employee Happiness, Productivity, and Profit. Connecting those dots for others and seeing the light bulb go off is so rewarding! Creating an amazing workplace isn’t just about fun and employee happiness isn’t just about more money. It’s about recognition, growth, autonomy, and purpose.
My least favorite part of my job are the times when I must communicate with someone that they’re not meeting expectations for the role/organization. But there have been times when those conversations lead to amazing things, as people explore new possibilities and uncover their true passions.
How can company leaders make HR a value within their organization?
By recognizing that having a good People strategy is good for business. Stop thinking of HR as a cost center, but as an investment vehicle for now and the future. There are a lot of levers to pull in HR, so if you’re light on resources prioritize the ones that will provide the most impact for most employees. Some of the best things don’t require much money including praise, coaching, feedback, clearly defined job and expectations.
Where do you see the industry heading in five years? Or are you seeing any current trends?
I think with the migration of the knowledge workforce from major metropolitan areas due to the pandemic is transforming how employers will attract and retain employees. I think we can all acknowledge there is a lot of work that can be done effectively without commuting into an office every day. The flexibility to be able to work where you are and reduce the “dead” time of commuting is going to become more of an expectation rather than a nice-to-have. With this migration, I suspect that compensation will smooth out rather than concentrated in metropolitan areas that we’ve had historically – many jobs and especially highly compensated positions being anchored to the San Francisco Bay area, New York, and other metropolitan areas.
What are you most proud of?
I am the proudest of the work we do in HR when we can be part of that positive change at the individual or organizational level. The times when I’ve been able to support people and/or organizations through change or tough situations are the most rewarding. It is very satisfying helping people get unstuck, discover untapped talent or find new possibilities where they once saw problems. When organizations need a culture facelift, or turnaround, it is extremely difficult but rewarding when you can look back and see the impact.
Do you have any advice for people entering the profession?
Listen first to understand – and he larger the team means a lot of listening. There are many great levers for HR to pull but it’s important to know which ones are needed and will work best for that specific team and organization. No two situations are exactly alike, which is what keeps it all very fascinating.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
The challenges of the past year have increased the need for employee resources that can help with the physical, mental, and practical day-to-day stress that comes from this new remote work reality. Some of the perks that seemed so attractive to many in the past like free lunches and ping pong tables are less valued by today’s employees. Employer provided resources that can address individualized needs have tremendous value. A free, easy to access, on-demand platform like JustAnswer can help employees, confidentially with their specific concerns (legal, medical, technical, etc.) as they arise. I am more excited than ever about JustAnswer’s expansion into Employer Benefits.