Faces of HR

Faces of HR: Bailey Showalter Gets Candid about the Value of Human Resources

Bailey Showalter has been involved in the field of human resources (HR) for nearly a decade. For our latest Faces of HR profile, we sat down with Bailey to discuss how she got her start in the industry, her biggest influence, as well as her thoughts on trends and best practices for the HR industry, including the biggest compliance concerns of 2022. According to Showalter, social responsibility may not be top of mind when it comes to compliance concerns, but this year it’s essential that organizations take a good look at who they are and how they operate.

Bailey Showalter

“Companies, and their clients, are more aware than ever that a gap may exist between the values listed on their websites and the reality of day-to-day operations,” Showalter recently shared with HR Daily Advisor. “Organizations must act with greater intention to ensure that who they perceive themselves to be internally is accurately reflected externally or face the consequences of losing trust and brand value by customers and employees alike. In a similar vein, organizations that leverage AI tools to drive human capital management decision-making need to wholly understand what powers them. Ultimately, an organization is responsible for decisions made based on its tools. If those tools introduce bias into the process, the short-term and long-term consequences can be devastating.”

In our latest Faces of HR profile, meet Bailey Showalter, VP of Talent Solutions at Credly. For nearly 10 years now, Showalter’s service mindset has driven her to help others. In December 2020, her passion lined up perfectly with Credly – the world’s largest network of verified talent – when she joined the team to help people find their next opportunity based on their skills and experience. As more and more people are looking to make major career changes than ever before, Showalter is delighted to help people make those exciting changes while having their skills at the forefront of the conversation. Enjoy!

How did you get your start in the field?

I got my start in HR Tech when I joined Indeed as an Account Executive early in my career. They were still a small company at the time, and I loved their mission of helping people get jobs. As the company grew, so too did opportunities, and I joined a burgeoning Product Commercialization and Strategy team to bring new products to the Talent Acquisition landscape at the company. In those roles, I was talking to recruiters, hiring managers, and job seekers constantly, and I learned so much about how difficult hiring is, as well as how important it is to get it right. As I’ve grown in my career and had the opportunity to dig into these problems further, my conviction on those points has deepened, and I am so privileged to partner with HR teams around the world, helping their organizations flourish.

Who is/was your biggest influence in the industry?

I’ve had the opportunity to learn from so many wonderful leaders in HR, it’s hard to narrow it down. Some of my biggest influences were clients who graciously let me into their worlds as we sorted through the good, bad, and ugly of their day-to-day roles. Others were internal leaders at Indeed and Credly who opened my eyes to new ways of thinking about old problems. A few who come to mind, though, are Brendan Sterne, and his relentless commitment to centering the job seeker in hiring; John Fox, and his passion for untangling thorny, unsolved problems plaguing TA teams; and Brittany Storie, with her deft ability to weave empathy into strategic decision making to support our Credly team.

What’s your best mistake and what did you learn from it?

As much as I talk about the importance of being able to bring your whole, authentic self to work, it’s something that I’ve struggled to do myself. Especially early in my career and as a new people manager, I was terrified of being perceived as unprofessional, and I kept myself very guarded. I was friendly with folks, but I was nervous to cross a boundary that could imply any favoritism or preferential treatment with any coworker, even when they were people I would have liked to count as friends.

A more senior manager who I had become friendly with pulled me into a room and told me that she liked working with me but didn’t know if she could trust me. I was blown away. To my mind, I had been nothing short of professional and had always kept my word on projects we shared. To hers, however, she didn’t know anything about me, didn’t know my values, and didn’t know how I felt about the reaching impacts of difficult problems we were working on.

At the same moment I wanted to feel defensive. I recognized how much courage that had to take on her part, and I chose to hear it for what it was. I started working on practicing what I preach and bringing my whole self to work, sharing more about what was going on personally (within reason, of course), and even letting myself form friendships with colleagues. To this day, that manager is still someone I turn to when I’m wrestling with a hard problem, and she’s someone I am thankful to count as a friend.

What’s your favorite part about working in the industry? What’s your least favorite part, and how would you change it?

I love that this industry touches all others and undergirds the most important part of any business: the people. At the end of the day, I can always come back to how important the work we do is and how many people we are able to serve. On the other hand, it often feels like Human Resources is one of the most persistently under-resourced groups, with most folks filling roles that would be multiple specialties on other teams. I’m starting to see this improving around the industry, but in the meantime, the amount of “I’m burned out” posts I see on LinkedIn from HR colleagues highlights the real struggle we’re facing.

It sounds like through your experience you really care about people, and you want to help them feel safe and comfortable, which is important in the industry. Please elaborate here.

It’s always a good feeling when something we innately care about is backed by a lot of science as to why that is ultimately a good thing for the world, too. In this case, caring about our people and ensuring a safe, comfortable workplace fosters all the characteristics we want to see in our teams. Innovation, creativity, collaboration, passion, joy – the workplace values so many of us hold dear – all stem from the necessary psychological safety to fail and to learn.

Inherently, if I have no safety to fail, I will take many fewer risks, even if those risks had the potential to deepen our learnings or uncover new opportunities. Conversely, ensuring people feel safe to make mistakes, to learn, and ultimately, to grow, sets the stage for a team that can learn together, grow together, and innovate together.

How can company leaders make HR a value within their organization?

Our people are our best asset. They drive the critical thinking, they drive the decision making, and they drive the revenue generation that is the lifeblood of any business. When we look at business strategy through this critical lens, it’s hard not to make HR a value in the organization. Ensuring that our people are set up for success is essential to ensuring a successful business.

Where do you see the industry heading in five years? Or are you seeing any current trends?

Big data will have an even bigger impact on the industry, especially as we get smarter about our teams’ skill profiles, professional ambitions, and interests. Up to this point, if this data is tracked at all it has been housed across multitudes of platforms and hasn’t followed people from job to job or company to company. As the notion of skills profiles become as ubiquitous as the traditional resume, we’ll better be able to understand where our employees are best strategically aligned with an organization at all times.

What are you most proud of?

Professionally, I am most proud of my teams. I have been fortunate to work with some really kind, brilliant people who I have learned an immense amount from, and that they chose to work with me and shared my passion for solving big problems in HR has been a real privilege.

Personally, I am most proud of my track record of learning a new skill every year. Last year I learned more about vegetable fermentation and sourdough bread baking than I ever thought possible (I’m always down to talk about new pickle ideas!), and previously I’ve learned how to make pottery, play musical instruments, and become conversational in new languages. I try my best to bring a beginner’s mindset and humility to every problem I’m solving, and keeping myself humble by being constantly “new” at something is a good reminder, for me, to keep learning and growing.

Do you have any advice for people entering the profession?

It’s okay to not know how to do something, and it’s okay to not know the answer to something you’re working on. Your team is here to support you, to teach you, and to help you, but it’s really hard for them to know when to help if you never speak up. You are your own best advocate, so don’t be afraid to ask for what you need to be successful.

Anything else you’d like to add? We can talk about anything you’d like to discuss here.

The expectations of employees and their companies have dramatically changed in a post-pandemic world. The public health crisis and the ensuing labor market disruption, the rallying cries for social justice and racial equity, and a crisis of trust in institutions of all kinds have had a ripple effect across the globe. But they also are accelerating a shift in expectations about the way we work that was already underway. I think one of the most impactful ways that HR can not only increase both employee retention and loyalty is to build a talent management strategy that centers on skill development. In my current role, I’m seeing that bear out: on Credly’s platform, we’ve seen an over 400% increase in customers issuing digital credentials to their employees (2019-2021).

The other key point of engagement is in areas of diversity, equity, and inclusion. DE&I initiatives are essential to ensuring organizations are broadening diversity and leveling the playing field with equitable talent management decisions. Inclusion efforts ensure your team can bring their whole, authentic selves to work — whether that’s alluding to gender, sexual orientation, or race. As organizations work to cultivate more diverse, equitable workplaces through tactics including skills-based hiring, those that invest in creating safe, inclusive environments will thrive.