Faces of HR

Faces of HR: Candace Smith on Reimagining HR, Strategic Partnerships & More

Candace Smith has been involved in the field of human resources (HR) for more than a decade. For our latest Faces of HR profile, we sat down with Candace to discuss how she got her start in the industry, her biggest influences, as well as what it takes to cultivate a successful employee experience.

Candace Smith

“I learned very early on in my career that your team members are invaluable and it’s important to take the time to understand what they’re experiencing and feeling throughout their employee experience,” Smith shared with HR Daily Advisor. “In order to be successful, you need to meet people where they are and invest the time to gain, at least, a foundational understanding of what’s actually happening on the ground. Creating a diverse, inclusive, and safe space is critical, especially as we transition out of the pandemic. Wise has done an especially good job in making this a focus through the newly launched global leave minimums and flexible working options.”

As the Regional People Operations Lead for Americas at Wise – a global technology company – Candace manages a regional team and leads all people operations and advisor transactions throughout the Wiser journey. She also works to ensure all people-related processes and services are implemented and administered effectively, efficiently, and consistently.

In our latest Faces of HR, meet Candace Smith.

How did you get your start in the field?

I was first introduced to the world of human resources during my time as a district manager in the retail industry. I found myself constantly wearing different hats in my role, but I always found my curiosity gravitating back towards the pieces tied to supporting and engaging team members through the workplace. In time, I decided to transition into recruitment, which I found to be exciting in that I was constantly learning about various industries while being captivated by the diverse backgrounds of so many candidates. It eventually got to a point where I wanted to make an impact across multiple facets of Human Resources in a single role, so I moved back into a more traditional HR space and worked my way to a managerial role. Now, with Wise, I get to have a global presence as well.

It’s funny looking back now because if you would have asked the high school version of me what my future would look like, it originally involved Veterinary School and lots of science. It turns out being a people advocate in the workplace is more my speed, but my love for animals will always be there.

Who is/was your biggest influence in the industry?

It’s hard to pinpoint one source or person that’s had the biggest influence on me, as every single role I’ve been in holds a piece of the puzzle that has formed me as a person as well as the professional I’ve become today. My past managers have had different leadership styles that have shown me how to balance being a little fiery with a purpose, while at the same time being empathetic and diplomatic. I’ve been able to utilize these learnings throughout my professional journey.

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

My best mistake probably happened when I was first promoted into a retail management role. I thought that I could formulate my management style and use the same mold or approach for every supervisor that I was leading. I quickly learned that it’s crucial to take the time to learn who the individual is as a person, what motivates them and how they operate psychologically and emotionally to gain mutual respect, trust, and best levels of engagement. I’m sure I probably had that “new kid on the block” stamp on my forehead for a bit while I figured out my original approach would only lead to failure. I’m grateful, however, that I was able to take a step back to learn this fundamental lesson and then form individualized, working relationships. Although I’ve worked in several companies and industries since then, that lesson still holds true wherever I go.

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 about working in the industry is that I have the opportunity to continuously collaborate with really talented professionals who specialize in different facets of the branches of Human Resources such as Learning & Development, Recruitment, Reward and Mobility and People Technology and it creates this really special bond that in turn allows us to channel that energy into bettering the workplace for all.

My least favorite part are the moments when Human Resources is still automatically labeled as a blocker or bad omen, as opposed to being seen as a support system. To change this perspective, we need to continuously prioritize actions to put our team members first, which starts with actively listening to their feedback. The feedback from team members is golden and often highlights what pivots need to be taken from time to time to show them that we’re all on the same team.

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

Company leaders can focus on making Human Resources less transactional and more strategically aligned to the company’s direction and values. Human Resources is no longer just a compliance requirement or a team to hire and onboarding new team members; it is the heartbeat of the organization and it’s important to measure and showcase metrics tied to all of the support and resources that these teams bring to the table. The key is to make these metrics easily digestible so they can translate into the impact they have on the business’ mission.

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

I see the industry continuing to move away from a less administrative-focused, transactional approach to one that’s more automated and strategic. Part of that strategic approach includes investing more heavily into upgraded technology such as the use of artificial intelligence and closer collaboration with IT and Cybersecurity teams.

I also see that more companies are realizing there’s a need to have a Human Resources leader present as part of the C-Suite team. Making premature decisions without considering all major stakeholders can often result in unnecessary detachments between achieving the goals of the business and maximizing engagement levels of those team members on the ground.

What are you most proud of?

I’m most proud of the professional growth that I’ve experienced alongside some incredible colleagues over the years. I’ve been part of Human Resources teams who have started from scratch and had major accomplishments from fully launching new worksites across the country to growing an employee-based non-profit program to new heights to disrupting Talent Acquisition methods in finding those especially talented unicorns. I love being able to pass along the knowledge I’ve accumulated and motivate others to pull or push themselves to new heights and having that beautiful “ah ha” moment where something significant clicks into place.

Do you have any advice for people entering the profession?

Keep an open and agile mind. Human Resources is rapidly evolving and in order to be successful, you have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and never stop learning.

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

I often think about the influences that the pandemic has left imprinted upon those in the field. It’s pushed us to be creative in ways we’d never thought possible, build new levels of resiliency, and create new processes out of seemingly thin air without a “playbook.” I’d like to give a shout out to all my Human Resource professionals as it’s not an easy role and we don’t pat ourselves on the back enough. Cheers my friends!