Faces of HR

Faces of HR: How One HR Pros Passion to Uplift Others Allows Him to Teach, Lead & Develop

Brian Anders got his start in the HR industry as a recruiter and personnel representative at FedEx. According to Anders, this role was his foundation in high-volume recruitment and placement, labor law, regulatory, compliance and employee relations. As his career progressed, he transitioned to the insurance industry, joining Liberty Mutual Insurance Company as an AVP of HR and working in the world of mergers and acquisitions.

Brian Anders

Since 2019, he has served as the Director of Human Resources at WorkSmart Systems, Inc., an HR management solution for small- and medium-sized businesses. Anders leads a team that provides HR services encompassing employee relations, web-based platforms such as organizational training and development (LMS), performance management, applicant tracking systems (ATS) and workers’ compensation and leave of absence administration.

In our latest Faces of HR, meet Brian Anders.

How did you get your start in the field?

I started my HR career as a recruiter at FedEx, hiring part-time package handlers for the Indianapolis hub. I was lucky to build my HR foundation in a fast-paced, overnight delivery business that required high-volume recruitment. At FedEx, I learned a variety of subjects — labor law, compliance, I-9 administration, Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations, drug testing and background screening, just to name a few.

Eventually, my recruiter role developed into higher level recruitment and community outreach. I started recruiting technical, professional and leadership positions from colleges and universities before getting promoted to personnel representative handling employee relations and training and development.

My introduction to HR more than 20 years ago hard-wired an HR foundation that I draw from daily. FedEx’s formalized training, development, and strong leadership — and the demands of a Fortune 100 company — created limitless opportunities for my personal growth and professional development.

Who is/was your biggest influence in the industry?

John Robinson, Regional VP, Liberty Mutual Insurance Company – John is a successful business leader and a tremendous HR advocate. He leveraged HR to develop and implement employee engagement surveys with measurable action plans, succession planning and core curriculum — before any other peer companies. Together, we accomplished and exceeded business objectives, employee retention and engagement within an ever-changing merger and acquisition environment.

Matt Thomas, President and CEO, WorkSmart Systems, Inc. A highly effective business leader and owner, Matt follows Lee Iacocca’s sage advice, “I hire people brighter than me and then I get out of their way.” Matt allows his leaders the autonomy and responsibility to run their departments in an extremely fast-paced, customer-centric service environment. My success is not just a culmination of my experience. It’s also due to Matt’s leadership and his confidence in me to deliver for our customers.

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

I learned early in my professional career never to use an exclamation point — unless the message is positive. Be thoughtful about communication nuances. When dealing with contentious employee and customer issues, I work from my draft email folder, typing my initial thoughts and going back later to remove the emotion before sending. When in doubt, walk down the hall or pick up the phone to seek resolution.

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 HR industry is teaching, leading, and developing other HR professionals and then celebrating their successes. Uplifting others is truly what motivates me.

My least favorite aspect of HR is administering employee reductions. Anyone who has ever delivered the message or been a part of a reduction in force knows that everyone has a story — kids in college, a new baby on the way, student loans, a second mortgage, medical bills and more. A few methods I’ve used to combat reductions include working to place employees in other positions or alternate locations within the organization and even working with competitors to place employees in similar roles.

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.

At WorkSmart Systems, we all care about people. During the darkest days of the pandemic, our team of HR professionals provided ongoing consultation to clients attempting to manage the day-to-day challenges of a newly remote workforce. We monitored federal, state, and local legislation and mandates to ensure our clients could make informed decisions by putting employee safety as the top priority while also mitigating risk. Our teams helped clients navigate labor employment law, counseled clients on safety plans, furloughs, and layoffs. As clients sought information on vaccine mandates, testing policies, exposure protocols and compliance templates, we provided the professional guidance they needed.

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

Be an HR advocate, and leverage HR to positively impact your organization’s culture. Web-based HR resources like LMS, performance management and ATS boost employee and customer retention and drive positive workplace cultures, which contribute to bottom-line success.

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

In our remote, post-pandemic world, I see an opportunity for additional web-based and virtual HR platforms. And I see HR functions continuing to gain momentum in many industries, as HR is increasingly viewed more as a contributor and less of an oppressor. There will certainly be some administrative work associated with HR roles and responsibilities, but those individuals with the technical and interpersonal skills will be key to advancing organizations.

What are you most proud of?

I’m most proud of leading and developing team members during a time of extensive company growth and a global pandemic. The pandemic taught us a lot about what we don’t know and what we can’t control. For HR professionals, this served as a tremendous opportunity for development in key areas such as customer service, regulatory and compliance, conflict resolution, employee safety and business continuity. Everyone on the team developed and contributed specific skills that made it possible for us to deliver sound advice, coaching and counseling to our clients in the face of uncertainty. Any HR professional, regardless of years of experience or seniority, who thrived during the pandemic can accomplish anything.

Do you have any advice for people entering the profession?

Learn the business you support, as your skills and business acumen will allow you to be a solid business partner. Learn from your mistakes, and don’t let them hold you back. Build solid relationships with your customers and clients. Lean on your colleagues as you face unprecedented challenges such as a global pandemic. Always look for ways to reward and recognize employees and celebrate wins. Make your most significant challenges your crowning achievements!