Faces of HR

Faces of HR: Sheryl LaPlace on a Passion for People, Discovering Talent & Employee Feedback

As a Human Resources Consultant for Insperity, a leading provider of human resources, Sheryl LaPlace works on a team of professionals, providing a myriad of HR services, including HR guidance and training, to small and mid-sized businesses across the United States.

Sheryl LaPlace

LaPlace has more than 20 years of experience in human resources, training and development, recruiting, operations, business management, DE&I, and consultative services. In various roles, she has prepared affirmative action plans, conducted internal investigations of discrimination complaints and employee relation issues, facilitated leadership development and strategic planning processes, as well as provided recruitment support and HR guidance for business locations in the United States, Canada, and the Caribbean.

We recently connected with Sheryl to discuss how she got her start in the industry, her best mistake, as well as how company leaders make HR a value within their organization. According to LaPlace, it’s all about listening to your employees.

“HR is an investment with great returns,” she shared with HR Daily Advisor. “Take the time to ask employees for input and respond to their feedback to boost engagement. Responding to employee feedback does not mean losing control or veering away from the company’s mission and values. It just means communicating what can and cannot be done. Asking about an employee’s well-being and responding, even if what is requested can’t be provided, demonstrates a level of care that doesn’t go unnoticed by the workforce and reinforces the value of HR.”

In our latest Faces of HR, meet Sheryl LaPlace.

How did you get your start in the field?

Before I had an HR title, I was often sought out for HR guidance from friends, family, and colleagues. I obtained a business degree, but it did not take long to figure out that businesses cannot be successful without people. I believe the more engaged the people are in a business, the more successful the business becomes. This passion for people is what propelled me into the HR field. I began working on the technical end, doing affirmative action and EEO reporting in the field. As the years progressed, I gained experience in many aspects of HR, such as recruiting, leadership development, administering career-aligning assessments, EEO investigations, business skills and communication training, and consulting. However, my path to Insperity began with a personal search for a company where employees felt it was a great place to work. In that search, I found Insperity. Now I can help employers create that same experience for their employees.

Who is/was your biggest influence in the industry?

My middle school teacher was my most significant influence. She was a fantastic teacher who saw all my hidden talents and potential. It’s hard for others to believe today, but I was a quiet child and she saw skills in me that I didn’t even see in myself. Her ability to see my potential, nurture it and get me involved in things outside my comfort zone, ultimately helped me realize there is so much untapped capabilities in people. As a result, I knew I wanted to do for others, what my teacher did for me, but on a larger scale. Therefore, I made it my mission to help organizations discover the talents of their people.

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

I never label anything in my career or life path as a mistake. Instead, I believe that every obstacle is a learning opportunity and a chance to grow. For example, my greatest challenge was when my values and passions were misaligned with a company. During those times, I realized that I wanted to work for a company that valued employees and their recommendations, so I took my talents elsewhere and learned what mattered to me in a job. Most importantly, I realized that I wanted to be at a company where employee engagement was a top priority for leadership. Additionally, I was able to take those lessons learned about the importance of making people a priority and use them to help my clients today.

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

I enjoy working in the professional employer organization (PEO) space because I get to take part in amazing things every day. I get to positively impact businesses directly by freeing up leadership to focus on their organizations’ goals. For example, at the height of pandemic, I helped my clients navigate through all the complexities of the law, which were changing every day with new and evolving legislation. I helped them create policies and adapt to the changes in the new work environment, not so they just stayed afloat but to nimbly adjust and, in some cases, thrive considering the various changes. Clients who were mindful of my guidance to create a more flexible workplace pre-pandemic had employees who were equipped to work from home because they had embraced it before it was necessary for the business.

My favorite part about working in the industry is the support I provide to businesses and watching how the proactive measures help build solid HR infrastructures, which equips managers and leaders for success. My least favorite part of HR is watching companies struggle within the HR space. Most business leaders are in a business they are passionate about, but that passion does not typically include HR. Many companies won’t take advantage of HR resources because they believe they can’t afford them. This theory is exacerbated when they have to spend more money when the lacking HR infrastructure leads to issues that could have been avoided. There are complexities in HR that business leaders lose sleep over when they could, instead, rely on someone like me, who deals with it daily. A change in that way of thinking is to let the people who love HR do the HR, or at least partner with someone who has the skills and resources to help, so that business leaders can concentrate on what they do best.

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.

Business leaders who want to ensure their workforce feels safe and comfortable should provide avenues for employees to voice their opinions and concerns. Employee surveys are one such avenue. One of the most satisfying parts of my role is helping organizations obtain and respond to employee surveys. Employees are the best resource to gauge the employee experience. Gathering information from stay interviews, exit interviews, climate surveys, and engagement surveys, allows me to support the organization with customized strategies that care for employees. When we hear from employees, we can link their needs to what the organization wants to accomplish.

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

It is no secret that there is a true race for talent, which, given the current projections, may continue for some time. To succeed in this race, businesses should remain fluid and customize the employee experience to some degree, paying attention to employee needs and recognizing that one size does not fit all. Even small teams will have unique and varying needs.

Jobseekers’ values are also changing. They are looking more at organizations that align with their values and have a positive impact on the community. Comprehensive benefits, professional development and flexibility are also top priorities to the jobseeker of today; therefore, companies that provide robust benefit packages, offer professional development opportunities, and demonstrate flexibility can better position themselves to attract and retain talent.

What are you most proud of?

I am most proud of seeing clients in my care thrive; when they trust my guidance and support, our partnership comes to life.

Do you have any advice for people entering the profession?

As with any profession, I would advise them to find and follow their passion. HR is like a beautiful quilt made of many different pieces. There are so many specialized areas within the field, such as recruitment and hiring, learning and development, payroll management, workplace culture, HRIS, worker’s compensation and more.  So, find where your passion lies and become a sponge, absorbing all you can about it.