Faces of HR

Faces of HR: Amy Roy on Taking Chances, Connection, and the Evolution of HR

Amy Roy, Chief People Officer at HR technology company Namely, has more than 20 years of experience in the HR Technology space. She has also held roles in sales, marketing, and process improvement and Roy’s passion for improving the employee experience continues to direct her footsteps. We recently connected with Roy to discuss how she got her start in the industry, her biggest influences, trends, as well as her best mistake. The lesson? Invest in your people.

Amy Roy

“When I started my career in management, I didn’t think I was very good at it and decided it wasn’t for me,” Roy shared with HR Daily Advisor. “In retrospect, it’s because I had almost no leadership training. For many years, I was in an individual contributor role. I had a leader recommend that I apply for a leadership role. I was very hesitant but did it and have been in leadership roles ever since. Ultimately, it taught me that we couldn’t assume good performers will be great leaders unless we invest in them to make them great.”

In our latest Faces of HR, meet Amy Roy.

How did you get your start in the field?

As a Political Science undergraduate, I interned in the government relations department of a union. I had visibility to working through collective bargaining terms and some compliance components associated with people management. Following graduation, I worked in retail management, became the area trainer for new hires and found that I enjoyed that side. I decided I wanted a career change and thought a graduate degree would be my way into something new. I went to graduate school for HR because it included industrial relations (unions), compliance, and training. I took my first role in HR during graduate school as a seasonal recruiter for a retail chain. It evolved into an HR admin role and then into an HRIS Manager role upon graduation.

Who is/was your biggest influence in the industry?

Robin Rothman is the person who hired me when I was in graduate school. When I joined, the organization had just formed its first HR department. They had Talent Acquisition and a Benefits team reporting into Operations in the past but not a true HR function. Robin and Chip Davis were tasked with building the function and allowed me to play a large part in it, despite being early in my HR career. Also, Larry Dunivan, the CEO at Namely, has been my mentor, friend, and boss for many years in different roles. He’s given me opportunities to do things I wouldn’t have imagined. He’s also been a great partner at an executive level because he truly values the HR function.

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 HR is that the field is constantly changing as the expectations of employers continue to evolve. There is always something new to learn or think differently about. The perception of “what HR is” is much more interesting and strategic than it was when I started my career. I also love the variety. There are operational components and people components. If there is one area you don’t like, you probably will find one that you do.

In terms of least favorite, I hate reading exit interviews where the person says that they don’t feel connected or didn’t feel they had growth opportunities and come to find out that they never mentioned any of this to anyone else or knew that there were programs that could meet their needs. It tells me we’ve missed a real opportunity to impact the company.

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.

Early in the pandemic, our leadership team decided to focus on employee wellness. We put a committee in place and used their insight to implement many employee wellness programs, ranging from speakers to new benefits. We’ve added questions on how people feel to our employee engagement programs.

It has not been limited to those programs, but also that people feel safe and comfortable expressing who they are. This ties to our DEIB efforts with, again, employee participation. Those actions have ranged from discussion groups on sometimes controversial topics to a greater focus on allyship.

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

It seems simple but bring them into the discussions on all topics, not just the ones that seem people focused, because ultimately, most things are done by people.

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

We’ll see more significant changes in how we look at where and how people work. Two and half years ago, I worked in an office-based culture, and the same company is now fully remote. There’s also lots of discussion on how a work week should look, for example, four days versus five.

We’ve seen such a change over the last two and a half years, I think we’ll continue to see that evolve, and HR will be the one to look at for guidance on how to respond. I think we’ll continue to see a focus on initiatives around creating equity for groups who may not fully have it today. Finally, greater enablement of digital technologies within the HR function. Emphasis on how AI may play a role and how technology can further enable culture in global and remote workforces.

What are you most proud of?

Personally, my two sons. One is in his third year of law school for environmental law and currently studying in Madrid. The other has three classes left to get his undergraduate degree in data analytics. The younger one spent two summers interning at a Talent Acquisition technology company, and it’s been so interesting to hear his perspective on the space and working with HR data to think about the world.

Professionally, I’ve taken chances in my career and done things outside of HR. I led a vendor search and implementation for a global CRM for Lead Generation through Billing; I’ve worked in product implementation and for many years in sales. Those opportunities have given me a broader perspective on how businesses operate, and I can bring that to my role now in HR.

Do you have any advice for people entering the profession?

Learn about your business. Spend time with someone who can explain to you how the company makes money, how decisions are made, the drivers of success, and its vision. It’s so easy to start a new role and focus on the tasks and not understand the business itself. Also, networking across the organization, not just within the HR team, is very important. You never know what other opportunities will present themselves outside of HR that you might be interested in.

Anything else you’d like to add?

I don’t think that most of us realize how difficult some days in this field can be when we start our careers or that in HR roles or that it can be a lonely field to be in because of the sensitivities that go along with the role. Make sure you build professional connections outside your organization to learn from and help support you in difficult times. I’m open to connecting.