Faces of HR

Faces of HR: Ginni Lisk on Compassionate Leadership, Bridging Communication Gaps and Company Culture

Ginni Lisk, VP of People Strategy at ScreenCloud, has more than a decade of experience helping companies to achieve business outcomes through scalable and effective people and culture practices. Lisk has worked “in various guises of HR,” but shared with HR Daily Advisor that the thread that runs through her impressive career is a motivation to enhance experiences of work.

ginni lisk
Ginni Lisk

In her current role at ScreenCloud – a SaaS business helping enterprise companies maintain connection with their employees – Lisk is focused on digital transformation within the HR profession.

“I’m motivated to be doing really purposeful work, helping companies to deliver truly transformational internal communication for employees in all job types and all locations,” says Lisk. “I’m on a mission to extend business-critical HR initiatives beyond only the head office environment, unlock employee engagement across the full organization – and in doing so – enhance the working lives of the global deskless workforce.

“I believe the coronavirus pandemic has been a forcing factor for a range of evolved HR practices that are being felt at all levels of the organization and across all company sites,” she continued. “The pandemic also saw a heightened appreciation for essential, frontline workers and a stronger spotlight cast on the industries they are employed in. There is now a determination amongst these workers to receive a quality of work experience that has been traditionally the reserve of desk-based employees. In impacted organizations, I believe a significant worthwhile opportunity presents itself for their HR leaders to reach, connect with and enable all members of their workforce, regardless of the nature of the work they are doing. And I’m fascinated to keep discovering all the ways to do it.”

In our latest Faces of HR, meet Ginni Lisk.

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

My best mistake was becoming a recruitment consultant. I was relatively successful in my recruitment consultancy and executive search days, and I prided myself on the quality of hire I was making for the businesses I was partnering with. I always worked in boutique agency environments where reputation was crucial and connecting individuals with their ideal new role to meet the needs of an ambitious company was a huge sense of fulfillment.

However, the recruitment agency model is still built on securing fees, which depends on finding and keeping clients, and this model is incentivized through revenue targets and commission structures. A core transferable sales skill was, as it transpired over the course of a few years, not one that made me happy! However, this is my best mistake because, were it not for these experiences, I wouldn’t have established the technology industry knowledge I gained – nor would I have been inspired to study for the HR Master’s degree that transformed my career. To this day, I also have immense respect for people who are performing highly in sales roles. Generating revenue for a company is hard work that requires a rare and impressive combination of skill and motivation.

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

My favorite times working in HR have been witnessing and experiencing the powerful moments that really highlight when practices or initiatives are effectively aligning people with a company’s goals and direction. Being a HR professional is, I think, sometimes lonely (the phrase I hear repeated often within my network is, “there is no HR for HR.”).  In moments when I’ve felt that I haven’t had the time or resource that I need, everything is instantly made better by recognizing the delivery of individuals who feel loyal, motivated, and enabled to contribute to a company’s success— because that is what it’s all about!

I have always believed that compassionate leadership approaches and prioritization of employee engagement aren’t at odds with productivity but are core drivers of this outcome for organizations. Enabling these approaches is never complete and cannot be delivered by a service center; it requires a strategically embedded HR function that is able to maintain a constant understanding and appreciation of the real life, lived experiences of employees. A communication gap existing between companies and their employees, particularly experienced for a long period of time, is incredibly damaging and I’ve always viewed it as my role to bridge that gap when it exists and stop new communications gaps from forming. It’s certainly not always easy, but my bias for effective communication is most likely why I am in the role I’m in today. HR teams work across an array of operational pillars within any company and therefore, my least favorite part about being in HR is the fact that often “there is no HR for HR.”

Great company culture is no longer just a competitive advantage, it’s the baseline requirement for both attracting people entering the workforce and retaining those who are currently employed. A modern, successful HR department needs to be enabled, and be inherently multi-talented to demonstrate a variety of skill and flair as needed across tasks ranging from accurate payroll administration to internal communication, to handling sensitive employee relations issues, designing organizational structures, or creating training materials. Businesses need to grow in a healthy way and sustain that health. So, seeing the potential of HR departments restricted is a frustration.

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.

People have a psychological contract with their employer that is informed by their ongoing experience at work. At the core of a happy, healthy, and high performing team are fundamental requirements (the foundational needs employees have that must be met in order to enable them to channel discretionary actions and behavior). Being uncomfortable or lacking a sense of being safe at work means operating with a level of constant uncertainty that is stressful and over time can become chronically stressful. Meeting standards, hitting targets, and achieving compliance will all suffer in these situations.

HR needs to collect, analyze, and be informed by hard data and qualitative insight to support the company, and its employees. HR also needs to ensure it is reaching employees, enabling them with the information they need, in ways that are easy to understand and translate quickly into their work. This enhances compliance for the company, drives more confident decision-making amongst employees and ensures everyone is able to benefit from both understanding what is required of them, and understanding how the company is there to support them.

What are you most proud of?

I’m incredibly proud of any moment that I or any of my teams have been able to facilitate, that has reduced someone’s stress, helped them with a problem or unblocked a situation at work.

Do you have any advice for people entering the profession?

My advice for people entering the profession is to embrace the fact that, like all roles in all areas, HR jobs are changing. I believe there is an incredibly exciting opportunity for a broader variety of skills and experience to join HR departments. People starting their HR careers should be motivated to embrace technology and digital transformation and be excited about the evolution we’ll continue to see in the coming years.