Faces of HR

Faces of HR: Chelsea Searan on Using an HR Lens to Better Your Organization

Meet Chelsea Searan, Human Resources Lead at Instant Financial, a free platform that allows businesses to offer employees earned wage access. Through Instant, employees have free real-time access to the money they have earned but have yet to be compensated for. Before joining the organization, Searan served as HR Manager at a third-party logistics company.

In our latest Faces, meet Chelsea Searan.

Chelsea Searan
Chelsea Searan

How did you get your start in the field?

My undergraduate degree is in Business Management, so come graduation, I had a broad range of options to decide how I wanted to begin my career. I decided I was most interested in the people aspect of business, which led me into my first role in HR. From there, I had the opportunity to learn through great leadership how to work strategically to better the business through the lens of HR.

Who is/was your biggest influence in the industry?

I didn’t have a strong HR influence when I was getting started. The different roles I held in high school and college were with either small businesses or part-time where my interactions with HR were minimal. Through my work experiences, I got to work with talented people-first HR leaders who influenced how I approach my position.

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

I didn’t necessarily make a mistake in this situation but there was a specific period of heightened COVID-19 concerns where I felt very in over my head with how to best advise an office’s leadership. During that week, my direct manager was unavailable, which put more pressure on coming to a conclusion on my own – and in that particular instance, I didn’t have a great way to resolve it.

I learned that there are always other people you can turn to when you need help. That situation ended up positively impacting my relationship with a few others on the management team that I didn’t otherwise interact with very frequently. I received positive feedback for handling the situation to the best of my ability, while also getting grace from my team, learning that needing help was completely reasonable and something I shouldn’t shy away from. I think being scared to ask for help is something that a lot of us can relate to, but oftentimes, you come out the other side better than before.

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 of working in Human Resources is getting to work with employees and stakeholders across all parts of the business. In other positions, you can have a limited scope on the people you work with, but a benefit of HR is not having that boundary.

I don’t have a “least favorite” part of the role that’s jumping out at me. There are, of course, difficult positions that I’ve been put in where we have to scale back headcount or make other tough decisions that impact people’s ability to work and provide for themselves and families. Those conversations are always going to be difficult even when it’s done in the best way and is my least favorite part.

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.

Physical and psychological safety is a top priority of mine. I think having a culture where work is a safe, open space, where people can voice their opinions and ideas comfortably and show up as themselves every day is super important. Having a culture that reflects this will have a positive impact on so many parts of your organization, including having high employee engagement, strong employee retention, and a workforce that enjoys their jobs and where they work.

How can HR most effectively demonstrate its value to the leadership team?

HR can influence the people-focused initiatives that a company is going to prioritize, whether that be a new technology, a new benefit, or changes to roles within the organization. If you have an HR team that is in tune with what is going on in your organization, that can positively impact the changes executives move forward with. Conducting Stay Interviews and Exit interviews are one effective way to learn where your organization may need to invest. As another example, if compensation is a business issue, HR leaders can offer up certain benefits such as earned wage access. Today, earned wage access is being used as a recruitment and retention tool and is a reason employees will choose one business over another. 

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

There’s a continuation of adding technology, and specifically AI, into all Human Resources products and services. The sales inquiries I receive almost always revolve around how their product’s technology (mainly AI) will benefit our business. I think there is a balance between the benefits and efficiency that technology and AI bring to HR Tech, while keeping actual people at the core. I’m not to say exactly where that balance will be struck over the next 5 years, but it is an area I’m watching closely.

What are you most proud of?

While working in HR, I’ve had a few opportunities to advocate for certain employee situations with leadership. There have also been times where difficult employment decisions have had to be made – when I reflect back to my early days I can see a lot of personal and professional growth in handling tough situations that I am proud of.

Do you have any advice for people entering the profession?

There are so many facets within HR, including employee relations, compliance, payroll, recruiting, compensation (just to name a few). Something that worked well for me was entering a generalist position where I was able to gain exposure to a lot of different areas that I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to work in. I would recommend that approach for others joining a new HR role so you can focus on finding your interest and can become specialized in the area that is your best fit later.

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