Faces of HR

Faces of HR: Wes Muschara on Empowering People and Leader Advocacy

As we prepare to kick off HR Compliance Week here at HR Daily Advisor, this week’s Faces of HR column celebrates a professional who continues to help move the needle forward in the compliance industry.

Wes Muschara

Wes Muschara serves as Vice President of Product Management at IRIS Software Group, a global provider of mission-critical software. IRIS takes the pain out of processes, helping certified public accountant (CPA) firms and businesses comply with regulations, drive productivity, and better engage with key stakeholders.

With more than 14 years of experience in software-as-a-service (SaaS) product management and strategy, Muschara is a visionary leader who drives product innovation and growth across the global product portfolio at IRIS Software Group. He joined the company in 2023 following the acquisition of Apex HCM, where he served as the chief product officer and a member of the executive management team.

Before Apex HCM, Muschara was vice president of product management at Deloitte and director of product management at ADP. Before getting into HCM, he spent 4 years in the U.S. Army as captain with the 101st Airborne Division, where he served 1 year in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in Baghdad and Mosul, Iraq.

We recently connected with Muschara to discuss how he got his start in the industry, his biggest influences, and his best mistake. The lesson? It’s OK to say “no.”

“One of the most significant mistakes I made as a young manager was taking too much on myself, and not utilizing the supremely talented team that was hungry to serve our company and clients,” he explained. “I had a flawed view that I must handle everything that is assigned to or placed on my team. Of course, you need to have ownership of those tasks/projects, but that’s why there’s a team. It taught me how to prioritize my work, lead thoughtfully, but also when I need to say ‘no’ to an assignment.”

In our latest Faces, meet Wes Muschara.

How did you get your start in the field?

It’s rare to get into the HR/HCM domain on purpose. I was in sales for years until I eventually transitioned into a functional product role at ADP. That was the catalyst for getting into the HR domain. I’ve never been in a practitioner role; I’ve always been on the technology side. But working hand in hand with practitioners consistently, they are the users of the platforms and technology that we’ve created over the years. Having joined ADP in a product role, I had to get very familiar with the industry. I spent a lot of time with clients and users to understand the complications and battles they face within their domain and what problems they were trying to solve for their organization. In 2013, I trained and tested for my Professional in Human Resources (PHR).

Who is/was your biggest influence in the industry? 

You know, it’s not a person but a collection of coworkers, clients, prospects, users, and competitors in the HR tech space. Product innovation isn’t about a lightbulb, but it’s all about solving problems for people and improving the outcomes in their work (and personal) lives. In addition, product innovation only comes from having a firm understanding of your clients, users, and industry. Those groups have had the biggest influence on my teams and me in serving the HR industry.

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

When I entered the industry 12 years ago, HR was viewed as a back-office function. It was very transactional in nature in servicing the employees. That has transitioned over the years as companies have thought more about talent management or their employees as a strategic lever for the company. HR having a more strategic chair at the executive table has really increased over the years. HR has become less transactional and more about serving employees and being strategic in how talent can change the competitive landscape.

An industry leader noted to me recently that employees aren’t the best asset of the company; they are the company. We must make sure our employees are happy and empower them to do the best in their role.

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 are only going to follow leaders they trust and respect. You must leave your title at the door. It’s all about empowering those around you because effectively, they’re the ones doing the work. The closer you can be to the work and understanding the concerns of the employees and the feedback they are providing, the better. It’s leadership at the end of the day.

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

The most underappreciated skill of any leader, particularly in HR, is advocacy. Advocating for the strategic role that HR can play within an organization is how HR can effectively demonstrate value—advocating to employees about what capabilities HR can provide and really using that to transform the company and making sure every employee is a strategic member of the organization.

Where do you see the industry heading in 5 years? Or are you seeing any current trends?

Even though HR has evolved, historic people management challenges like skills shortages and salary expectations are going to continue influencing our industry. Skills mapping will become a priority trend this year, and we will begin to see a greater focus on workforce planning. HR leaders will need to address present or future skill and role gaps and require good employee data to make this happen.

People analytics will be key for tracking, retaining, and developing staff. HR teams can use monthly surveys to gauge sentiment and look for trends in the data. Technology can help automate your ability to gather key data from employees.

We can look to technology to automate certain HR transactions with the evolution of chatbots and generative artificial intelligence (AI). The HR domain puts out a lot of content—creating job postings or performance reviews, for example. Technology can now begin a draft of a job posting by including critical information instead of an HR practitioner needing an hour to draft it. Leaders can begin thinking about how they can best leverage technology to take on the mundane day-to-day HR tasks to free those employees to focus on strategic problems of the organization. AI tools should be integrated into our current work environment so that HR can become more conversational and human again. Just as applications used by employees are becoming a part of their workflows, HR systems will move in a similar direction so that HR professionals can further personalize the employee experience.

What are you most proud of?

My first job coming out of college, I was commissioned in the U.S. Army. I had the privilege of leading men into combat in Iraq. Politics aside, that was the most honorable and rewarding experience to lead other young men into combat. There were a lot of unknowns to overcome, but most importantly, we were focused on liberating the citizens of Iraq. I am also very proud of my family and the children we have raised.

Do you have any advice for people entering the profession?

Be sure to network and find multiple mentors. Soak in as much information as you can. It doesn’t have to be in HR but any domain of a particular company that you’re working within. Go learn about the financial levers of the company and what drives that area of business. Don’t ever stop learning. Just because you’re there doesn’t mean you made it.

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