Interview #8 Shannon Pfaff: "I actually ended up in the industry by accident."
Good day, guys!
Do you know that about 5,6 million people, according to Workology, work in the HR sphere?! We are incredibly pleased that there are so many talented and dedicated people in every corner of the world.
Today an American Expat from Germany, lover of animals and food, HR professional Shannon Pfaff will share her thoughts and ideas with us.
Shannon is an experienced Human Resources, Recruiting, and Business Operations specialist. She is skilled in Digital Strategy, Operations, Marketing, Talent Acquisition, Contract Negotiation, Training & Development, and Management.
Shannon is a strong media and communication professional with an Associate Degree in Applied Arts and Science (A.A.S.) focused on Liberal Arts from Gateway Community College with over 10+ years of professional experience.
Her career has most certainly been a journey; working in startups, small offices, and big corporate companies have proven to be an incredible learning experience that has provided her with a unique ability to recruit, train, and effectively manage talent. During this journey, she has found that people's operations, recruiting, and training are what drives her.
She said, "I have a passion for people operations and playing career matchmaker between companies and people".
Let's start our interview and take a journey together with Shannon. Read to the end to find out what unusual traditions companies may have and what accidentally prompted Shannon to become HR!
AO: Shannon, nice to meet you! Let's start with our first question. What is the one thing that you enjoy most about working in HR?
S: The thing that I enjoy most about working in HR is the ability to connect with everyone in the company.
I enjoy being the face of the companies I work with for new hires so that they have an enjoyable experience transitioning into a new company and a new team. This helps foster growing business relationships with the people with whom I work. This creates an environment where they feel safe coming to me for a myriad of reasons and the management teams trust my problem-solving abilities.
AO: Can you name three areas that you feel need the most improvement, based on your understanding of common HR practices?
S: This is a tough question to answer. I typically work with contractor teams, so with that said, it would be wonderful to gain more experience with benefits programs. Two other areas that I feel require continuous growth would be developing and improving crisis prevention strategies and continuing to work on ways to improve performance and team engagement. When working with people, having emotional intelligence is incredibly important and these are areas, while I believe I have a good handle on them, can always be improved.
AO: We cannot but agree! Who do you think, Shannon, is the top 1 HR expert in the world and why?
S: Another difficult question because there are so many amazing HR experts in the world, however, my favorite HR expert has to be Liz Ryan who is the Founder and CEO of the Human Workplace. I follow her content on LinkedIn and she is consistently on point regarding recruitment, leadership, career development, and HR best practices. She is very community-focused and provides incredible advice for job hunters, business leaders, and HR professionals alike.
Liz Ryan is CEO and founder of Human Workplace, a publishing, coaching, and consulting firm whose mission is to reinvent work for people. Ryan writes for 30 million readers about bringing a human voice and human energy to the business world.
Check Liz Ryan on TED talks 👇 In this video Liz speaks about The Whole Person Job Search.
AO: You have interested us, Shannon. I will definitely check her page on Linkedin.
Let's move on. How does the adaptation of new employees go into your company? (employee onboarding)
S: Since I work predominantly with start-ups, I have the unique privilege of helping businesses either set-up their onboarding process from the beginning and/or improve upon existing onboarding processes that the company has.
With the companies I currently work with, it’s a very smooth process. Once a candidate has been given an offer and they accept, we utilize HRIS systems to ensure that the document flow is running efficiently and allows for the onboarding to run smoothly and seamlessly.
Every once in an awhile there are candidates who need a little help with technical issues, however, those are quickly and easily resolved with a phone call and a screen share walkthrough to get everything signed and added to the systems. From there, we utilize communications platforms such as Slack and Skype which allows me to connect them with their training teams quickly and easily so that they can hit the ground running in their new role.
AO: What employee training programs are there in your company?
S: Currently, we utilize the HRIS systems for training which houses documents, power points, and videos. However, we also utilize webinar programs such as Zoom in order to conduct live training sessions with our team members so that there are also interactive training sessions where team members can actively participate by asking questions, join in on team discussions, as well as being able to conduct one-on-one training sessions as needed.
AO: What traditions your company has and what is your favorite one?
S: Some traditions that the companies I work with tend to have is celebrating team member’s wins, working remotely, and operating in global work environments.
I have to say that my favorite tradition is working remotely.
This allows me to scout talent all over the world, with next to no restrictions on where I can find talent. I believe that this makes the company culture more compassionate and it allows me the freedom to hire the best team members regardless of where they are located in the world which has in turn introduced me to amazing and incredible people as well as helping to ensure that we have the right talent in positions on our teams.
While I do work with remote teams, one of the most important key factors to success in this area is communication. It’s really important to be in regular communication with your team members via communication platforms such as Slack, Skype, and Google Hangouts as well as having standing weekly meetings with your team so that your team is still getting the socialization aspect of work and that there is a dedicated time to discuss important team matters each week.
AO: A very unusual, but quite interesting tradition! Now, this tradition has appeared in many companies all over the world, fortunately or unfortunately 🤔
By the way, Shannon, how did the HR sphere change after the spread of COVID-19?
S: Since I have been working in HR remotely for several years, COVID-19 hasn’t greatly affected the companies I work with. Hiring has been slower and it’s been an important time to focus on team morale and ensuring that the team members are staying positive and productive.
The biggest struggle that has affected the HR sphere has to be maintaining team morale. However, since I work with virtual workforces, while we have seen a dip in this area, it has not been as big of a dip as other businesses where employees work on-site. This has allowed the companies that I work with an advantage as they were already ahead of the curve operating in a virtual environment for many years and are experts in successfully operating in this type of work environment.
AO: How did you prepare employees for such changes? I mean, working remotely.
S: As I had mentioned in my previous answer, the companies I work with have been operating remotely long before COVID-19 struck the world, so in short, yes we have experienced it, however that was the business model that already had been in place so there wasn’t necessarily any need to prepare our team members for these changes as they were already working remotely.
AO: Shannon, did you work somewhere before becoming an HR professional, why did you decide to become an HR?
S: This is a great question. Yes, I have had quite a few jobs before becoming an HR professional. I actually ended up in the industry by accident. It started with a recruiting position I had applied for back in 2013 and I found that I really enjoyed that type of work. I took a little break after my mom had gotten sick and then ended up working in advertising sales for a little while after that and thought that I was going to redirect myself into the sales industry.
However, in 2015 I had met my boyfriend and was planning on moving out of the country to be with him and that led me to my first remote HR role. Ever since I have been working in the HR and training fields. I absolutely love working with people, helping them find the perfect role, and helping them grow and develop their skills.
AO: Really nice story and what is the most valuable professional development advice you have ever gotten?
S: I wouldn’t call this advice I had received...
...but the most valuable professional development lesson I have learned has to be, a happy team means happy clients, happy clients spend more money with your company, which in turn equals a happy leadership team.
It’s important to work with people who show respect to everyone that they work with. It is vital for the health of a company to have a healthy, happy, and compassionate company culture. It not only attracts more clients, it also attracts great talent and helps with retaining that great talent. Once the respect and compassion are gone, everything else breaks down. This is why I love following Liz Perez and the Human Workplace because she and her company focus very strongly on this concept.
After seeing this concept work in action time and time again, as well as seeing how companies fail when they don’t operate with this concept at the forefront of their company culture it only strengthens my belief in this concept. I think this is the most valuable professional development lesson I have learned in my career.
AO: And the last our question, Shannon. What was the funniest/most unusual incident during your HR practice?
S: This is another tough question because I am incredibly process-based so most days are pretty routine. I would have to say that the best/funniest/least common experiences that I have had and still come across during my HR practice is when I get candidates who speak German.
Once they find out that I live in Germany, if they speak any German they will start speaking with me in German and while it’s not a necessary skill to have for the roles that I recruit for, I always love when this happens because it really does help to build rapport and makes a routine interview more exciting because it also leads to conversations about travel and global experiences which is just a delight especially since I work with global teams.
Candidates who are globally-minded are the most successful hires because they have a deep understanding and respect for cultural differences as well as similarities which makes it amazing to be part of the teams that I work with.
That's all for today, friends. Thanks a lot, Shannon, for her fascinating story and answers to our questions 😊 See you at the next interview!
In case you would like to ask your own questions, write them down in the comments. Also, if you want to read an interview with a particular person, let us know.
Take care 😇