Recently, HUB International CHRO Amber Kennelly was invited to speak at the Chicago SHRM Executive Insights series, where HR leaders across disciplines come together to address challenges and offer their collective expertise on solving issues that impact all HR professionals. Amber’s panel, hosted by Neal Gerber Eisenberg and moderated by Sangita Kasturi, CEO of Action Inclusion—also featured the American Bar Association’s Joyce Wietrecki and Michael Krasman, CEO of UrbanBound and co-founder of Hireology, and it was no small topic: Innovating HR for the 21st Century.

Amber spoke of HUB’s entrepreneurial spirit and cited the inextricable link between innovation and entrepreneurship. “They go hand in hand, and you can’t unlink them,” she said, as she discussed a current initiative under way within HUB to maximize client satisfaction, employee engagement and financial performance. 

The panel touched on a number of interesting topics, and Amber had refreshingly candid yet highly insightful thoughts on each.

  • On HR’s role in change: Change is messy; we (HR) have an uber-critical role in change. I believe successful innovation in companies is supported by great HR.
  • On diversity and inclusion: The focus needs to shift from just a top-down approach with leadership telling employees what they’re doing about diversity and inclusion. Why not crowdsource and find out what employees want and what might make a difference to them? 
  • On getting support within your company to implement change: It’s all about persistence and presentation. Know your audience, whether they’re supporters or detractors, and find a true business case to present to executive management. They need to see the full story, which includes financial implications of a new people process.
  • On actually implementing change: You have to know your culture first and put thought into whether it will work across the entire organization before you can go forward. Believe in it and find supporters to help generate excitement and engagement. 
  • On overhauling culture: I’m not a big fan of launching a giant ‘new culture.’ We can address things on a micro level to affect macro change; it doesn’t have to be one big change at all once. I like to let the results speak for themselves. The whole concept of ‘surprise and delight’ can do wonders for company culture.
  • On AI: With all the buzzwords and hype around Artificial Intelligence, the one thing I’ll say is that we have to be comfortable with data. Get comfortable with the information and truly be able to talk about information and insights available from the data you have. The people I most want on my team are those who can interpret data and extract actionable insights from it. 

Amber wrapped up her final thoughts within the panel by suggesting that the best and brightest companies thrive by being inquisitive, as do the best and brightest individuals. “Never stop learning, never stop seeking information” were her key messages to the audience. Amber’s passion for her business and for HUB was evident as she spoke of the company’s future. She aims to transform HUB’s human resources operations into a world-class model, one that engages HUB employees and one that serves as an example to our clients that we follow our own advice.