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Terrence J. Schmaltz

DNA of a VP of HR

DNA of a VP of HR Terrence SchmaltzTJ began his career as practicing law as a labour and employment lawyer until he “saw the light” and made the move to human resource management. While lawyers have the opportunity to impact organizations at a point in time with strategic advice, TJ came to realize that a career in HR offered the chance to engage in long-term, transformative strategic change. That was about ten years ago; he hasn’t looked back since. Currently, TJ is the Vice President, Human Resources & Payroll Services at Impark & Board Member, BCHRMA.

DNA of a VP of HR Impark logoTerrence Schmaltz, Vice President, Human Resources & Payroll Services at Impark & Board Member, BCHRMA


What is the biggest obstacle you’ve faced along your career path?

The biggest challenge has been building the breadth of experience and knowledge to be proficient in the many aspects of HR management.  There are so many different disciplines within the HR profession.  From employee relations to collective bargaining; recruitment; strategic planning to organizational design; benefit administration to compensation.  Most importantly, an HR professional must now have a keen understanding of business and finance.  The biggest challenge for me has been gaining this experience and understanding how HR activities connect back to the business strategy and the bottom line.

There is a lot to learn so my advice to any HR professional is to make a plan to build experience in as many HR and business disciplines as possible.  Gaining generalist experience is critical to your development, but making sure you also find ways to connect HR activities back to the business is vital. Seize the opportunity to work on corporate projects and learn the business.  HR should function as a strategic partner to the business, but that cannot occur until HR fully understands the business they are supporting.   This also means HR professionals need to become more proficient in principles of business and finance. 

What’s your favourite part of your job?

I really enjoy the ability to work with the “bigger picture” at a strategic level.  It’s truly empowering to see how the “people strategy” can help an organization achieve its business and financial goals. I have the chance to be one of the architects of our organizational strategy, looking for ways to ensure our human capital planning will support our business and financial goals.

My role also gives me the opportunity to engage with employees at all levels of our organization. I very much appreciate the chance to walk around and even work shifts from time to time in different areas of the business.  There is no better way for me to learn more about our business and our organization. 

How important is networking in HR? What social media tools do you use to network?

Having a strong network is critical.  Your network is not only a useful resource for future projects, but also a means to ensure that you don’t get trapped in your own paradigms by allowing you the chance to get exposed to new ideas.
I use LinkedIn regularly, but steer clear of all other social media personally. Our company has an online presence through Twitter and Facebook, but we are continually looking at how technology and social media can be leveraged.

In today’s employment market, having an online resume is more important than ever.  It has become an expectation and a part of an individual’s professional brand.  When I was offered my last few positions, my online profile played a part in the recruitment process. My LinkedIn profile painted a picture of me for my employers and future team members that was considered and validated during the interview process.

Is there anything you would have differently looking back at your career path?

It is so easy to look backward with the benefit of hindsight, but what you’ve done and what you’ve learned has paved the path you’ve followed.  That said, looking back I would probably have traded completing two law degrees for a law/MBA program.  Had I realized my focus would shift to working within a business, I think an MBA would have accelerated my understanding of those critical business principles.

Compared to 5 or 10 years ago, in your opinion how would you say your role has evolved? Is there anything that the next generation should know?

The HR profession has been evolving quite a bit over the law five to 10 years and is still changing today.  Across Canada, we are witnessing the “professionalization” of the HR function. HR is moving toward self-regulation and more often seen as a true profession, following a similar path to the Certified Professional Accountants a number of years ago.  It is becoming more common now for HR practices to influence and support business strategy, not just handle basic day-to-day functions like hiring and training.

What advice would you give to the next generation of HR professionals?

Genuinely appreciating the process of understanding, helping and meeting people is important, but what is vital to this role is a thorough understanding of business and how HR can impact it.  Gone are the days of HR being the type of career that requires only a few “soft skills”. Look for opportunities to link your work as an HR professional back to the business.  Recognize that the relevance of HR is in supporting the people AND the people strategy within your organization to achieve business results.

You need to have technical ability that relates to both HR and business; you’ll need an understanding of finance, reporting, metrics and analysis. I truly believe that you can’t manage what you can’t measure, so look for ways to benchmark or demonstrate the impact and results of HR activities back to the business you support.  Learn about strategic planning and change management and recognize that few organizations will thrive if they are not constantly changing.  This is a great opportunity for HR to support this change and help organizations transform.

As the HR profession evolves, you’ll need to take a bigger picture view. Look at the relationships within the organization, how teams impact one another and how the people strategy is connected to the business strategy overall.  Be prepared to build a business case for why HR initiatives are important and demonstrate the value of good human capital planning.

Set a plan for your professional development with no end date.  Recognize that you will be continuously learning in HR and look for new ideas that you can apply to help your organization transform.  It’s important not to forget to pursue the things that drive your passion, without losing sight of your role in supporting your organization’s strategic direction.  It’s an exciting time to be a part of the HR profession and a chance to be a part of your organization’s transformation and future success.  There just isn’t anything like being an HR professional – it’s an amazing experience.