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The Future of HR in Canada


Nancy Tichbon is Managing Director for Sage Canada. Nancy is passionate about helping entrepreneurs realize their dreams by empowering them with the tools needed to thrive in today’s challenging business climate. She brings over 20 years of visionary leadership to her role, nurturing key relationships that drive exceptional experiences for Sage colleagues, partners, and customers. Consistently providing strategic vision and developing capable teams,

Nancy has demonstrated a strong track record of driving complex change, exceeding sales expectations, building customer loyalty, and driving maximum profitability at Canada’s top tech companies. Previously, Nancy was VP, Sales for Bell Mobility and Bell Residential and also served as VP, Customer Experience at Bell. As a customer success leader, Nancy built and managed Customer Operations at tow Virgin Mobile start-ups, while leading Virgin Mobile Canada to win multiple, national-level customer satisfaction awards.

1. What can you tell us about your current role at Sage Canada to give our readers a better understanding of what it is you do?

My name is Nancy Tichbon, and I am the EVP and Managing Director for Sage Canada. Sage is the market leader for technology that provides small and medium businesses with the visibility, flexibility, and efficiency to manage their finances, operations, and people. My role is to lead the team and drive success for Sage in the Canadian market, with an emphasis on ensuring exceptional experiences for Sage colleagues, partners, and customers. With over 20 years of experience and alongside the best team, I lead Sage Canada with strategic vision, helping us become one of Canada’s top tech companies.

2. In your expert opinion, how do you believe COVID-19 has impacted the HR industry? / Why do you believe the pandemic has resulted in bringing more value and understanding to the HR role?

Sage recently released a new HR report titled “HR in the moment: Changing expectations and perceptions of HR”, which spoke to 1,500 HR leaders in Canada, UK, U.S. and Australia.

The report revealed that as a result of the pandemic, 87% of C-Suite executives have seen greater influence from the HR function which has accelerated changes in the HR field.

The pandemic has impacted not only the business community at large but has disrupted employees’ personal lives, and more than ever before, we have had to prioritize putting people first. The personal and professional realms have become intertwined as more people work from home, and additionally, as more people experience significant life and family changes during the pandemic. The way forward for businesses is to focus on people first and advocate for them so they can be your company’s best advocates. This includes enabling remote working, making improvements internally, and supporting employee wellbeing.

3. Sage recently released their report HR at the moment: Changing expectations and perceptions of HR. What findings surprised you the most from the report?

The report revealed a shift and evolution in the HR field during the pandemic. In fact, 59% of HR leaders felt that they were playing a more influential role in their organization, with a further 59% of the C-suite finding HR more focused on digital transformation, and 67% of HR leaders saying they wanted to invest more in HR tech in the future.

Furthermore, 73% of HR leaders say the crisis has helped them demonstrate their value to the organization and increase the understanding of HR’s role in their company, as HR and People teams around the globe stepped up, leaned in, and seized the opportunity to be more flexible, responsive, and build more resilient and agile organizations.

While the report’s findings were not necessarily surprising, they are necessary and inspiring for the future. Now that the new standard has been set – where HR leaders are driving change with the C-suite more than ever than before – it can continue, and HR leaders should get ready for this next phase of transformation.

I believe when things go back to normal, most organizations will continue with some work from home flexibility. HR leaders should be preparing for that now by recommending best practices and investments to propel their organization into the future.

Also, to note, the report highlighted that 60% of HR leaders have experienced an increase in their workload, while 67% of the C-suite do not believe that this increased workload is unmanageable. Addressing this discrepancy is key to ensuring the HR function is supported with the right resources and tools as the importance of their role increases.

4. Many businesses don’t invest in their HR department since they don’t see the value it can bring to their company. Do you believe that HR can have a positive impact on a company’s success? How does it contribute to the success and growth of a business?

Absolutely, HR plays a pivotal role in any company’s success and people are in some way impacted by many of the decisions being made by business leaders. Therefore, all things need to be addressed and considered with people in mind. This is a belief of many iconic leaders, in fact, Richard Branson himself lives by a philosophy of People 1st, Customer 2nd, and Shareholder 3

Findings from the report demonstrate that 58% of C-suite executives now see HR and People leaders as respected partners in the organization, with 84% believing others in their organization were previously unclear on the value of HR.

Moreover, 60% of employees have noticed a change in HR’s role, such as being more involved in driving change and people-related decisions, with 57% naming the pandemic as a catalyst for these changes. And all for the benefit of employees.

I encourage HR leaders to seize on this momentum by continuing to have a voice beyond simply handling of the pandemic. Take action so you can continue to grow your business knowledge, add value with brilliant solutions during the decision-making process, and get involved to help leaders make the right decisions.

5. Since the beginning of the pandemic, 60% of businesses have noticed an increase in both admin and strategic tasks in their HR department. What initiatives and procedures do you believe HR leaders should be implementing that can benefit them?

With more work to do comes a greater need to do things more efficiently, especially if businesses were not prepared for the abrupt changes that came in 2020.

Think about new processes and tools that can drive consistent, repeatable high-quality experiences, whether digitizing quarterly reviews, enhancing virtual onboarding or collaboration tools to bring people together. There are many exciting ways to lift employee productivity and enhance work satisfaction.

Small Business CanadaOnly 53% of HR leaders feel fully prepared with the tools they need for the future. Fulfilling this need is essential to help HR continuously support the demand of the People function. HR should understand what they require to ease the burden of their administrative tasks as well as what employees themselves need to succeed in their roles. Working with the leadership team, HR can integrate the right technology needed for more streamlined, intuitive, and efficient processes.

A cloud HR suite like Sage HR can significantly cut HR admin time by leveraging the power of automation, freeing up valuable time for HR leaders to focus on their people and drive the business forward.

6. On a final note, what takeaway should entrepreneurs take from the report that can benefit them and their HR department in the long run?

For small and medium businesses, our HR report lays the groundwork for adopting a people-first approach as a business advantage that can pay dividends for happier and productive employees and more satisfied customers. My advice is to focus on your employees first. Be intentional by leaning into what you can do as an employer. Develop your thought leadership by always having curiosity and a learning mindset. Your people’s 1st philosophies are even more impactful when they can be weaved into the real problems occurring operationally, so get close to your business. Know the financial performance, the levers for success, your competitors’ proposition, and the business challenges facing leaders. With this knowledge, your solutions will be sought out and you will be able to create a real competitive advantage and help your organization achieve next-level goals and aspirations.

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