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Passion Should Guide HR Management

February 1, 1998
Related Topics: The HR Profession, Your HR Career, Competitive Advantage, Featured Article
Workforce talked with Cara Jane Finn, vice president of employee services for Remedy Corp., about HR. The highlights:

Q: Why did you get into HR?
A: It's a sad but true story -- I owned and managed a wholesale manufacturing shop in San Diego back in the late '70s and early '80s. We had some sales people, some warehouse workers, and 100-plus folks who sewed nylon wallets. Most of the workers weren't legal immigrants. Late one day one of our sewers came to me and in broken English explained how the woman who sat next to her had pierced her finger with the sewing needle and had been sitting with it for more than four hours, not knowing what to do. She was terrified I would fire her.

I rushed to her and in my broken Spanish explained that not only was she one of our best workers, but I wouldn't do that to anyone. I took her to the hospital. I then realized that I had neglected the entire human part of running a business. I dove into both the legal and ethical sides of human resources, and it changed my entire worldview of business. I ran five more businesses (before coming to Remedy), and my focus on people and cultural environment grew with each experience.

Q: What's the best part of your job?
A: Watching folks (at every level) grow, succeed and be ecstatic about their jobs! Another wonderful thing is being a leader in the cultural development of the organization.

Q: What's the toughest part?
A: I think my "tough part" is no different than any other manager. It's that first, difficult, honest conversation -- whether it's with a receptionist, the entire company or the CEO -- when things aren't going well.

Q: What was one of the best decisions you've made as an HR person?
A: Personally, one of the best decisions I ever made was to be frank as a way of life. Speaking your mind and being honest can be dangerous, but if you're careful and kind about it, the results are wonderful. Professionally my focus has always been to be the best business person I can be who has a focus on people. I think that focus has served me well.

Q: What advice do you have for other HR professionals?
A: You must be a leader in your company -- by that I mean you must be part of the strategy and soul of the organization. If you don't know "who you are" as a company and what your "values" are, discover what they are, or find a company that knows. Vision and values are the foundation of greatness, but the magic is in people. Give them vision, focus and meaning, and nothing will stop you.

Q: Is there any area you're currently concentrating on?
A: Hiring difficulties. Recruiting is probably one of the toughest things any company in Silicon Valley can do. There are companies out there willing to do just about anything -- for engineering and marketing people especially. Seven years ago, when I started here, that wasn't the case. There were more engineers than jobs in this area. We were a small start-up and it was easy to get good talent. Then the valley started to heat up in '95. Things got stirred up in recruiting. But even with the recruiting environment changing so much, our recruiting practices have never changed. It's easy to say we do "fun" things, these attention-getting things, for recruiting purposes, but it's not the case. It's not in reaction to the environment -- it's just part of who we are.

Q: What will be your big push this year?
A: We've been discussing turning up the fire. We've had tremendous success, but that was yesterday. We want to turn our attention to the next four years. I've started hounding [the executives] about really sending this message -- really focusing on the future. It takes a lot of guts when things are going as well as they are to shift the focus on doing more. Not everyone is comfortable with that. But being one of the old-timers here, I know it's incumbent on us to get over our success and focus on the future.

Workforce, February 1998, Vol. 77, No. 2, p. 40.

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