support those small businesses and effectively become their HR
department. A couple of years ago, we developed an HR web platform;
it’s a human resources information system that we install in
smaller organizations that don’t need, or can’t afford, a solution
like Workday, PeopleSoft or Oracle. It allows us to be there with
them without physically being there. So basically, I’m a generalist.
I do everything.
What do you love about your job?
MS: We love our bigger clients because that’s what got our business
started and keeps it going. But, I really enjoy engaging with
the small businesses and I think that’s because you do become a
partner in their business and they see you as that. You are solving
problems for and with them, and you are giving them tools and
resources they never had. It’s very satisfying.
What are the challenges you
experience in your job?
MS: I started all by myself in a home
office. Now, we have an office at the
Peterborough Airport. People identified
solely with me, so as we grew it
was difficult getting clients used to dealing
with other people in the business
and not just me. Really, the most difficult
thing is finding the right staff and
the right people that can do this kind
of consulting work, and then keeping
them engaged. We have the same
“I WOULD SAY EMPATHY IS KEY IF YOU ARE
IN THIS BUSINESS, OR IF YOU ARE IN ANY
LEADERSHIP ROLE, FOR THAT MATTER.”
challenges all of our clients have in terms of developing our own
What’s key to leading HR during a difficult time for a
MS: I think it’s important to be honest and transparent with your
staff about what’s going on and the impact it will have. Be frank
with them if there are challenges and understand that all your staff
members deal with change and challenge in different ways.
What are the necessary competencies for success in HR
and how do you think those have changed throughout
MS: I would say empathy is key if you are in this business, or if
you are in any leadership role, for that matter. Empathy is something
that HR must apply every day. That will never change. But
now we also have technology in the workplace, and we are dealing
with its impact and finding out how to leverage it for our work
and to benefit people in the organization. Technology has been a
big game changer. At SHRP, we’ve had success being a business
partner first – a partner who happens to have HR expertise. That
gives us more credibility with the operating partners. Secondly, it
allows us to deliver the HR strategy or system in a more informed
way with a business-first perspective.
What tips do you have for new grads or those in entrylevel
HR jobs who want to move up the ladder?
MS: The first thing would be to define what climbing the ladder
means to you. In my case, I liked frontline HR, but I had less
When did you decide you wanted a
career in human resources?
Matthew Savino: Like most people, it wasn’t a conscious or
deliberate decision. My father worked for 40 years in personnel
management, as it was then known, and I never consciously
thought I would follow. I went to Queen’s University and got economics
and law degrees, and then after my education, I was hired
by an American mining company to work with their Canadian
HR department in labour and contract negotiations. I did that
for a while and then they moved me into more of an HR role. I
learned the ropes on the job with them.
What that your first HR job?
MS: The mining company was the Canadian Salt Company
Limited, now known as Windsor Salt. They hired me at their
Windsor operation in 1994, and I spent my first month with a
crew working under the Detroit River; they mined for salt all the
way under the river. It was a fantastic job and I stayed for about
seven years. They started me in Windsor and ultimately promoted
me to the top HR role at the Montreal head office.
Tell me about your current role. What are your main
areas of responsibility?
MS: My HR consultancy is based in Peterborough. Larger companies
Stock 123RF make up about half our clientele; we do some executive search
antonioguillem/and sometimes fairly complex compensation and organizational
work with them. The other half includes small- to medium-sized
businesses that drive employment and the economy here. We hr influencer
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