When did you decide you wanted a career in
Hugh Secord: For my undergraduate degree, I studied econom-ics,
sociology and political science. As I contemplated a career, I
found that labour relations (LR) required an understanding in all
of these areas. At the time, LR and human resources were, at best,
fledgling functions nowhere near maturation. I thought LR repre-sented
a very challenging field that also had lots of opportunities
for growth, where individuals would be able help make a differ-ence
in the ways organizations are managed. Those challenges still
What was your first HR job?
HS: I worked for an engineering firm doing LR research for mega
projects involving labour supply, labour costs, collective bargain-ing
trends and jurisdictional issues. I was also involved in some
professional recruitment and handling disputes. The firm got into
serious trouble during the economic downturn of the ’80s, so I was
tasked to develop a downsizing plan. Then I was laid off and had
to move on.
Tell me about your current job. What are your main
areas of responsibility?
HS: I don’t see myself as having a job. I am the co-founder of
Oakbridges Labour Relations Strategists and my role is business
development, financial officer, strategist, consultant and gofer.
What do you love about your job?
HS: We deal with complex, real life organizational issues where
we can bring our learnings together to form holistic and sustain-able
solutions for large organizations. It is mentally stimulating;
we get to travel to really interesting places and meet great peo-ple.
We are involved with social change and the evolution of many
movements where shared values are the cornerstone to seeing
communities find sustainable solutions for the future.
What are the challenges you experience in your job?
HS: Everything about what we do is a challenge. That’s what
makes it exciting. However, the biggest challenge is getting orga-nizations
to understand the importance of a holistic approach to
solving issues. They tend to operate in silos, and find it difficult
to understand that people issues are not isolated problems, but
rather the product of systemic causes that need to be addressed in
collaborative ways. HR, for example, tends to focus on employees,
while others in the organization have responsibilities for govern-ment
affairs, Aboriginal relations, community liaison, contractor
management and so on. As a result, solutions tend to be narrow-ly
focused. We are trying to encourage organizations to take a
broader approach, to understand that all these elements need to
be combined in a cohesive approach.
First paid job: I started
work as a mechanic building
specialized components for trucks.
Childhood ambition: I
remember always wanting to
be a writer and am proud of
my accomplishments in writing
about HR/LR matters. I still have
lots more to get out on paper.
Best boss and why: I don’t
mean to be “cute,” but I cannot
think of anyone who I think of as a
great boss. This is why I felt I had
to create my own organization. I
can say I have a great business
partner and could not ask for any
better. I have worked with lots
of people who have inspired me
and I look up to them because
they are deep thinkers and have
a vision about how they are going
to change the world, even if it is
only a small part of the world.
Current source of
inspiration: We are working
with the Requisite Organization
International Institute and another
consultancy out of Europe, En-
Sync, on an approach that
combines the work of Dr. Elliott
Jaques, the process engineering
approach of Deming, and the
leading edge thinking about
shared value from Michael
Porter. This exercise, if I can call
it that, is not just challenging,
but it is exciting to think about
how synthesizing ideas that have
proven practical applications
will lead to a new way of
seeing how an organization can
unlock the potential in all of its
relationships. It is truly rewarding
to be able to collaborate with
really smart people on something
that feels very important.
Best piece of advice
ever received: It came
from my dad: Choose a career
where you do something you
love doing, and hope you
can make money doing it.
Favourite music: Chicago
Blues (Muddy Waters, Buddy
Guy, James Cotton)
Last book read: I read one or
two books a week. The two best I
read this year are Sapiens: A Brief
History of Humankind and Homo
Deus, both by Yuval Noah Harari.
His analysis and writing style are
amazing and thought provoking.
IN A NUTSHELL
42 ❚ DECEMBER 2017 ❚ HR PROFESSIONAL