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By Lisa Gordon

Tracy Lapointe is a huge proponent of continuous learning. From the time she accepted her first human resources job as a training coordinator for one of Canada’s biggest banks, her professional success has been rooted in her dedication to never-ending self-improvement and a drive for direct business impact.

Throughout her 25-year career, Lapointe has accumulated extensive HR and business experience in a series of progressive leadership positions in both Canada and the U.S. Today, she is vice president of human resources for the Canadian division of GSK, where she is responsible for the full spectrum of HR services provided to the company’s 2,300 employees from coast to coast.

HR Professional caught up with Lapointe to discuss how human resources can lead through change, keep pace with an ever-changing business climate, and deliver value through constant improvement.

HRP: How and when did you decide upon an HR career?
TL: When I finished my first degree I had several different interviews. While I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do, I knew I wanted to interact with people, be continually challenged and have an impact. It was the HR interview that was clearly the best fit, and I accepted a position in the bank’s training department.

At first, I coordinated employee training classes; then, I taught in the classroom as well as banking centres. Seeing the importance of business knowledge to a progressive HR career, I completed my business degree in the evening and took on increasingly challenging roles.

HRP: Describe your current job.
TL: I started at GSK in 2011. I am a member of the executive team and responsible for all aspects of HR. This includes HR services such as compensation, recruitment, learning and employee relations, as well as strategic business partnering, talent management, change management and overall organizational development. Prior to joining GSK, I was vice president of HR for a U.S. organization, where I completed my global HR designation (GPHR).

HRP: What do you love about your job?
TL: As a member of the executive team, HR is a strong partner in maintaining a high performing and inclusive working environment, embedding our organizational values and driving organizational success. I really enjoy being in a role that is having a direct business impact.

HRP: What are the challenges you experience in your job?
TL: The pace of change and transformation we are seeing in organizations today is quite significant. The greatest challenge is being able to develop and realize the HR strategies that are going to work today, but also build for the future.

That requires a deep understanding of the business, monitoring the external environment and responding accordingly. It is critical that all HR services are delivered in an efficient and effective manner, so that increased priority and focus is placed on delivering business value. HR strategy is and needs to continue to be an integral part of the business strategy.

HRP: What’s key to leading HR during a difficult time for a client organization?
TL: During difficult times, organizations often have to make hard decisions to transform their business, and this often impacts people. HR has to help the organization and employees by leading through the change and staying true to the values of the organization. During the growth times and the tough times, HR professionals can really make a difference to the employees they service and the organization they support.

HRP: What skills do you think are important for success in an HR career?
TL: Regardless of the role you are in, it’s important that you are delivering quality results and treating every experience as an opportunity to learn and grow. By continuously learning, you increase your breadth of experience and overall effectiveness. From an HR leadership perspective, you need to know the businesses you support and deliver progressive and integrated strategies that realize results. Twice in my career, I have taken business roles to increase my knowledge about the complexities of running a business and managing a profit and loss statement. I believe that type of experience has made me a better strategic HR partner.

HRP: What tips do you have for new grads, or those in entry-level HR jobs, who want to move up the ladder?
TL: Get into a role where you can demonstrate your skills and get experience. Push yourself to deliver your objectives and continually look to improve, learn and grow. That’s what I believe is important.

HRP: What is the future of HR?
TL: Increasingly, CEOs are seeing the true value of HR and leaning on their human resources professionals. As the speed of organizational transformation increases, it will be critical for HR to keep pace and perform at the strategic level. Being a true business leader, we will be right there at the table thinking outside of our discipline and cross-functionally at the enterprise level.

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