Nine Questions

The next participant in The Field Guide's interview series - "Nine Questions" - with HR thought leaders is Jack Dempsey, CEO of Pretium Solutions. Below, Jack gives us his thoughts on everything from the future of training, getting a seat at "the table," the challenges tied to successful talent management, growing through adversity and more...

Tell me why what you do is rewarding, challenging, and I suspect in your opinion (and mine) quite awesome?
I help individuals be more successful in their professional and personal environments. I have learned common sense is not commonly practiced. An individual who performs well in their professional position improves their business. Improved businesses provide a valuable service and stable incomes for employees and fair returns for their investors.

It is challenging because change is threatening and causes fear. We push people out of their comfort zones where they can improve and grow both professionally and personally.
Do you believe in the notion of professional regret? Why or why not? If so, what's been your biggest professional regret?
Regret? Yes I do believe in it. As you grow and you realize your past performance could have been improved with a different approach using new skills. You will naturally have some regrets. It is these regrets that create the change today you need to make. Regrets shouldn’t control your life they should be learning points in your journey. My personal regret is not finishing my college degree right after high school. Going back as an adult with a family is much more difficult. Hindsight is 20/20!  
What do you think has been the most significant game changer in your specialty area of human resources over the last 5 years? Over the course of your career?
The biggest game changer has been the move from a command and control management environment to a true teaming environment. Generation X and Y have changed the communication and contributions of all employees, some companies are having a difficult time adapting.
Where do you see your area of specialty heading in the next 5 years? Do you think that’s a good or bad thing?
Training is going to more of an on demand option. The amount of change in most companies is astonishing rate. The training department is having a difficult time staying ahead. Training needs to move from not only providing knowledge but must include behavior too.  
In your opinion what’s the most important part of the talent management puzzle: attracting talent, acquiring talent, developing talent, or retaining talent – or something else entirely? Why?
Recognizing and retaining talent is the most important. In our consulting business we have uncovered many pockets of unrecognized talent. These individuals often get looked over and become disgruntled and start looking for another job because their manager or supervisor does not recognize or allow their talent to be expressed. Poor leadership skills lead to poor results. Talent management skills and true leadership skills are lacking.  
What do you think is the biggest failure of most organizations when it comes to their talent management strategy? Is there an easy fix, a difficult one, or can it be fixed?
They don’t have a talent management strategy. First of all many companies don’t have a performance management strategy therefore it is very difficult to have a talent management program because you don’t really know who has true performance or who doesn’t. Talent management starts with effective performance measurement and management. The fix is not easy because companies have to do things different to get different results. Change is very difficult, it takes constant vision and pushing to the new standard, you can’t relax even a little.  
In your own words, define what it means to be a leader? Do you think anyone can become a leader? Why or why not?
A leader's role is to create the greatest level of value from people, processes and resources. Yes, I believe leadership can be learned. There are many excellent leaders inside companies that go unnoticed because they are not charismatic. You don’t have to be a charismatic to be an effective leader. We just notice the charismatic ones more.

Leadership is about utilizing effective leadership skills and having the moral courage to act on what is needed.
In your opinion, what’s the biggest challenge facing human resources related professions and professionals today?
Earning a seat at the strategic table. Human resources professionals need to know the business inside and out. They need to be strategic growth partners in the business. We have seen many instances where HR is perceived as the PC Police or as an obstacle to operations or sales. HR professionals need to move beyond subject matter experts to becoming a strategic business partner inside the business.  
What words of advice would you give to a college student considering a career in your field? To someone looking to transition careers? To someone in your field that is feeling burned out or turned off? 
Human resources is a great profession. We help organizations navigate the most critical aspect of a business the people who operate and run the business. Done right HR is performance based, motivational, and keeps the company within all legal guidelines.

I have talked with many burned out HR professionals. Anecdotally they are burned out for several reasons, the position is not valued therefore it becomes understaffed and leaders who consistently make decisions without consulting HR and putting the company in some type of legal jeopardy. HR can often see problems but don’t have the power to effect the change that is needed. All of these issues cause burn out. To HR, learn different skills and become part of the strategic solution and learn to attack from a different position.  

Jack Dempsey has 26 years of extensive training, curriculum development, and consulting experience that has taken him to all 50 states and numerous countries, helping companies to develop quality training with traceable Returns on Investment. His diverse professional expertise in telecommunications, casino, retail, and customer service industries gives Jack an unparalleled understanding of what it takes to reach participants on a human level and impact change in organizations. Rising through the ranks of direct sales and direct customer interaction to executive leadership, he understands how to relate and impact a wide array of audiences. Jack carries current certifications in Achieve Global, Behavioral Science Research Press, and Miller Heiman. His extensive knowledge of these training platforms is often utilized by his clients as he helps work with them to launch new training initiatives. He works closely with such clients as the U.S. Army, Charter Communications, Player's Island Casino, Harrah's Casino, and St. Louis Connect Care making certain that training curriculum is delivered in the most effective manner to change behavior and not just provide “good ideas.”

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