Nine Questions

The next participant in The Field Guide's interview series - "Nine Questions" - with HR thought leaders is Jeff Pattison, Director of Human Resources at Apria Healthcare. Below, Jeff gives us his thoughts on everything from not looking back on career regrets, the foundation of real leadership, finding yourself in terms of your career, and much more...

Tell me why what you do is rewarding, challenging, and I suspect in your opinion (and mine) quite awesome?
Bottom line- I get to make our organization better by helping ensure that people who want and deserve more responsibility get it and those that need a different employer to be successful get that too! I enjoy seeing people succeed who combine hard work, on-going learning and great people skills together.
Do you believe in the notion of professional regret? Why or why not? If so, what's been your biggest professional regret?
No. Every step along the way has led me to where I am now. Since I enjoy what I do, that leaves no room for regret. Without many of the mistakes I’ve made, I wouldn’t be able to provide the guidance that I do (from experience).
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?
From a recruiting standpoint, social media has created an even greater need to network well in order to be successful whether you are searching for a position or looking for people to fill positions. We have so much info at our fingertips if we want it and yet nothing replaces human interaction. It still trumps everything else as it always has.
Where do you see your area of specialty heading in the next 5 years? Do you think that’s a good or bad thing?
When it comes to recruiting and employee relations, I think we will continue to battle with how to find and keep the best people. Networking will continue to be critical to getting the best. There is no shortage of people to fill jobs. There is too commonly a shortage of really good, reliable people with strong values to fill some positions. Organizations need to slow down and do a great job of finding those people and then treat them well. We say it all the time, but so few actually do a really good job of it.
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?
I would say acquiring talent that wants to learn and has great values. Again, there is no shortage of people who want/need jobs. But we don’t want people who just want a J-O-B so that they can get a paycheck. The best organizations do things to attract and keep people who like the paycheck, but like what they do and accomplish even more.
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?
I think many times we move too fast. We don’t do a good enough job of investing time and effort up front to make sure the best people are hired. There are some places that do a great job and that is typically evident in their level of success. Slow down. Get truly good people from diverse backgrounds. Give them tools to succeed and get out of the way.
In your own words, define what it means to be a leader?  Do you think anyone can become a leader? Why or why not?
Being a leader means being the one who sets the tone. That means attitude, work ethic, values, etc. The key is to stand alongside those you lead. Don’t be afraid to show them that you don’t know everything. I do think anyone can learn to be a leader. Like anything, it comes easier for some than others, but it can certainly be learned by simply studying those who do a great job of it.
In your opinion, what’s the biggest challenge facing human resources related professions and professionals today?
We need to continue to connect with other leaders. Despite all the changes in business, human interaction is still king. We can study the business up and down and have many strategic ideas, but until we network ourselves internally, we will struggle to have the opportunity to present those ideas and show what difference we can make.
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?
Take time to really know yourself first and what part of HR is the right fit. “HR” is a broad field. Network with those who are already in the field and can give you a feel for what their path has looked like. Do that with multiple people. A lot of insight can be gained from doing so. When you start on the right path from the beginning, you’ll do less backtracking. That said, for those making a transition, your experience in any other aspect of business is valuable and can definitely lend itself to a faster track, but you also need to use your network to get there.

Before joining Apria Healthcare six years ago, Jeff Pattison worked for Anheuser-Busch for 5 ½ years, primarily focused on recruiting and hiring at all levels for the corporate office. Prior to that, he also spent 3 years working for Edward Jones in St. Louis where he was largely involved with recruiting efforts. Since joining Apria, Jeff has seen his career transition to directing a team of HR professionals in a full scope of HR activities, including employee relations, training and development and performance management while working closely with senior leaders. Jeff is also passionate about helping people get where they want to go by learning to better network and connect with others. He commonly speaks to HR pros, students and other groups about the benefits of networking whether they are HR people trying to get “a seat at the table”, trying to find and keep talent or a job seeker looking for the right opportunity. He lives in St. Louis with his wife and two sons, eight and one. You can connect with him on LinkedIn, Twitter (@pattisonjeff) or at

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