Excellence in HR Awards Honorees: Heather Laughlin-Joyce
Meet Heather Laughlin-Joyce, Director, Total Rewards at UKG (Ultimate Kronos Group)
Director of Compensation at UKG, following a merger in 2020 between Kronos and Ultimate Software. Previously Director, Total Rewards at Ultimate hired to establish the Compensation function. Recognized and passionate for creating global total reward programs that align with business objectives, drive results, and foster a culture of high performance.
Favorite Quote: “Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.” — Albert Einstein.
This quote resonates with me as it has never been about my personal success, but how I can contribute and add value to the success of the company through my team.
Fun Fact: Attended Lincoln Square Academy, a Performing Arts school in New York City with Robby Benson, Lori Singer, and Ralph Carter.
How do you unwind after a long day of work? I have a daily disciplined exercise routine that I follow every evening after work.
What challenges have you faced in your career, and how did you overcome them? The greatest challenge I faced in my career was my level of confidence and fear of failure. I pride myself on my strong work ethic, commitment, ability to build business relationships, add value, and contribute to the business and exceed expectations. I was always recognized and valued as a hard worker that met expectations, but I needed to be recognized as a strategic thought leader. I immersed myself in research and planning before every interaction, worked and learned from consultants on best practices, trends and methodology to present total reward recommendations to address business challenges, and collaborated with leaders and HRBPs to ensure I understood their issue to deliver successful outcomes. Through client successes, I built confidence in myself and my ability to take calculated risks based on my knowledge of the business, experience, and expertise.
What has been the most monumental moment of your career thus far? The most monumental moment of my career thus far was when I was given the opportunity to establish the Global Total Rewards function at Citrix Systems, Inc. during high growth and international expansion. I was hired as employee 250 with $100M in revenue. I was tasked with building a team and infrastructure to scale with the growth of business. I built and led a team that implemented policies, practices, and enterprise systems that played a significant role in growing the business to over $1B in revenue and 3,500 employees in 22 countries. Developed and established a total rewards philosophy and strategy. Designed total rewards programs and delivered management training that led to the successful cultural shift from entitlement to a high performing culture that motivates behaviors indicative of company success. This cultural shift was accomplished by designing and rebalancing total reward programs. Implemented a company-wide employee variable pay program that was aligned to business initiatives, funded by company performance and profitability, and established a clear link between business results and rewards. This program improved employee engagement as measured by the employee satisfaction survey where employees indicated that they felt recognized and valued as they were able to share in the company’s success. Redesigned employee and executive equity programs. New employee equity programs were developed to improve alignment with pay for performance philosophy. Programs rewarded and retained key talent by recognizing exceptional performance, strategic contributions, and reinforced stakeholder behaviors. Executive equity programs were also designed to deliver greater competitive value through a mix of options to align with shareholder value, performance RSUs to drive internal goals, and time-based RSUs for retention with a positive impact to burn rates and dilution.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten? Have confidence in yourself and appreciate that you are the expert in your profession. It is important that you insert yourself and are not afraid to share your knowledge, expertise, and counsel on issues. This will build your credibility and can have a positive impact on business decisions and outcomes.
What qualities make for an outstanding HR professional? An outstanding HR professional must acquire deep expertise in their area of focus and stay current on best practices, trends, and shifts in their field. They must sharpen their business acumen skills while sharing their technical knowledge and expertise to influence positive outcomes, help solve business problems, and contribute to the business. An outstanding HR Professional will exhibit effective collaboration skills necessary to build strong relationships, trust, and credibility within the organization to accomplish mutual objectives. The HR Professional will be authentic, demonstrate strong communication and compassion skills, while being agile and creative in their decision-making approach to overcoming challenges and obstacles necessary to drive desired outcomes.
How have you adapted your HR skills to COVID? I have increased my frequency of check-in times with my team members focusing on their well-being, health, and ability to balance work and life activities. I have ongoing discussions with my team to ensure they are taking time for themselves for physical and mental health activities, medical appointments to remain healthy or anything that brings them joy and happiness during the challenging times. I find myself collaborating with others more frequently and conducting quick video calls versus lengthy email exchanges to solicit input and feedback. It is important to still conduct regular individual and team meetings to establish priorities, goals, and objectives while ensuring that obstacles are removed. It is equally important to make sure team members are focused and connected, but that you are connecting on a more personal level and offer support and compassion.
What are some misconceptions about HR and how do you combat them? The belief that HR does not understand or care about the business.
• I have taken action to educate myself about the business and industry through readings, classes, business updates, collaborating with leaders and building business partnerships to understand the business. I demonstrate my desire to contribute to the business by successfully sharing my expertise to mutually solve issues.
HR’s role is to enforce company policies and ensure adherence to legal compliance creating bureaucracy and barriers for the business.
• Minimizing risk for the company is important. However, I work with the business to help them understand the purpose and importance of policies, laws, and compliance then partner with them to overcome the challenges by offering alternative options and solutions.
HR is administrative and not strategic.
• As with any role within the organization, there is a certain degree of administration and reporting that is required that must be completed. I have found that by learning the business, collaborating with the business to understand their issues, and developing creative total reward programs that address their concerns, drive business results, and contribute to the business, dissolves this misconception.
What do you like most about working in HR? I discovered my interest in HR while taking HR Management and Labor Relation courses in my undergrad studies while working at American Express in operations which led me to pursuing my career in HR. My HR career began in employee relations and then progressed to generalist, HRBP, and recruiting roles. Later, I discovered that my true passion was with my love of HR, learning and understanding the business, and how I can contribute my HR expertise to achieve business results and make an impact. It was when I was given the opportunity to learn Compensation and Benefits that I realized this is where I can have the most significant impact. I love working in HR as it gives me the opportunity to learn and understand the business, design total rewards programs that align to business objectives and culture and drive desired results and behaviors that have a positive impact on employee engagement, culture, and the company’s success.