Five Questions With: Jodi Kovitz, CEO of The Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA)
She is a leader, brand builder, connector of people, and a passionate visionary
Jodi Kovitz is a leader, brand builder, connector of people, a passionate visionary, and the CEO of the Human Resources Professional Association (HRPA).
Prior to the HRPA, Jodi founded #movethedial, a movement advocating for the growth and equitable participation of all women in tech, affecting the lives of over 60,000 people worldwide. She also co-chaired the innovative #Tech4SickKids fundraising strategy for SickKids Foundation capital campaign, which went on to raise $1.3 billion. Other roles throughout her career journey include leading growth at Vetster, serving as CEO of Peerscale, practicing family law, and working as a legal business development strategist.
Passionate about equity, innovation, and the future of work, Jodi holds an HBA from Ivey Business School, an LLB from Osgoode Hall Law School, and an LLD from the University of Calgary. She is also the author of Go Out of Your Way, a book about the power of genuine connections. Jodi has been featured in Forbes Women, was recognized as one of Canada’s 25 Women of Influence, and has been acknowledged as one of WXN’s Canada’s 100 most powerful women.
What was the biggest lesson you learned as CEO of #movethedial? How did this shape your leadership style and your next steps in your career?
Being CEO of #movethedial was one of those profound experiences in life, and I learned a number of important lessons. Two come to mind: one about culture, and one about revenue growth.
I learned the importance of culture, the need to build a culture of belonging with a capital B, and that the responsibility of culture starts with the CEO. It has to be at the very top of your priority list and requires you to work super hard and with great intentionality. You have to listen to your individual team members and be willing to unlearn again and again — it takes time and it’s not easy.
Building a highly intentional, intersectional, inclusive, diverse, equitable, and accessible (or IDEA) strategy, tactics, and culture is the CEO’s job (in partnership with HR). As the CEO, you have to really commit to building this type of company and culture in every way. It’s in how you build and deliver your product, service, and program to how you work, how you collaborate, how you speak to one another, and across every dimension of policy, physical space, and the psychological space you create.
As a CEO and as a leader, it is important to consider the moment and your place in it. I chose not to bring #movethedial back to life precisely because of where I was in the journey. It was a powerful movement at a point in time. However, the world changed; the equity conversation, l learned, needed to evolve significantly beyond a gender conversation.
As a white, straight, highly privileged, able-bodied woman, I did not see it as appropriate for me to lead the diversity movement in tech, with a focus on gender equity in 2023. As a result, I have moved into a new role, and can’t wait to continue my journey in this position of leadership and support other amazing folks doing great work in the equity space — it is their time.
With revenue growth, I learned the power of creating and leveraging momentum, and the power of building a flywheel. Momentum requires a tremendous effort to create at the beginning. If you are thoughtful about how you sprinkle in and create moments that accelerate it and build relevant amazing products that solve real problems, you will be surprised by how quickly your growth can accelerate once it gets moving.
Once the flywheel is moving, the magic perpetuates itself; energy is stored and released, and your growth builds upon itself. I feel lucky to have experienced what can happen when a company goes from good to great, and the impact of momentum.
Work-life integration and achieving a healthy work-life balance have become key priorities for many professionals. What strategies would you recommend to individuals looking to integrate their personal and professional lives effectively?
I love the concept of integration versus “balance.” Similarly, I often talk about flow — flowing in and out of what is most urgent and important at a given moment, creating space for that to happen in a flexible and progressive way.
An important professional priority, for example, might trump personal commitments because of a deadline, requiring me to work 14 hours in a day to get it done well. However, my daughter might be performing in a competitive dance competition on a weekday, requiring me to move my work hours to the evening so I can show up for her in my role as mom, which is just as important as my role as CEO.
I think we have to model flow and integration for our teams and demonstrate that we can flow in and out of our roles. We have to get our work done, but in 2023, we should be able to direct how that happens, so long as we have clear agreements and expectations with our teams.
Remote hybrid environments have blurred our home and work lines — there is good and a challenge in that. We have to find flow and show up fully when we are in our work state, and also turn off fully when we are in our home state, so that we don’t burn out.
What I am seeing in my own team is that folks respond to flexibility and to concepts of trust. I hope to inspire a desire to collaborate in person which I do think is important — alongside flexibility — in our new world of work.
As the workplace continues to evolve, what major trends do you see impacting the workforce, regardless of industry or sector? How do you believe these trends will shape the future of work?
By far the most disruptive trend will be the advent of generative AI. This will significantly change the future of work, but I don’t see it as a headcount reduction, rather, it’s a productivity boom that requires rethinking the skills and roles required in the workplace.
When we hosted a Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO) and Chief People Officer (CPO) breakfast recently, one of the participants noted that HR leadership will be a Chief Human Resources and Machine Officer (CHRMO) — I like that as an indicator of how we will truly need to rethink roles in the future of work.
It must be stressed that the AI conversation needs to deeply examine potentially unintended consequences, whether that is biases and barriers to diversity, inclusion and accessibility, or the more existential concerns that are coming to the fore.
A more immediate trend is remote and hybrid workplaces emerging from the pandemic that look to be part of the new normal in some way, even if some employers are requiring more in-person work. The need to maintain a strong culture and find ways to effectively foster collaboration and innovation with hybrid workforces are key struggles. I see creating effective workplace culture as a strong determinant in not only an organization’s productivity and results, but also the morale, retention, and recruitment of its people.
A third major trend is understanding and managing mental health issues, which have emerged in numerous studies (HRPA included) as the most important issue for HR professionals to manage — and help their organizations manage.
As CEO, The Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA), what do you think is one of the biggest HR challenges facing organizations today?
For today, it is ensuring a strong, productive, and inclusive culture. It is the strongest indicator of morale and employee retention, it drives recruitment, it fosters effective and compassionate leaders, and it develops an organization’s most valuable asset — its people.
Coming out of the pandemic, HRPA’s survey found that 87 per cent of employers have experienced challenges with recruitment, and 70 per cent of employers faced issues with retention, therefore, a renewed focus on the employee experience is vital for companies heading into remote or hybrid models.
How do we build teams that people want to stay in, and continue to inspire folks to bring commitment and tenacity in a world where we all value autonomy and flexibility way more than has ever been factored into our professional lives? This requires new approaches to engagement to drive retention and enable productivity and effective collaboration in highly inclusive ways.
What excites you about the future?
With the pandemic and a convergence of issues in the workplace in the past few years, the critical role of the HR professional in workplaces has never been more evident. I truly believe it is HR’s moment to shine and demonstrate value as a strategic partner at the executive table — one that really influences the bottom line.
Meeting the moment, rising to the challenge, and working to improve the world of work in a people-centred, inclusive, diverse, and equitable way. It is also looking ahead to understand or predict the future of work. I have been using the phrase “Future Ready” to describe the need to be strategic and inspired by the future state.