Manny Sousa’s résumé is as full as his passport is stamped. The executive has led HR functions at such varied companies as Saks Fifth Avenue, T-Mobile, PepsiCo, and RBC Royal Bank, and each position has moved him somewhere new, including Canada, both coasts of the United States, and Hong Kong. “Over the course of my career, I’ve been fortunate to have worked with leading companies in a variety of industries,” he says.
He has carried this experience into his current role as senior vice president of global human resources for enterprise information management (EIM) software market leader OpenText, and his worldliness is proving to be a boon as he works to support the fast-growing company’s roughly 5,600 employees in more than 40 countries. It’s a significant undertaking, so Sousa works to populate his department with people as well rounded as himself—while pushing a more proactive, creative approach to meet the shifting demands of HR.
Recruiting, retaining, and managing top talent from afar means that communication and decision-making can be a challenge. Workers are in different time zones, speak different languages and have different laws and cultures, so the scenarios that Sousa’s team must be suitably prepared for are myriad. “We need people on the HR team who are globally oriented, culturally sensitive and diverse, extremely bright, and who have a strong self-awareness,” Sousa says. “I have a great team that is effective in managing these complexities collaboratively.”
This collaboration is paramount as Sousa’s team works to move the company “in the same direction at the same time.” Many aspects of HR are reactive—it’s often difficult to anticipate when a key employee will depart or when a crisis will arise—but Sousa has focused on locating potential problems before they grow worse. “Our job is to try to minimize those issues and not be caught off guard,” he says, adding that when emergencies do strike, he works with his team to recover in a way that properly addresses the issue, maintains leadership’s credibility, and builds trust. “It’s important for us to anticipate issues and opportunities that we may be faced with and to be prepared to execute solutions in a proactive way.”
The regulations surrounding the management of human capital don’t hinder Sousa’s drive for innovation, and he doesn’t see anything about HR that restricts creativity. For him, experimentation is the seesaw that balances a firm’s need for structure with its need for speed and agility. “It’s important for us to be creative problem solvers and to find new and unique ways to motivate and engage employees as they strive for greater performance,” he says.
Sousa has seen the HR landscape change significantly over the past decade. “Some of it has been evolutionary, and some has been revolutionary,” he says. The business world continues to recover from the financial crisis, there are more companies out in the marketplace today, and the environment is generally much more competitive. To succeed, Sousa says, leaders must place a stronger focus on the customer as well as on employees. “Corporate leaders need to become deliberate about defining their customer experience and then translating that back through their human-resource-management strategies to get employees to deliver on that customer experience,” he says.
Sousa likes the fact that his team is able to influence success across the company. “HR people are supposed to be thought leaders in terms of how you maximize the productivity and the ingenuity of your human capital,” he says, refuting the idea that HR people are just administrators stuck in their own silo. “The thing that’s common among market-leading companies is that they tend to have strong HR functions. HR gets well integrated into the business, and the leadership is thinking about their human resources—their talent—all the time.”