Moving Forward

Faith Tull talks about life as an HR professional as she prepares for the next phase of her career

A job as a recruiter working with HR professionals sparked Faith Tull’s desire to become an HR professional herself. Her career path has since taken some interesting turns, and next she’ll be heading to Randstad Canada to serve as the company’s senior vice president of human resources. She sat down with Advantage to discuss her experiences thus far and offer a few insights for those just starting out.

Advantage: Tell us about your background and career path.
Faith Tull: I did three years at Sheridan College, then worked in customer service. But I wanted greater responsibilities and a greater career path. I had doors closed on me because I didn’t have a university degree, so I went to the University of Toronto to study labour relations, which was the closest to HR at the time. With my degree and work experience, I was gold.

I took a role as an HR coordinator with Husky and left as HR manager. When my daughter was born, I wanted more flexibility, so I took a job as an HR recruitment consultant with [GlaxoSmithKline]. Then I began consulting full-time for a small firm but later realized that consulting was not for me. I was hired by Sanofi Pasteur as training manager and later became organizational development manager and then director of organizational development. To work closer to home, I took a job as director of HR with [First Canadian Title]. I left as VP of HR.

What are your favourite and least favour­ite aspects of the job?
My favourite is a tie between talent management, where you’re focusing on the development [and] nurturing of the top talent in the organization and building the talent pipeline for the future, and learning and development, which allows me to give employees opportunities to upgrade and enhance their skills and abilities. My least favourite is pension administration. It’s hard to find creative solutions to pension issues because of very specific regulations and guidelines.

Offer a prime example of how you’ve made a real difference during your career.
I can’t name the company for confidentiality reasons, but I was once told by my manager to fire an employee in our group. I was new to the company and hadn’t worked with this individual at all. It’s not my style to make such a life-changing decision without firsthand experience or doing coaching and mentoring with the individual. The manager just didn’t like her, was threatened by her, and was upset that so many people in the business liked her. She persisted in telling me to terminate the individual. I finally said no and told her that she should do it herself. She wanted me to appear to be the “bad guy” to the business that loved this individual. I then went home and called all my contacts and headhunter because I was certain I was going to be fired. Long story short, the individual was not fired, but the manager ended up leaving the organization shortly after. That individual is now a very senior HR leader and continues to have the respect of the business. Sometimes you just have to stand up for the right thing, no matter how scary it is.

How Are You Growing?

“I believe that if you’re not constantly challenging yourself, you’re not growing. Complacency stifles growth. Just because something is uncomfortable or scary doesn’t mean you shouldn’t face it. My growth has come from the scariest of times, but I’m proud that I’ve overcome my fears and moved forward. I’ve grown in my spiritual, personal, and professional lives, and they continue to be awesome experiences. I’m looking forward to the opportunities ahead.” -Faith Tull, Senior VP of Human Resources

In what ways do you think you’re better at your job now than when you started?
I’ve worked with a variety of companies in a variety of industries with a variety of people, and I believe that has given me a very holistic view of the world and I’m more enriched by it. I’ve learned some tough lessons, like not resting on your laurels. In the business world, you’re only as good as the last good thing you’ve done, so keep doing. Keep growing and improving. Over the years, I’ve grown in my profession to ensure that my decisions and recommendations are not solely based on “gut” or “fluff” but also on facts.

I’ve also learned that leaders are not perfect and that you may not have an ideal person managing you. Instead of wishing that they will change, take control and adjust your expectations. Stay on your path to success, and don’t let that stop you from growing and learning. Find mentors in the business who will give you what that leader doesn’t.

How do you empower people to do their best work?
I give them the space to do their work, encourage and support them, allow them to develop internally and externally through courses, seminars, trade shows, etc., and allow them to learn from their mistakes rather than being punished for them. I also have their backs 100 percent of the time. And you can’t be afraid to have tough conversations. If you truly believe in someone, you have to be totally honest with them for their own growth.

What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned as an HR professional?
I’ve learned that HR professionals are humans first. I’ve come across HR professionals with a “holier than thou” attitude, and that doesn’t work well in business. They are unapproachable, not trusted, and the least-welcomed individuals at functions. My view is that we are all charged with a specific mandate, each different from the other but none better than the other. Your HR role has its own mandate, and when you can relate to the business and respect its priorities as equal to your own, the partnership is formed. Once HR people grasp this, they will be invited to the table—and parties—a lot more and be the true strategic partner that the business world is seeking.

What advice would you give someone thinking of specializing in HR?
Stay relevant. Have your qualifications—get your certificates, diplomas, degrees, etc.—and constantly upgrade them. Get experience, even if you have to volunteer. Understand the business you’re in or want to be in; know how the company makes money by knowing the company’s products, services, sales and marketing strategies, etc. Look for companies that offer a career path in HR so that there’s room for variety and growth. Remember that you are not just part of HR; you are part of the business.

What do you see as the next chapter in your career?
I’ve just accepted a position as the senior vice president of human resources for Randstad Canada. Randstad is a leading recruitment solutions provider. I’m excited, as it’s taking my career full circle. I now get to be part of setting cutting-edge HR programs and services. The cool thing is that I’m doing my “people business” in a people-centric organization.