Jarik Conrad, Ed.D., SPHR, SHRM-SCP, is the senior director of human capital management (HCM) innovation for Ultimate Software. He has held several human resources roles at Fortune 500 companies and directed the HR department for the City of Jacksonville, Fla. Before joining Ultimate Software, Conrad led The Conrad Consulting Group for which he served as an executive coach, facilitator and management consultant. He has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Illinois, two master’s degrees from Cornell University and a doctor of education degree from the University of North Florida.
Q: What is the No. 1 career assist you received?
A: As a young professional who had struck out on my own as an HR consultant, I facilitated a panel discussion with several key local business leaders. One of the individuals who worked for the organization hosting the panel was so impressed with my performance that he recommended me for a role leading a visioning process for our city. This opportunity required me to interact with elected officials, business leaders, nonprofit heads and educational administrators. This exposure significantly boosted my profile in our community (to which I had recently relocated) and positively impacted my career. This individual had the foresight and vision to know the role was a good fit for me, and the courage to take a risk on a little-known commodity.
Q: What key career advice would you give to others?
A: One of the best things I did for my career early on was step out of HR into a line function for about a year. Not only did I gain a greater appreciation for the challenges the company’s managers had to navigate, I also earned significant credibility from those same managers — and that helped me be more effective when I went back to HR.
Q: What is something HR can’t live without?
A: Integrity. We have to be trusted coaches, colleagues and advisors, or it will be impossible to be effective. We must set the standard for how we expect the leaders and employees of our organizations to behave. We have to deliver the bad news with the same degree of professionalism and respect as the good news.
Q: What are two out-of-the- ordinary skills every rewards professional needs?
A: One is presentation skills. The ability to communicate clearly, concisely and passionately is an essential skill in just about every profession, but particularly for us. We are responsible for disseminating information, and a great deal of it is sensitive, so we must be credible, authentic communicators.
Another is problem-solving, which requires a set of interrelated skills such as empathy, impulse control, creativity and courage. The true test of our value is whether employees and managers engage with us because they want to, or because they are required to do so. Obviously, the more we can help them overcome their challenges with thoughtful solutions, the more they will want to engage with us.