Susan Parent, head of HR at USIS spoke with ExecutiveBiz recently about a variety of topics, including her career, her firm and imparted some advice for professionals in the field. Parent has been in her current position since 2008 .
ExecutiveBiz: Can you tell me about your background and what brought you to where you are now?
Susan Parent: I got my Masters in HR for several reasons and one of them was because I had the benefit of, through college and through graduate school, of working in a variety of capacities that put me behind the scenes in various service industries. I had the benefit of seeing how critical the people aspect to the services industry really was. I came out of school and worked in the retail field and then in the hospitality industry, both in HR management positions. I felt strongly that the next possible move might be to take the service industry to the next level which for me was government contracting. I have been with USIS for twelve years now. I hit my twelve year anniversary next week and so I am a long term employee. For me personally I didn’t see myself as someone who would stay in one place for that long but in twelve years I started as a recruiter and I came through various positions within the HR organization to my present position as the Head of the government sector. I was sort of the perfect example of every time I got bored, or didn’t have the challenge that I wanted in the job, USIS saw fit to support me into moving me into the next role and that pretty quickly convinced me that I shouldn’t be the only person that has that type of opportunity. When I joined USIS it was a two year old company and so I have really had the opportunity to contribute to program development from a ground effort all of the way up. I think we have made tremendous progress in the first fourteen years of our organization’s history.
ExecutiveBiz: What are some of the duties that you oversee right now?
Susan Parent: We do a lot of interaction with the other Altegrity businesses so I get the opportunity to represent the government voice when it comes to things like benefits buying decisions and talent management plans and those types of things that we share across the Altegrity family of businesses. We’re also a business probably not unlike a lot of other businesses, we are very much in a growth pattern, we are very acquisitive and so readying the business for bringing in new contracts and new companies into the portfolio and integrating them is probably one of the biggest challenges.
ExecutiveBiz: How do you recruit and retain the top talent?
Susan Parent: We hire between twelve and fifteen hundred people a year. I am very fortunate that I have been very engaged in the recruitment process of the HR function. I think one thing that we do very well is that we work hard to establish an ongoing relationship with our workforce so that we don’t view our employees as tied to one particular contract and we don’t give people up easily if that contract does go somewhere else. We have identified one of our strategic initiatives to really progress USIS to be an employer of choice and an employer of choice obviously in a services business is very, very much about the interaction and the engagement you have with your workforce. It is something that we work on day in and day out.
ExecutiveBiz: What would be some advice you would have for someone who is starting out in the HR field?
Susan Parent: I think what I would say is for somebody new coming into the HR field unlike maybe when I came into the HR field myself, really understanding the business and understanding business is really very important as you progress through the HR ranks. At an early stage in an HR career understanding the business, understanding compliance, giving a darn about the people programs is what’s important. Really, frankly the further along you get – while you need to build on those foundations it really becomes very, very critical to continue to have a voice to really understand business. My advice to a young HR person would be as you are pursuing your HR education, as you are working on your certificates, as you are working on making sure you understand labor laws is really understanding developing your business acumen and making sure that you have a good running start, whether it means pursuing an MBA or something else really understanding how businesses function.
ExecutiveBiz: What is one of your hobbies that you like to pursue in your free time?
Susan Parent: Am I allowed to say that I like to shop?
ExecutiveBiz: Yes, absolutely.
Susan Parent: I love to shop
ExecutiveBiz: Is that something you find as a release or what draws you to that?
Susan Parent: I have been in the DC area for just about eighteen months. I spent the first ten years of my career up in rural Western Pennsylvania so now that I’m down here in the big city I have a lot more shopping options.
ExecutiveBiz: What’s your favorite mall?
Susan Parent: Tyson’s.
ExecutiveBiz: What were some goals that you had for your department for the near future?
Susan Parent: We are very focused on taking a look at the market competitiveness of our compensation and benefit structures and the reason for that is not just because it has never occurred to us before but it is literally because we are pursuing new markets so it’s not just a matter of replicating what we’ve done before, it’s really kind of redefining and exploring different ways to put together packages that are attractive to people we are recruiting in but also to keep us competitive in an ever growing competitive marketplace. . The other thing that I would say is refining our talent management program. We’ve been a “small” company for a while, we now might consider ourselves a mid-tier company so we’ve done some really great things but we haven’t done a lot as far as introducing new programs via technology integrated systems so really taking our talent management raw material, if you will, and putting it into better technology, better integrated systems and thereby getting more and more visibility to our workforce as to other opportunities that exist across the collective, not just USIS but again within all of Altegrity.