Liesl Semper is the Human Resources Manager at GeoPoll. In this edition of GeoPoll Staff Interviews, Liesl speaks to Frankline Kibuacha on her role, background and the trends in the Human Resources space.
FK: Can you briefly describe your role at GeoPoll and your main responsibilities, Liesl?
Liesl: I’m the HR manager. I’m responsible for policy writing and implementation; for recruitment and onboarding; professional development – finding and making learning opportunities available and performance management.
Tell me about your background before you came to GeoPoll – what space did you work in?
Before GeoPoll I worked at a mid-sized nonprofit as the HR & Benefits manager. Prior to that, I spent several years as the primary caregiver to an ailing parent. Before that, I worked in consulting and at the World Bank in DC.
How long have you been at GeoPoll and what drew you to join the team?
I’ve been here just over a year. What drew me? I like start-up HR which is to say creating an HR presence in an organization that has either never had one or hasn’t had one in a while. There’s a freedom there to create HR that is very attractive to me.
How is GeoPoll and the research industry different from the other industries you have worked in?
Obviously, every industry is different. In my last job, I was working with attorneys fighting for voting rights and campaign finance reform in the United States; here, I’m working with project managers and researchers.
The two industries are miles apart and yet there are similarities the greatest of which is that PEOPLE run these businesses, and PEOPLE have the same basic needs wherever they are: to be valued and respected. My job, as I see it, is to honor those things and to honor those in ways that ensure the overall financial and cultural health of the organization.
What changes have you seen in GeoPoll since you joined?
Well, I’d like to believe that we’re doing a lot better in the area of “clear and concise feedback” since that has been a focus we have been having since I started in this role. Beyond that, I think we’re more focused on our company goals (ROCKs) and accountabilities and that’s having an impact on our success.
As the HR Manager, what excites you most about your work at GeoPoll?
Effecting change that impacts overall organizational growth. Some of the things I’m trying to do require tough behavior and mindset change. And while most of what we do in HR isn’t immediately apparent, one year in I think we can look back and see where we’ve been and how far we’ve already come.
What are you excited about in terms of where GeoPoll will go in the future?
I love what we’re talking about currently – our BHAG – Big Hairy Audacious Goal. It’s a funny acronym for a serious thing. If we want to achieve audacious things, and we do, HR has to be ready to act in support. We can’t wait until the audacious has been accomplished to act, we have to act to give power to those goals. So for example, we’re doing a lot of professional development work, identifying and purchasing courses for employees, because individual growth is vital to the overall organization’s growth. We’re working with a couple of managers on identifying skills gaps (and then finding the learning to fill those gaps) because again, individual learning and growth drive organization growth.
I foresee a strong match towards a skilled team that’s achieving the audacious – together!
I believe there has been huge changes in HR/People over the last few years. Where have you observed the biggest change and what is the future of human resource and personnel management?
The pandemic has shifted HR professionals’ focus entirely. We’ve got two big things in front of us in my honest opinion: retention and wellness.
2021 was the year of the Great Resignation. A lot of folks just couldn’t keep doing what they’d been doing before and a lot of organizations weren’t nimble enough to pivot to remote work. We were well positioned on the remote work front but we had to figure out (and we are still figuring out) how to build, retain, and in some cases, restore, connections with folk we no longer saw. So that’s thing one. The thing two is wellness. Now that we’re coming out of lockdown and able to return to a changed world, we too are changed.
How does the organization help people manage their stress levels which in many cases have skyrocketed because we have been too close to both work and home for 2 years?
Do you have a favorite project or experience at GeoPoll you’d like to share?
Successfully creating the GeoPoll Bulletin Board was a bit of a surprise. It is our on social network where we share what’s happening, lessons we have learned and passing news. I didn’t come in with that plan, it sort of unfolded organically over time. I love how engaged the team is.
What’s a fact about yourself that people may not know right away?
That I wanted to be a professional singer and that I still have hopes of writing a best-selling novel. ?
I suppose you sing outside of work…
Oh yes, Liesl does some singing, and writing.
Look forward to seeing your hits and reading your book! So, what does it take to succeed in HR?
That really depends on who you want to be as an HR professional (and to be honest, I think this is the case with ALL professions). I know who I want to be and I hope that the work I do speaks for itself and is a reflection of what I believe about the practice of HR and its role in organizations.