John Nolan CCP, CPA, has grown by leaving his comfort zone. His day-to-day duties as compensation director at Chicago-based Exelon Corp., a power provider with 34,000 employees, are daunting enough. Yet Nolan relishes the opportunity to learn other aspects of the business by lending his compensation skills to special projects. He’s been honing those skills for 13 years after earning a master’s degree in human resources from Loyola University-Chicago. That marked a metamorphosis for Nolan, who spent the first half of his 25-year career in finance. He offers insights and advice in career progression.
No. 1 career assist:
I have been fortunate to be involved in many special projects at Exelon. Being part of a progressive company in a dynamic industry has provided the opportunity to work on multiple mergers and acquisitions, major system implementations, vendor RFPs and many research projects. Special project work has provided invaluable career opportunities and benefits. It has helped me gain greater understanding of the business; build, expand and deepen relationships; and strengthen my reputation as a reliable teammate and contributor. Finding capacity for special project work in a crowded schedule is sometimes daunting but has provided the greatest opportunities to grow and add value.
Key career advice:
Be responsive to all your colleagues. Even if you don’t know an answer or are unable to provide a complete response, acknowledge that you received the email, text or IM and will respond soon. An immediate response can also provide you with the opportunity to inquire when a complete reply is needed, so you can set expectations. Frequently, what can read like an “I-need-this-right-now” kind of request is actually an “if-you-canget-it-to-me-in-the-next-couple-days” request. Responsiveness conveys to your colleagues that you value them, and you are watching out for them. It is a powerful practice I learned from my predecessors and is unrivaled in building trust and teamwork.
What HR can’t live without:
HR starves and deteriorates without good communication. HR professionals must continually broaden the avenues of communications with both clients and peer HR functions. Effective communications with clients clarifies expectations, instills confidence and improves the work product. Effective intra-HR communications exposes blind spots, reduces embarrassing surprises and increases efficiency.
Two out-of-the-ordinary skills every rewards professional needs:
Adaptability and composure. Adaptability is required to customize a compensation structure to support each organization’s unique strategy. Even within a single company, each business unit’s compensation structure and tools can vary greatly. Composure is a valuable skill because compensation can frequently be charged with emotion. Rewards professionals are well served by maintaining composure and resisting the impulse to become defensive or rattled by panicked clients or accusatory questions. Rewards professionals demonstrate their value when they defuse tense situations by steadily sorting through facts and concerns and partnering to fashion a pragmatic solution.