As a part of my HR Strategy Series, I’m talking to top experts in the field to teach prospects what hiring managers are actually looking for, while also supporting business leaders in their hiring and retention strategies. Today I had the pleasure of talking with Jennifer Raines-Loring.
Jen Raines-Loring currently services as VP of People at Springboard Retail, the leading POS and retail management software company. Jen is a commercially-oriented human resources executive who combines a strong strategic, operational, and managerial background with a true passion for people and talent functions. Jen pursued a career in HR after a decade of success in direct-to-consumer commerce with companies including Lilly Pulitzer, Swarovski, and Greycork. Jen specializes in developing scalable, efficient people operations, employer brand building, full cycle talent acquisition, remote work, and designing and scaling culture. She holds an MBA from Harvard Business School and a Bachelor’s of Science Degree from the Fashion Institute of Technology. Jen resides in the greater Boston area with her husband and daughter.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I went through a highly formative series of roles coming out of business school, and people issues were clearly the unifying theme. From COO of seed-stage start-up, to managing a 300-person team, to overseeing operations for a company acquired by a large global brand, I got my hands really dirty in a variety of business contexts. The things that drive performance became clear to me — leadership, coaching, performance management, culture, and team building. These functions are needed in every environment, and I found myself more drawn to work on these issues in order to get the real root cause of broader business issues.
In one of those roles, I also had a very bad experience with an established Human Resources team — it felt like HR out of the 1980s, completely focused on legal compliance and risk management but no value add activities that were desperately needed in a company that was undergoing massive change. In that situation, the lack of a competent people function tangibly destroyed value and cost people their jobs. Though difficult at the time, it was the best thing that happened to me because it left me feeling like there must be a better way, and I’m going to do just that.
Can you share the most interesting or funny story that happened to you since you started this career? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
The most interesting thing that has happened to me since “officially” transitioning my career to HR is the sheer number of puzzled expressions and questions I get about why I would possibly want to focus on this area. I get a lot of comments like “but you are an entrepreneur/innovator/leader/etc.” as if these traits are fundamentally incompatible with a career in HR. This was very hard for me at first, especially post Harvard Business School when professional expectations (however self-imposed) seem to sky rocket. I’ve learned that HR, historically, probably really has been in sore need of improvement (in general, not in every case of course). I have had literally no one say, “I had this positively life changing experience with HR so I can totally see why that’s a great career for you!” So I want to be the cause of people saying just that moving forward. There is nothing but opportunity in this field.
Are you working on any exciting new projects at your company? How is this helping people?
I’m working to improve large group virtual communications, such as company meetings. Springboard Retail is a fully distributed team with Springboarders around the country and world. Moments when the company comes together to share and learn are therefore especially critical, and we execute this all completely virtually. I’m exploring collaboration and communication technology in general, as this area is changing rapidly and has the potential to really improve both employee experience and performance.
Large group meetings are some of the most important moments for people to feel that their work is connected to broader goals and develop trust in leadership. I think these moments disproportionately impact overall employee experience for better or worse, so I feel a huge sense of responsibility to get this right for every single Springboarder.
Topics: Customer Service