Faces of HR: Eric Cormier on Emotional Intelligence, Empathy, and Trust

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Meet Eric Cormier, manager of HR services for Insperity, a provider of HR solutions. Since joining the company in 2012, Cormier has served in myriad roles, including senior HR specialist and manager of HR services of Insperity’s eastern service region. Cormier brings more than 20 years of HR experience to his current role, in which he supports clients with 50 to 100 employees.

We recently connected with Cormier to discuss how he got his start in the industry, his biggest influences, and his best mistake. The lesson? People can learn from their mistakes and become better.

“A very long time ago, I accidentally emailed data where it shouldn’t have gone,” Cormier recalled to HR Daily Advisor. “After calling my wife and considering my next career, I decided to talk with my CEO to outline what happened and share my solution. After hearing me out the CEO looked at me and asked, ‘So, what should I do with you?’ I responded by saying I hoped she would allow me to correct the issue. She allowed me to do just that, noting it was because I took ownership of the mistake and proactively provided a solution. From this mistake and this leader, I learned to allow people to recover from errors and succeed. Just because a person makes a mistake does not mean it is not recoverable.”

In our latest Faces, meet Eric Cormier.

How did you get your start in the field?

I started my career at a publishing company in a different role when the HR team invited me to work on an initiative with them. At the end of the program, the HR director suggested I start a career in HR because she felt I had a natural ability. My HR director noted my communication skills and my application of emotional intelligence and empathy during the project and encouraged me to join her team in the HR department. During my time at the publishing company, many different opportunities opened up, making room for me to begin my education in HR and leading me to where I am today.

Who is/was your biggest influence in the industry?

I have been fortunate to work with many great people and leaders. While at the publishing company, I had two individuals who influenced me. One was my direct manager, the director of HR at the time. To date, I use many of the concepts regarding leadership, managing people, and problem-solving that they brought to the table. The second person was the CEO of the same publishing company. What I learned from both was a different perspective on trying to understand the business, how people impact the business, and how to motivate them. In addition, I learned about emotional intelligence and how to apply it to an organization and my work.

Both individuals were influential because they had an outside-of-the-box, holistic view of HR and people. For them, it wasn’t about needing people to fill a role to get the job done; it was about needing the right people to push the organization forward. I’ve taken this lesson with me. Whenhiring, we need someone who understands the role’s essence, the company, and their participation. I’ve used their lessons daily to help guide how I approach communication with my teams and clients. Learning from example, I know I must build trust with clients and employees so they do not fear HR. Once that trust is built, they know everything shared is in confidence and I have their best interests at heart.

What’s your favorite part about working in the industry? What’s your least favorite part, and how would you change it?

My favorite part about working in the industry is the connections you can make with people. In my current role, I work with people in different sectors with unique challenges. The people and problem-solving aspects have always been the most significant part of HR for me. I enjoy solution-filled conversations with people on how to turn an employee around and how to identify if employees have all the tools they need. Truly, I enjoy helping people succeed.

The changes are frequent and fast in HR; you just wish things would slow down. Aside from the frequent changes, the other aspect of HR that’s my least favorite is when the best advice isn’t taken. In the past, when a client hasn’t taken my advice, I’d use it as an opportunity to self-evaluate. I always ask myself, “What could I have done differently? What part of the conversation did I not share that could have pushed us to the best-possible outcome?” By having this time to self-reflect, I can formulate different communication methods to use with my clients in the future to influence a more positive outcome.

It sounds like, through your experience, you really care about people, and you want to help them feel safe and comfortable, which is important in the industry. Please elaborate here.

I think it starts with being a trusted advisor and listening. I believe HR professionals need to listen more than they speak. When new HR professionals join my team, I tell them we are in the question business, not the answer business, and you must listen to what your clients are saying before formulating questions. We can spout knowledge, details, information, and laws, but if I’m not hearing what you want or your concerns, then I am not helping. In my current role as a consultant, it can take time to get to know clients on a personal level, but it is important to do so, as it builds trust. One way I do that is by allowing people to feel heard, which helps make that personal connection stronger. Therefore, when I provide solutions or outline next steps, the client knows that I am partnering with them to reach a positive outcome. This makes for a successful HR career.

How can company leaders make HR a value within their organization?

I would say, don’t make HR the party-planning group. Outside of that, companies can support the strategy HR brings to the table as we face one of the most interesting times for talent acquisition and retention and realize the value of having an HR advocate. Leadership could consider altering the business-like titles for their HR team to more approachable HR titles to help remove the negative stigma associated with the department. HR is not just about hiring and firing employees. Instead, it is about bringing the right people into the organization and how we strive to help teams achieve and excel together. Other times, some situations require us to work with an employee to turn them around, and if we can’t, then we are charged with having difficult conversations. Many leaders today realize HR is much more than disciplinary action.

Where do you see the industry heading in 5 years? Or are you seeing any current trends?

I think there is a focus on the multigenerational workforce. I manage a couple of young adults, and I see what they are looking for in the workplace. They don’t always want to go into an office. Instead, they want more flexibility and to be heard and contribute. I suggest employers look at all the different ideas each generation brings to the table and listen. I think the trend is to embrace the diversity of ideas, beliefs, and people entering the workforce, which can lead to a more innovative and productive business. Additionally, we need to be sure we are not losing focus on current employees and their ideas either. Companies miss opportunities when they aren’t tapping into their own in-house innovation.

What are you most proud of?

I am most proud of the people I have met, managed, and mentored. In essence, I am trying to pay it forward from when people mentored and helped me in my career. I have a pretty good coaching tree of people who have worked with me going on to do bigger and better things, and I am proud when I see someone I’ve worked with or mentored succeed in their career.

Do you have any advice for people entering the profession?

My one piece of advice is to shake it up. Bring your own style and brand to your HR role. Be adventurous, and don’t be the run-of-the-mill HR person. Be different. I would love to see people not cringe when you tell them your profession. I think people entering the profession should work to change how people view HR, break the stigma, and bring their authentic selves to the field.