Faces of HR: Lupita McLane on a Passion for People, Teams, and Leadership Development

benefits Compensation diversity and inclusion employees Faces of HR hiring and retention HR Recruiting Seiler LLP

While studying accounting in undergrad at Menlo College, Lupita McLane discovered she was interested in the people aspect of organizations.

Lupita McLane

“I realized that the success of any business ultimately depends on its people and their effective management,” McLane shared with HR Daily Advisor. “This realization led me to switch my major from accounting to human resource management.”

After graduation, McLane started her HR career in biotech, working at ChemoCentryx. The role provided her with “hands-on experience” in HR compliance, recruitment, and employee relations. She eventually transitioned into an HR role within public accounting, serving as an HR assistant at Seiler LLP. At the time, McLane didn’t know her new role would set the stage for a “long and rewarding” career in the industry.

Nine years after starting at Seiler LLP, McLane rose through the ranks to serve in her current role as chief people officer (CPO). McLane leads talent planning and acquisition, professional development, organizational assessment and design, diversity and inclusion, change management, benefits, and compensation. Additionally, she advises senior executives, oversees employee engagement and relations, advocates for culture development, and guides performance management procedures.

With more than 20 years of experience in HR, McLane has been successful since she took the helm of her role as CPO by building a culture in which the key ingredient is trust, having a voice for employees, and staying on top of workplace issues by creating cultural shifts.

And Seiler LLP has benefited greatly from it. During her 17-year tenure at the firm, McLane has grown the organization more than 220%, and her hiring retention rate remains 100%. Additionally, not only has she created more roles for women in leadership, but she has also increased diversity and inclusion and overseen more women promoted to partners.

So, what’s the secret to their success? According to McLane, they’re always changing their secret sauce.

“I would like to emphasize the importance of HR professionals staying informed about emerging workplace trends and issues,” says McLane. “Keeping a pulse on topics such as remote work, diversity and inclusion, mental health, and employee engagement will enable HR professionals to proactively address these matters within their organizations. Furthermore, I encourage HR professionals to leverage technology to enhance HR processes and streamline operations. HRIS systems, analytics tools, and digital platforms can greatly support HR functions, allowing professionals to focus on strategic initiatives and providing a seamless employee experience.”

In our latest Faces, meet Lupita McLane.

Who is/was your biggest influence in the industry?

Throughout my career, I have been fortunate to encounter several influential figures who have shaped my professional journey. However, if I were to single out one individual, it would be my first HR manager. They demonstrated exceptional leadership skills, a deep understanding of human resources, and a genuine passion for fostering a positive work environment.

My first HR manager believed in the power of mentorship and invested time in developing my HR knowledge and skills. They encouraged me to take risks, explore new areas within HR, and provided guidance during challenging situations. Their unwavering support and belief in my abilities played a pivotal role in shaping my career and instilling in me a commitment to continuous learning and personal growth.

What’s your best mistake, and what did you learn from it?

One of the most significant mistakes I learned early in my career is that the world of HR is not black and white. It’s gray. Sometimes you have to break the rules to make things right. People are complex, and there’s never a black-and-white answer.

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 of working in the public accounting industry is the dynamic nature of the work and the opportunity to engage with a wide range of professionals across various departments. The collaborative environment fosters continuous learning and personal growth, as each day brings new challenges and opportunities.

However, the fast-paced nature of the industry can also be its downside. The constant pressure to meet deadlines and the high-stress levels experienced by many employees can take a toll on work/life balance and overall well-being. To address this, we have implemented comprehensive employee wellness programs, promoting work/life integration and encouraging open communication channels to identify and address stressors proactively.

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.

Absolutely! Creating a safe and comfortable work environment is paramount in any industry, and public accounting is no exception. The industry is known for its demanding nature, tight deadlines, and complex client engagements. In such an environment, it is crucial to prioritize the well-being and mental health of employees.

As an HR professional, I strive to foster a culture that values open communication, psychological safety, and work/life balance. I work closely with leaders and employees to promote a supportive environment where individuals can voice their concerns, seek assistance, and feel valued for their contributions. I have championed initiatives such as flexible work arrangements, employee assistance programs, and training on stress management to address the unique challenges faced by professionals in public accounting.

How can HR most effectively demonstrate its value to the leadership team?

To effectively demonstrate the value of HR to the leadership team, it is important to align HR initiatives with the overall business strategy and objectives. By clearly linking HR initiatives to key performance indicators and demonstrating the impact on the bottom line, HR professionals can showcase their value as strategic partners.

Another crucial aspect is data-driven decision-making. HR should collect and analyze relevant HR metrics and data to identify trends, insights, and areas for improvement. By providing accurate and actionable data, HR professionals can support the leadership team in making informed decisions and optimizing organizational performance.

Furthermore, proactive communication and collaboration with the leadership team are essential. HR professionals should actively engage with executives, seeking their input and understanding their priorities. By acting as trusted advisors, HR can contribute to strategic discussions, offering insights on talent management, succession planning, and employee engagement strategies.

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

In the next 5 years, I anticipate several significant trends shaping the public accounting industry. One notable trend is the increasing integration of technology and automation into accounting processes, such as robotic process automation and artificial intelligence. This shift will necessitate the upskilling of professionals to adapt to these technological advancements.

What are you most proud of?

Witnessing the growth and development of our people as they advanced in their careers has brought me immense satisfaction and reinforces the importance of investing in talent development within organizations.

Do you have any advice for people entering the profession?

For those entering the HR profession, I offer the following advice:

1. Develop a solid foundation. Obtain a strong understanding of HR fundamentals, employment laws, and best practices. Continuously build your knowledge base through certifications, workshops, and professional development opportunities.

2. Cultivate strong interpersonal skills. HR is a people-centric field, so focus on honing your communication, empathy, and relationship-building skills. The ability to connect with individuals at all levels of the organization is invaluable.

3. Embrace continuous learning. The HR landscape is constantly evolving, so embrace a mindset of lifelong learning. Stay updated on industry trends, emerging technologies, and best practices to remain effective and relevant in your role.

4. Seek mentorship and network. Connect with experienced HR professionals who can provide guidance and support. Networking within the industry can open doors to new opportunities and help you build relationships with like-minded individuals.

5. Be adaptable and resilient. The HR profession presents a diverse range of challenges. Embrace change, be adaptable, and approach setbacks as learning opportunities. Cultivate resilience to navigate through the highs and lows of the profession.

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