Human Resources: Empowering People to be a Leader of Their Career

By Jackie Paplaczyk

Something most people might not know about Summus Group’s Human Resources leader, Megan Rineman, is she originally wanted to be a math major. “I think this was because I liked the thought that there is always an answer.” But once she realized she truly did not want to major in math, she decided to study business.

From the time she lived in England as a child, Megan had a strong interest in international travel, making it an easy decision to go down an international business path. As part of the international business program, Megan went to Australia for six months and Spain for a summer, ultimately graduating with a degree in international business and a minor in Spanish.

After completing her undergraduate studies, Megan decided to go to graduate school for an international MBA. The core classes were in the States followed by concentration courses offered through different international institutions. Megan ultimately chose to study in England where she lived for six months while studying human resources management and employee relations with a diverse team.

Since entering the workforce, Megan acknowledges the many opportunities she has been presented with and feels she has been given even more since joining Summus Group. Reflecting on where she is now, Megan recognizes she has had the ability to create her own career path and elevate herself in a way which allows her to set herself up for success. “I didn’t realize how true this was until I approached Summus Group about obtaining my SHRM certification.” This certification accredits individuals who showcase competencies and expertise in HR that can be applied across industries, locations and job titles.

Megan saw obtaining her certification as an opportunity to grow and believes it helped catapult her in her career. Megan says she continues to learn based on new experiences which come with a growing company like Summus Group and it is her passion to connect with and empower each employee to grow their own way too.

This month we sit down with Megan Rineman to hear how the HR function at Summus Group goes beyond the traditional employee lifecycle by empowering its people to be a leader of their career.

What path has led you to your role in Human Resources today?

Once I completed my international MBA, I came back to Charlotte and began looking for jobs. By this time, it was the upswing of the recession. Despite this, I learned it is very difficult to get a job in Human Resources at an entry level and it is truly about your connections, especially in Charlotte.

Because of a connection, I landed my first job at a local consulting firm where I started out as a front desk corporate administrator. While in this role, I was able to learn a lot about the consulting industry through my interactions with various colleagues at the firm. I knew my ultimate goal was to get into something I was passionate about and when I observed the various roles within the Recruiting team, I knew that was the path I wanted to pursue next.

Within almost a year, I was approached by Recruiting because they had an opening on the team. As part of my transition, I participated in the interviews for my replacement which was my first true taste of recruiting and the interview process. Once fully transitioned, I operated as a Recruiting Coordinator which handled everything from managing background checks and personal references to sending offer letters and ensuring everything was squared away for a new hire’s first day.

Nine months later, I was approached again to become a Recruiter and through this role, I was given a lot of great opportunities. I later learned about Summus Group through a friend who worked here. At the time, they were still very small, but they were looking to grow and wanted to bring in someone to help with recruiting. Although, recruiting is what led me here, I saw the opportunity to help build out and grow the entire HR function. I ultimately realized this is where my passion lies and it is now my primary focus.

Most view HR as the traditional employee lifecycle starting with recruiting, hiring and onboarding, followed by developing, training and evaluating employees. How do you define HR and why is it so important to a rapidly growing organization like Summus Group?

Human Resources is responsible for supporting the organization’s employees through designing and administering Human Resource policies, procedures, processes and programs. There are many aspects which make up Human Resources, such as employee relations, training and development, equal opportunity, benefits management and payroll functions, but HR is really about understanding the values of the company and how you use these to grow your biggest asset, your employees.

In the role of HR, you are empowering people to be a leader of their career. In order to achieve this, you must have a strategy in which all levels of the organization feel supported. It is important that each individual feels they have at least one person they can go to in the organization who they believe can be their advocate internally. Having this in place ensures your people feel empowered within their career. This has become increasingly important as we see new generations enter the workforce wanting to understand the full career path of the opportunities they pursue.

While employees are navigating their career, especially one as dynamic as the career of a consultant, HR is there to focus on the human element of the career path by keeping the best interest of the employees in mind. This requires someone who is very perceptive with high emotional intelligence. It is important for candidates and employees alike to understand what their career path is and how they can get to where they want to be. Having someone knowledgeable around this in an operational capacity helps ensure individuals figure out what they want out of their career while further developing the organization’s people to remain competitive.

As we learned earlier, Summus Group’s strategy is built around putting people first and making its employees the best they can be. What key HR initiatives have been introduced to align the betterment of Summus Group’s associates with the firm’s corporate strategy?

Since joining Summus Group in early 2017, I have been a part of creating and introducing a variety of initiatives.

As a small company, we review our benefits annually to ensure we remain competitive. We make a conscious effort to understand what is important to our employees regarding benefits and then work with a great benefits partner to help us narrow in on the options which best align with our people’s needs.

Similarly, we look to remain competitive through training and development. Although we are not yet large enough to offer robust in-house trainings, we have a program in place which enables our associates to further grow and develop by signing up for trainings or obtaining a professional certification. We want to empower our people to continue to grow as they are constantly looking for new ways to do just that. For example, there was a collective interest to obtain a professional certification which resulted in Summus Group sponsoring four associates to obtain their Certified ScrumMaster (CSM) certification earlier this month.

On the people-front, we have introduced, and continue to iterate, a mentorship program for all of our associates. Through this program, mentors and mentees are thoughtfully matched up so that the mentee has a resource to help take their career to the next level, while empowering the mentor to further grow themselves in the process. We want our people to know they have a say in their career development.

Lastly, after defining our core values, we strive to incorporate them in everything we do. As part of this, we do a quarterly Core Value Recognition to recognize those associates who have contributed to Summus Group’s continued success over the past quarter by demonstrating our core values. This gives our people the kudos they deserve by recognizing the work they do which goes above and beyond their daily role and responsibilities.

As an extension to your role in HR, you are an integral member of the firm’s Associate Satisfaction Committee. What does this committee do and how does it support the function of HR?

Our main goal is to connect our employees and keep employee engagement at an ultimate high – it is really about keeping our culture on the forefront of everyone’s mind.

In consulting, it is easy to feel stuck in a role where you don’t feel involved in your firm. We think our culture is pretty awesome and so we want to highlight and showcase this to make sure our employees feel connected and have the desire to come back to their home base. We do not want our associates to feel like they are on an island by themselves.

As we continue to grow, we want to ensure we maintain our culture and provide a variety of options for all of our employees to feel connected. The Associate Satisfaction Committee not only plans events like happy hours or the holiday party, but it spends much of its time focusing on employee satisfaction by soliciting feedback through an employee satisfaction survey. This survey is very important because it gives our employees a voice. The committee then takes the employees’ feedback and evaluates it to identify where we as a company can continue to improve in regard to enhancing our employees’ experience.

Everything the Associate Satisfaction Committee does is an extension of our HR function as it is all about our employees and making sure the satisfaction of our employees is number one outside of our clients.

With involvement in every aspect of Human Resources at Summus Group, which aspect of your role do you enjoy the most and why?

All aspects of HR are interesting to me, but if I had to choose, the people aspect is my favorite.

In HR, you get exposure to everyone in the firm and I love the relationships you build when helping someone go from day one and beyond. I really enjoy the onboarding experience because everyone is very excited to start their new role and I always look forward to this part. Leading up to it, it can feel chaotic getting everything together, but when the day comes, you know you are their initial point-of-contact and you want to make sure their first impression to the firm is the best it can be.

A close second is the 30-day check-in I conduct with each new associate to understand their experience with the firm thus far. I implemented the 30-day check-in earlier this year because I strongly believe the first 30 days is a critical time for your employees to feel they have made a great decision to join the organization. This not only provides me the opportunity to remind employees that their decision to join Summus Group puts them in charge of their career, but it allows me to take a pulse on each employee’s experience to better ensure talent retention.

I also use this time to ask what, if anything, could have been done differently and remind them we are still there for anything they need. This helps us understand what is important to people and what they really want to know to feel set up for success come day one. Based on the feedback received during these check-ins, I am able to use this information to inform leadership of areas of opportunity, as well as revamp the onboarding experience to make it better each time a new associate joins Summus Group.