Editor's Note: This week's Thought Leader is Sara McAuley CCP WLCP, WorldatWork Board Chair from 2007 to 2010 (and continuing Board Member). Sara was most recently Executive Vice President & Chief Human Resources Officer at Tygris Commercial Finance Group, Inc. Previously, she was Vice President of HR at Standard & Poor's. Sara holds a bachelor's degree in industrial relations from the University of Iowa and an MBA from the Keller Graduate School of Management.
Compensation Force: What led you to choose (or land in) a career featuring the field of rewards?
Sara McAuley: While many of my colleagues came into Human Resources later in their careers, I actually started in a Benefits Analyst role directly out of college. I was a senior at the University of Iowa and one of my professors said, “Group benefits is an up and coming field—you should check it out.” The first ten years of my career were in benefits and compensation roles—including plenty of international work that eventually led me to an overseas assignment in Hong Kong. I spent many years as a senior HR leader (as a generalist) but some of my best and most memorable experiences came from my years as a rewards professional.
Compensation Force: What person and their ideas/teaching/writing has had a significant influence on your thinking and your work?
Sara McAuley: There are so many I’m not sure where to begin! Over the years as a WorldatWork board member I’ve worked with some amazing total reward leaders including WorldatWork president Anne Ruddy, Mike Davis (General Mills) and Maggie Gagliardi (American Express). In a previous role I had the opportunity to combine Total Quality Management along with some pretty significant change initiatives, and the consultants I worked with on those projects gave me insights that I’ve been able to apply to other situations. The big learning for me is that a career is a jigsaw puzzle of experiences—and sometimes you’re not sure where the next piece will come from!
Compensation Force: Is there a book you’d recommend to others in the reward field that has impacted your thinking and your work?
Sara McAuley: I have recommended The Power of Indirect Influence by Judith C. Tingley to many people over the years. For HR and Rewards professionals, the ability to effectively influence clients and peers is a critical competency. I also recommend Champion of Change: How to Build Support for HR Initiatives and New Programs (2009 WorldatWork Press) because today’s companies need HR leadership on some very difficult and emotionally charged issues.
Compensation Force: Looking to the future, what trend or development do you think will significantly impact the reward profession and those of us working in it?
Sara McAuley: Two things come to mind—one is the constant need to keep our best talent engaged—in good times and in bad. I have a 21-year old son who will enter the labor market in the next two to three years, and it has been interesting to observe his expectations about a future career. On the one hand, not so different from mine many years ago—the need for interesting, challenging work in a great environment! On the other hand, he and his contemporaries have so many more experiences and instantly available information today – making those expectations pretty tough for companies (and HR professionals) to live up to!
The second thing that comes to mind is the reality of regulatory and other changing external factors that will impact our profession. It’s important for Rewards professionals to stay current, relevant and smart.
Compensation Force: What are you currently working on?
Sara McAuley: Career-wise, I am taking a breather after nearly three decades of corporate work to explore exciting opportunities in new ventures and HR Strategy. I am working with United Way on an integration project and am a counselor with SCORE. I continue to find great fulfillment in serving on the WorldatWork board. I started back in 1998 as a member of the ACA Board of Directors and was most recently Chair. Currently, the Board is working on a number of exciting initiatives for 2011. Our areas of emphasis include advanced education in sales compensation and executive compensation, global market expansion, public policy education and awareness, and enhanced member benefits, just to name a few.
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Our special thanks to Sara for participating in the Compensation Force Thought Leader series and taking the time to share some of her history, thoughts and ideas with us today!
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