Human Resource Leader Finds Freedom in Redefining the Career Ladder
Raychel: Hi Beth. How are you?
Beth: I'm fine. How are you, Raychel?
Raychel: Good. I'm excited to have you on the podcast. I want to introduce you to everyone. So tell us a little bit about yourself, whatever it is you want us to know?
Beth: Well, my name is Beth Moore. I am a 30 plus year professional in human resources. I've primarily been in financial services or insurance. I'm a wife, I'm a mother. My son is 24. I think other ways that people see me and identify me as white. When I was thinking about what I was going to say to you this evening, I'm like, Oh my gosh and middle aged middle age. I define that as retirement is no longer just a theoretical discussion. So is that those are some things about me.
Raychel: I love that. One of the things you didn't say was mentor, which you have become to me.
Beth: I really appreciated.
Raychel: Yeah. I'm excited to learn more about you today and just your journey. So let's start with the Beth that was younger. What was your vision for yourself? What did you think that you were going to be.
Beth: You warned me that this would be a good time to be vulnerable. So I'm going to tell some embarrassing things and no doubt we'll then regret them later. I suspect that's how all these things go,
Raychel: Yes, that is how this works.
Beth: I was a middle child, but only daughter. I had a very, a special position in the family, but I was surrounded by people that I thought were much more capable than me. Both my brothers were skinny and athletic. My older brother was very musical and talented. My younger brother was wicked and is wicked smart.Both my parents were very educated and accomplished and I think they would be laughing hysterically, but I sort of felt like the, like the goofy, overweight not entirely pulled together member of the family, which I think they would laugh to hear. I certainly was, I mean, I held my own in school, so it was a little bit geeky, a little bit brainy, but not the best, you know, so that's who I thought of myself and I think it created in me a need to achieve to drive, because I wanted to. I frankly, to a certain degree, I wanted to be worthy of being part of this family where I felt like I was surrounded by these terribly accomplished people.
Raychel: That's really interesting. I definitely didn't know that about you, but as I think about all that you've done, that might explain a lot of it. Tell me about you. You are out on the East coast and we met in the Midwest, but for a period of time, you were in New York. Tell me a little bit about how that, what that journey looked like. Going to New York finding a career there. Tell me a little bit about that story from childhood into career.
Beth: Well, I can back up until the New York story quickly because I assure you it never occurred to me that I would ever live and work in New York city, though. I need to say that my mother went to Columbia university in New York city in the fifties. So I grew up with this awareness of her grand adventure. And I think about this young woman from Harrisonburg, Virginia. Going to New York on the train or the bus sometimes, and having this amazing experience for her master's degree up there. New York city was something I heard about. The other thing I should share is that I, the new Yorker arrived in the household every week from childhood. You mentioned me being a mentor to you and a guide to you. But I also had that , in my career, you know, the gentleman I'm thinking of John McCarthy and he had the opportunity. And when I, when he first talked to me about it, I'm like, this is never going to happen. We're never going to come to New York city. But he played me beautifully. He knew how to persuade me. And so we packed up with my husband and my son. My son was a sixth grader. And we had this marvelous five-year adventure in New York city. I do think I laugh and say I never pictured living there, but certainly the fact that my mother had gone to school there, I think didn't make it quite as foreign as it might've been.
Raychel: I of course have visited New York, more out of being a tourist and I interviewed for my first job out of college in New York and asked myself so many questions about, do I think I could actually make it? I'm totally fine with the fact that I landed in Chicago. I'll be honest.
Beth: That's a good compromise.
Raychel: Tell me what work was like early in career for you, because you've had this amazing path and we'll talk about will being a chief human resource officer, but what was early in career like for you?
Beth: I graduated from college and I had a I actually did have an overseas adventure. I studied, Arabic actually in Jordan for a summer after college. I came back from that experience, and the way I like to tell it is I sort of lost the narrative of what was next. Like I was very befuddled. I did the thing, any smart person does. I called up a temp agency I had worked for and said, do you have an assignment for me?
I was a certified word processor. This ages me. There was a time when you could command a higher hourly rate if you are a certified word processor. They sent me to a company called James river corporation to do personnel filing. Some filing had gotten out of hand and they were very apologetic that they had to send me, but they promised me my higher hourly rate to go do this job.I got put at this desk. I was horrified, absolute chaos, all this backed up actual paper filing again. Revealing my age. I decided the way to solve this issue was to get this done as quickly as possible so I could go on to a different assignment at a different company worthy of a certified word processor. Well, what you and I both know now at this age is, if you do something super efficiently, they're not going to let you go. So that's what happened. That's how the career in HR got started. I thought the solution was, let me get this assignment done really quickly and get out of here. But that was a mistake.That's really it. That's honestly how it happened.
Raychel: I love it. So , before we keep going, I do want to know why Arabic, why did you decide to stay?
Beth: Oh, it's a great story. I was a history major because it was the only thing I could pass. Not that history is easy, but it just, I, I started out thinking I was going into pre-med. I was failing all the chemistry and math courses, but I got a B in the history class I took. I quickly pivoted. Never a fool. I quickly pivoted to where I could get a good grade and some of the best professors were more middle Eastern history. I thought I'll take a semester of Arabic so I can pronounce the consonance when I give reports again, that whole itchy, like overthinking the achievement thing, right? Like I need to pronounce the Arabic names properly. Let me just take a semester of Arabic so I can get this whole foreign language down.
Raychel: I love it.
Beth: It's actually a beautiful and poetic language. It's a complex language and I kind of fell in love with Arabic itself. So had this opportunity to go to Jordan and study. I didn't stick with it.
Raychel: That's really cool. It's interesting. Now that you look back on that and you even questioned some of those decisions, maybe that's why you and I have some really great conversations. I am such a people pleaser. I'm always looking to learn and grow and I have to stop myself and ask myself, am I doing this for me or for someone else?
Beth: Yes, this is a really good reason. Like to go down this whole path in college, just because I want to pronounce, you know, Muhammad with the right emphasis anyway. Yes.
Raychel: Yes. Interesting. Okay. So you were working this job in personnel which moved you into your HR career, tell me what happened next.
Beth: Yeah. So what happened was, this was a paper manufacturing company, the company long, longer exists, but its products do Dixie. Cups and plates Northern bathroom tissue Brawny paper towels. Those were all the products of that company. And it was a really great place to work. They didn't have typical human resources the way we think of it. It was mostly employee relations or what we think of today as centers of expertise. The HR work was primarily about labor relations which I didn't end up going down that path. I probably would have been terrible at it.
Anyway. So it was just one thing for another. I had a job in compensation. I did work in the retirement area. But throughout that started realizing there was this work of the generalist, which ultimately we now call human resources, business partner, and that led to the realization.I really wanted that opportunity somewhere to actually do that kind of work. Next job was because Walter got relocated and I was able to land a job that was a generalist job, but they were looking for some compensation expertise. So I got to learn the generalist role.
Raychel: I actually think that's the fun thing about human resources is that everybody has an HR team. You can really work with an incredible industries and with all types of people, which I have fallen in love with.
I would really consider you a master of strategy. It's no surprise to me that you have gotten into more of the HR side that leads into strategy, the HR business partner, previous to that, the generalist, a chief human resource officer. So before we get into kind of what that ladder looked like for you, I wonder, did you recognize a lack of diversity in HR or just in business in general? When you first got started, was it something that was obvious to you? Because by the time I met you, it was very clear. And you saw a space for women, people of color, and people with disabilities that was missing. Did you always recognize that?
Beth: I honestly don't think that I could take that credit. I will say, as a woman, I certainly paid attention to gender. I was aware and frankly, sometimes a little edgy about how women were viewed in the workplace and kind of what we put up with, you know? I don't think I had awareness of people of color. I will say I had a boss who was a man of color early in career, and I remember trying to go to a meeting with him somewhere, and this was in Richmond, Virginia, he commented like, is it okay that we're in a car together? I was like, yeah - Oh, Oh yeah - good question. I think we are. I think we're fine. But now that you say that, you know, maybe there are certain areas we should avoid. I think that was a sudden awakening moment for me, like he was having to think about that, but I hadn't processed it.
Raychel: Yeah. That's, that's interesting. And I think that's how it happens. Right? You know, there's some situation or experience that makes you go, Oh, like I didn't even know, I wasn't even paying attention to that. I asked that question because as you start to really kind of climb the ladder, and break the glass ceiling is I would say; were there moments where you felt like your gender unconsciously or consciously was in question? Were there moments you were going into that board room, that was maybe filled with men, that you checked how you looked more than you normally do?
Beth: Oh absolutely, absolutely. I was very conscious, especially during some of the early years. Especially at a place like James river that was more manufacturing and it was really more centers of expertise type of HR. There was a benefits person and a compensation person I'm trying to think. Even the head of HR, they were all men, none of those really key roles at that point in my career. I was very conscious. I went through being pregnant when I worked there. I mean, you know, you just don't feel good and you don't look good. You're just thinking, these guys are looking at me and they're just, you know, you're falling apart.
Raychel: Whether they are, or they aren't, you're thinking that.
Beth: Right. Absolutely. Yeah, absolutely. I think that stays with you. I mean, I know the experience, as a woman is completely different than being a person of color, but it does stay with you. You like, you can't stop checking the room.
Raychel: In the HR space, which we find is mostly women, we are in these spaces where it's just us, and then we go and meet with leadership or boards and it's the complete opposite. So it's always an interesting dynamic to go from room to room.
Beth: Right. but I would say the learning is to remember whoever is experiencing the otherness in the room. I've become very conscious of that, especially in my current HR team. it's almost all women I'm thinking about the faces on zoom at the moment. It's almost all, it's all white women. I think we need to be conscious of our male colleagues and how they feel in the mix.
Raychel: Absolutely. It is a little different, I mean being on your team previously and having one or two men in the room and some really dynamic women. Women who were out-spoken, vocal, and would just take the floor. You were bold and made sure that everyone got a space to kind of share, which was good. I do think that's what it's about. It's inclusion for everyone, not just specific groups.
Tell me about the journey to coming to Springfield. Why you decided to make that move to the Midwest? Did you truly know kind of that your career path was going to move you into that CHRO role? What was the decision making?
Beth: Yeah, I was in New York city. I was doing a kind of hybrid job for a company. I had both an HR business partner assignment, which included HR, which I loved being HR for HR, but also some kind of administrative pieces of the HR function.I really enjoyed that role again, the same mentor and former boss landed a job in Springfield. And again, when he called me, I'm like, yeah, no, Never not, no, no. I'm looking at the river. I'm looking at the Hudson river from my 15th floor office here in Manhattan. I'm not coming to Springfield, but you know, of course again, he convinced me.
Part of it was clear, coming to accompany the size of Horace Mann. I was going to get to run a couple of things in HR, and that was definitely appealing. We had been in the Midwest, my family, we'd been in St. Louis before New York city. We liked the Midwest, so we were happy to come back. That was a big part of it. What I always like to say is I wanted to be prepared to be CHRO.I didn't want becoming CHRO to feel like the end all and be all of life.
I'll say what I have learned about life is things don't happen the way they happen when people tell history or tell stories where things are like momentous, right? Like it's very clear - pack it up and leave New York city to go off to a job. And it's clear that will lead to becoming a CHRO. I mean, life is more incremental and kind of messy, kind of like the recent election.
Beth: It feels like it should be definitive. And then it just isn't. When they tell the story of, you know, the 2020 election, even five years from now, or 10 years from now, it will feel definitive. But for those of us living at it, hasn't felt that way.
Beth: You know, it's like, you gotta kind of have a little, something happens, fear and a little something happens here in a little something happens here. And it's only when it's kind of all over that you can look back and see that path. And I, I think, but I always wanted to be prepared. Like I wanted to be a viable candidate.
Raychel: I mean, it's clear, if anyone has worked with you at Horace Mann or just on any project that you definitely deserved that seat.
Beth: Thank you.
Raychel: Yeah. Absolutely. You had an incredible impact. I want to ask for those folks that might be listening and have a desire maybe to one day, get to sit in that seat.What was your favorite part sitting in the seat and maybe your least favorite?
Beth: I think the favorite part was the culmination of all of the study of human resources as a function and having an opportunity to lead a human resources team and to do right by that team. You know that felt really good because I really believe in what human resources does for an organization.It was truly an honor to be at that table with that group and just really smart people with dealing with interesting problems. And we dealt with some big, interesting business issues in the year. I was CHRO and that was very much a pleasure.
The things I didn't like the first one is about my ego. So I'll go ahead and be honest. Especially in the roles that I had had working on teams with John McCarthy, I had always been kind of a strong second, if that's fair to say, you know, he relied on me and gave me a lot of opportunity. And I took that very seriously. I probably, you know, self-imposed some pressure, but I took that very seriously and I really enjoyed that role. It was a bit different to be working for a CEO. It wouldn't have even been appropriate for me to aspire to being kind of the second. So that was, I'll be honest, a little bit of an ego blow, like, wait a minute. What's my role here?
Beth: I knew what my role was before. I like being part of a team where it's kind of messy and we're up to our elbows in it, and we're kind of solving day-to-day problems and working through it. I love the role I get to play now with the head of sales, for the same company, being a part of her leadership team and kind of oozing into some things beyond the HR business partner role. That sometimes feel a little bit more like business consulting or communications consulting. I do love business. So I love that. I think what I didn't like so much being CHRO is you really, are you got to manage your swim lane, right. And it's about your swim lane and you need to stay in your swim lane.
Raychel: I think that's really amazing that you say that because there were so many times that I walked into your office and you would say yes to some new diversity, equity and inclusion idea. But I think there was a bigger vision. You were really starting to think about the organization going out of those swim lanes. You really, you know, really wanted to kind of disrupt that.
Let's talk a little bit about New Years and if you are someone that plans out your year. Do you set goals? What is your strategy when it comes to a new 12 months that you get to master?
Beth: The truth of the matter is I'm not a fan of new year's resolutions. For some people it might work. For me, and I just need to be honest, the reason it doesn't work for me is I'm I rarely get something right the first time I try. So better for me personally, to just say, Oh, I want to start journaling - It's October 12th - I'm going to start journaling because I know I'm going to screw it up about three times, then maybe I'll get the hang of it, and then maybe I'll change my mind and decide that journaling is an important. I think it's better again, to go back to thinking about life and kind of like incremental improvements are incremental steps. If new year's works for you, by all means leverage it. I won't be making any new year's resolutions this year, but I applaud those who are.
Raychel: I think self-awareness is key because I am someone that also does not make new year's resolutions. It just leads to disappointment and I will be much harder on myself than I need to be.
Beth: You know what? That's a really good way to take the pain off, right? Don't set yourself up for that. I will tell you as a devoted, as you know, I'm a devoted a yoga practitioner and I miss going to the yoga studio. That will be one thing I'll be very happy when the pandemic is over. But I will say this, we love seeing you guys, the month of January, you know, come on in, join us for yoga class. We know you're not going to be here in February and it's okay. That's fine. Just fine.
Raychel: Ha Yes, absolutely. Absolutely. I can't tell you the number of gym contracts that I have fallen trap to. So I'm definitely have been in that group and I've quit that. Right. So now I sign up mid year now and maybe just lose out on six months instead as well.
Beth: Yeah, no big deal.
Raychel: You, you said earlier the quick pivot, that is what I'm learning now. That when I try something new, when I see things not going, right, I'm like okay, time to quick pivot into maybe something that is a better fit.
Beth: And actually yoga teaches you with that a lot too. I love the practice of yoga, cause it's like, well, that's not working for me that particular pose that way. So I can try it this way or that way. And you know, my other favorite yoga quote from my wonderful instructor there in Springfield, is that poses over.
Raychel: I like that.
Beth: Yeah. I use it at work. I'm surprised maybe it was after you had moved on, but I used that a lot at that table. Like, all right, guys, that poses over. We're moving forward. You can't redo that one.
Raychel: Oh, that's good. That's good. I like it. Okay. So let's talk about a freedom moment. So a moment where you've been able to authentically show up as yourself. Almost in a way that maybe felt even surprising. Have you had a recent freedom moment or one that you can remember?
Beth: I think the move to say, I want to step away from the CHRO job. I mean, it's the obvious because it wasn't easy. I had worked hard to be prepared. I had been given that marvelous opportunity. It's a very impressive team. To walk away from that was truly a freedom moment. And it took months of screwing up my courage, conversations with my husband. Like, what does this look like? How is it going to happen?
It felt so good to have that conversation with my boss, the CEO at the time. She just immediately leaned in and said, well, let's make this work. It's a lovely bit of support. Maybe she could have argued with me a little bit, like please stay Beth. It's okay. It's fine. It's fine. It's all good. I mean she knew my story. She knew how much family meant to me, so it's not at all surprising. I'm doing the job I feel like I'm perfectly wired to do. I thought it would be hard to say, not be able to say I'm CHRO anymore, and that hasn't been hard. I think part of that is because I'm so excited about who our current CHRO is. She was my peer before I helped hire her. It's awesome to have somebody that you felt so good about as a peer now be your boss. It just works out great. It does. so that part makes it all good.
And I'm home though. I have to admit it's been a weird re-entry because of COVID right. We're not with family.We're not with family the way we thought we would be. It'll be over.
Raychel: I love that. That is your freedom moment because who would have known. That would feel that the way that it did. But I think I love that you mentioned your predecessor taking over because she is amazing. I think there were a lot of ways that you guys worked well together. Just provided insight and support for one another. It did seem like it made so much sense when that transition happened and it seemed so easy. I really feel like that's how it should be. I feel very, very spoiled because there were so many moments where I got to experience that and I'm like, Oh yes, this is how it's supposed to work.
Beth: I do want to see if I can put in this plug. I do think this is how work should be, right? Work should not be a journey along a step up path and you reach a certain place and then you can't go any higher, but you can't go back.
So I love this idea of, I don't actually ride bikes, but my brother has described this to me that, when you ride in a group, you take turns being in the lead. And you let that person set the pace, but then that person falls back and rests and someone else takes the lead. And there's this interaction as you're signaling to each other about, holes in the road and cars ahead and cars behind. I mean, I, again, I don't know all these things, but he's described it. And wouldn't it be lovely if we could truly accept that in the work world and we could take roles, then we could step back, and then we could step in again and people's egos, don't get all caught up in, but I can't, not be at such and such a level because I've reached that at this point.
Raychel: What a great example.
Beth: I hope that we're sort of role modeling that like it's all, okay, this can happen.
Raychel: I hope so too. Believe it or not, I think people don't realize HR is constantly changing too. I mean, there's the more and more data we're getting into, which I love that side of it. Seeing more of that is exciting. And you do, you have to kind of keep up.
Did you celebrate and do you celebrate when you have a freedom moment?
Beth: I know we talked about this earlier, so I'm just going to confess to your listeners that the embarrassing thing, when you asked this question to me was I realized, I don't know what's wrong with me. Like something's missing. I don't think to celebrate. This has got to be tied to that achievement oriented thing. Right? Like the minute I get it - I'm like, okay, whatever, got it - But what's the next thing I got to do. I mean, I don't even, I didn't think of that as a problem. So thank you for this insight.
Raychel: I'm excited that you got to be on the podcast today. I can't wait for people to listen, and if people want to get to know you, Beth, do you have any social media platforms that you encourage people to follow you on?
Beth: I am on LinkedIn. I'm Beth Moore on LinkedIn. I would encourage people to find me there. I'll be happy to join you. Maybe put in the note that you heard me on the podcast.
Raychel: So for all of those that want to get to know you and pick your brain, they can definitely go and follow you on LinkedIn. Awesome. Thanks so much, Beth. I appreciate your time.
Beth: Thank you, Raychel.