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Director, HR customer service, Union Pacific Railroad
After working with the Springfield, Mo., Public School District for 11 years, Parker McKenna recently switched tracks to join the Union Pacific Railroad in Omaha, Neb.
“Organizations are only as good as the talent of their workforce will allow them to be, and, ultimately, every organization succeeds or fails because of its people,” he says.
When it comes to his involvement with the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), McKenna has been going full throttle. He is a member of SHRM’s Special Expertise Panel on HR disciplines. He previously served on SHRM’s Missouri State Council and was president of the
Springfield, Mo., chapter in 2013. He has also been a member of SHRM’s national advisory team, shaping its young professionals initiative.
What is your greatest accomplishment to date?
When I was at the school district, I helped to transition HR from a transactional role to a strategic partner, adding value to its mission. The school district’s strategic plan now includes three focus areas, and one of those is all about the people and HR’s impact on the organization.
What is your work philosophy?
To be effective, I can’t be seen as “the HR guy.” I need to be viewed as a leader who focuses on talent first and HR second. In other words, I only advocate for the things I believe are in the best interest of the organization as a whole. Sometimes that means HR must take a back seat to another priority. I’ve found that taking this approach has reduced the stigma that can sometimes come with being an HR leader.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Nothing in life is more important than relationships. In the world of HR, it’s easy to tell yourself that the pace of the work won’t allow time to get to know other people or that you have to keep your distance to be effective. I believe that strong relationships build trust. If we start with a human connection, most challenges can be overcome.
Photograph by Sara Rogers for HR Magazine
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