52. HR Lessons From Meghan Markle w/ Robin Schooling
VP of technology consulting at Cielo
When HR professionals meet with negativity from all sides, it can be hard to imagine a happy ending. But Meghan Markle, member of the British royal family, is living proof that even when life doesn’t feel like a fairy tale, HR professionals and duchesses alike can still succeed. This week I sat down with Robin Schooling, VP of technology consulting at Cielo and co-host of the DriveThru HR podcast, to learn how HR practitioners can follow Markle’s example and make the best of opposition.
During our discussion, we talked about:
- How Meghan Markle is like an HR professional
- Staying aware of what’s going on in the world
- What it means to be the person who’s signed up for a hard job
- Why we should deliberately oppose racism and misogyny
- The importance of living by your personal values
- How to prove the HR haters wrong
- Making a difference within your own sphere of influence
Episode 52 Transcript
You’re listening to HR Mavericks, a weekly podcast, featuring leading small business HR professionals who share their experiences and insights to help you know how to turn your HR processes and employee experience into a strategic business advantage. Let’s get into the show.
Welcome to the next episode of HR Mavericks. I’m Garrett justice. And today I’m joined by. A very special guest. My friend, Robin schooling, who is the VP of technology consulting at CLO and also a cohost of the drive through HR podcast. Robin, how are you doing today,
Garrett? I am doing fabulous. I’m you know, or, or just past the first day of summer here. So I’m sweating, but I love it. That’s good. It’s a good, good to change, right? That’s right. we love it.
Well, Robin, we are super excited to have you on the show today. I know you just bring with you a wealth of knowledge. You know, you’re a, self-proclaimed HR provocateur, and we’re super excited to dive into this topic today, but you know, for our listeners who might not know you yet, tell us a little bit more about your background and what you do.
Yeah, well, I I know, right? It’s, it’s kind of fun when you call yourself whatever you want sometimes. But I, you know, really I’m, I’m a lifelong HR and recruiting practitioner and no matter, no matter what my job may be, at the core, that’s what I am. And I’ve worked in industries, ranging from banking to higher education to healthcare, to casinos and, and other gaming entities. I’ve worked with companies you know, with less than a hundred employees and companies with thousands and tens of thousands employees. So I’ve, I’ve really sort of run the gamut, I guess. Mm-hmm and you know, as you mentioned, my, my current role We were recently acquired, which was quite exciting.
My current role is as VP of technology consulting at, at CLO. And we’re a, a leader in global acquisition global talent acquisition. And in, in fact, the purpose of the company, which I just absolutely Love. And it speaks to me is to illuminate talent, wherever it’s found mm-hmm . And so that focus really on, on, on talent acquisition but all the way through then retention and, and what’s the experience we create for people.
And so the company works in our RPO talent brand and digital and then my area of the. Technology consulting and it’s, you know, it’s it, it’s, it’s a great sort of focus that we have very future forward looking at innovation and inventing and originating and things like that. So quite exciting.
I’m also a, a longtime HR blogger. And as you mentioned cohost of DriveThruHR running since 2010, 1 of the longest running HR podcast. Before we even called it a podcast. Yeah. And you know, so I’m not strictly embedded in kind of, you know, day to day HR as I was not that long ago, but still keep my hand in and, and get to talk to clients and, and, and meet and greet and talk to people and yeah.
And discuss HR with all sorts of folks, which is really. My, my favorite part of anything. Anyway,
that’s so great. And we are super excited to have you on the show. Like I said, I know you bring this wealth of HR experience and knowledge with you. And so we’re super excited to tap into that before we kind of jump into our topic today, though.
One of the questions I really like to ask a lot of our guests is what drew you to the field of HR. And, and part two of that question is what’s really kept you in the field of HR.
Mm-hmm . I am, I’m one of those people who fell into it accidentally once upon a time as quite a lot of us do. I think I, I started many years ago and a staff, I walked into a staffing agency and you know, I was kind of fresh outta school, had really not a whole lot of work experience and went to the staffing agency to see if they could help place in a position. And I ended up being hired by the agency and so started working at the agency. And that’s how I got into recruiting. Then went into a corporate HR department and started in corporate recruiting and then just went off in, into HR generalist roles and HR director, VP roles, ultimately as time went on and I’ve never left.
I, I, I have found it to be well, I’ve had my moments where I thought about leaving. I, I just find, especially when I look back at how HR as a profession has progressed still a lot of work to be done. But you know, we are the engine. That when we’re running efficiently, effectively, and we are on all cylinders, we are just integral to the success of the business because it it’s the people that make the business successful.
Yeah. And so when we find a way to connect what we do and connect our individual employees to. Goals and aspirations of our organization. We’re, we’re driving that success. Even with the most mundane things we do The tasks that we do, we can find a way to make that exciting and integral to the business and the success of the business.
Yeah, I totally agree. I’m so glad you brought that up because I think it’s, it’s easy sometimes, especially in a small business to lose sight of that role. That again, that people are, especially in today’s changing world, people are the reasons why businesses win, why they can build healthy enduring businesses.
And when you can get that people stuff, right. And really focus on that as a strategic advantage and a strategy strategic part of your business. That’s that’s when you’re successful. It’s like you said, it’s, it’s sometimes it’s hard. Well, it’s easy to forget that and you know, in the moment, day to day, but when you can zoom and look at that and remember that focus on that, whether you’re a business leader or a, you know, small business HR person or someone.
That’s really the goal of all of this. So I’m so glad you brought that up. Mm-hmm mm-hmm so good. Well, Robin, excuse me, I’m losing my voice a little bit here, but you throughout this topic today that I’m super excited for. It’s a, it’s a non-traditional topic and that’s what I love about it. It’s unique.
And I think it is, you know, a hundred percent you. Wrapped up in this topic today. So you kind of threw out this topic of, okay. We have the Royal family and we have Megan Markle or Megan, the Duches of susex. Was that, was that her former title or is, does she still retain that title? That, that is her current title.
Okay. She is still the Duches of susex. Okay. So we’re gonna talk today about how Megan mark and, you know, the Royal family reminds you of working in HR. Is that right? That’s right. I love it. That’s right. So you are a huge Royal family fan. Tell us a little bit more about that before we jump into this topic in more detail.
Yeah. You know I, I admit it I’m, I’m an unabashed. Lover of all things, Royal family British Royal family is especially I’ve, I’ve read lots and lots of books over the years and watched documentaries and movies and you know, TV shows about, you know, the tutors and queen Elizabeth the first and queen Victoria, et cetera, et cetera.
I’m old enough that I watched Charles and dye’s wedding mm-hmm and of course I got up at 2:00 AM or whatever it was to watch will and Kate and naturally watched Harry and Megan get married. Mm-hmm and, you know, I think it’s this, it’s this uniquely American thing that my friends. In you know, in the UK don’t quite get sometimes.
But it it’s really strange that in America while we don’t want to live in a Mon in a monarchy necessarily. But you know, there are some of us who who love. You know, sort of the fairytale aspect of it. It’s sure it’s like this, this real it’s history mm-hmm , which is fascinating to me, but it’s also this sort of real life Disney movie.
Yeah. You know, rolled up there’s carriages and tiaras and, and, you know, Curting and things like that. And, you know, there’s, there’s these sort of sexist overtones to it that make me cringe mm-hmm and there’s you know, Remnants of colonialism that, that make my skin crawl. But you know, I still, I get sucked in there’s something about the, the pump and, and the, the historical continuity.
Yeah. That, that get to me. And you can bet I consumed all that I could around the Royal Jubilee a few weeks ago as well. Yeah. I love it. I think, I think you’re not alone. There are so many. Of us who are in that same boat, you know, and I think you’re absolutely right. It’s that fairytale aspect of it.
I mean, I have, I have two young daughters who dress love playing dress up every day and pretending that their princess is, and, and so I get it. Yeah. You know, that’s what they that’s, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s a real life fairytale there. So what I’m, what I’m really curious about is you are saying that, you know, Megan, the Duches of Sussex.
Can help us learn lessons about mm-hmm working in HR. So that’s what I’m really curious about. So let’s dive into that. Yes. Talk a little bit more about that. Yes. Well, you know, first of all, I strongly strongly believe that one of our key responsibilities as HR professionals is to continuously scan the environment.
And so I always, I always kind of revert back to the, to the pest model sometimes pestle, but pest is a shorter version, you know? So, so we have an obligation. I, I believe when we work in HR to be plugged in continuously to what’s happening in politics, in the economy, in, you know, social aspects of the world technology.
And you know, it’s never enough for us to just, you know, merely pay attention to, oh, here’s this new HR legislation. Coming down the road. Right. But we also have to pay attention and, and stay on top of, you know, local, national, global politics, emerging technology, and, and part of that. Environment that we need to look at that we often forget, or we don’t think about how it relates back to what we do is to pay attention to sort of social movements things that are happening in pop culture.
Yeah, quite frankly. And, and it’s where we see trends that will find their way into the world of. Hm. And we’ll find their way into our, our particular workplaces and, and it it’s paying attention to things that happen with, you know you know, the Kardashians or Beyonce or whatever. And Megan Markle is this perfect sort of Petri dish for us to look at for, for social and cultural activities.
And, and, and when I think about the things that. Can learn from her. There are multiple ones, I think first she signed up for a hard job. Everyone thinks it’s sexy and glamorous and you know, there’s wealth and there’s castles and there’s Frogmore cottage and whatever. Yeah. But it is a job mm-hmm and it is a hard.
Always on camera, job. Mm-hmm and she’s been treated very differently. Mm-hmm when you go down the rabbit holes that I’ve gone down she’s been treated very differently in her time with the Royal family from how Kate, the Duches of Cambridge has been treated. And all you have to kind of do, if you wanna go to those rabbit holes, is look at, especially over time the headlines and the treatment, especially in the British Tablo.
Of, of how things, for example, their pregnancies were treated very differently. Mm-hmm and so it’s sort of, okay, she’s part of it, but she’s not, it’s kind of like when we work in HR, well, we’re part of the organization. But sometimes we’re treated a little bit differently, even though we’re within the organization.
Another aspect that I think reflects back in into HR is the realization that she has undoubtedly. Suffered from outright racism and and misogyny. And, you know, again, I’ve, I’ve kind of gone to a lot of these rabbit holes, but she has been called some just, you know, absurdly vile things merely for existence.
Yeah. And it, it, that, you know, sadly correlates very much to the work that we do in HR. You know, we live in a, in a world and, and in the us and a country that you know, we’re subjected to folks that are, are fellow citizens, you know, where racist ideologies and actions surround us yeah. Every day.
And it’s a reality mm-hmm and it’s incumbent upon. As HR professionals, especially those of us who are white HR professionals. And aren’t living that to educate ourselves to confront some truths and, and to have those uncomfortable and challenging conversations. And, and we need to confront those sort of ugly aspects of, of our history and of racism head.
Yeah, with our employees or our managers or our leaders and, and we need to bring our knowledge and our understanding. And, and I’m not talking from a compliance standpoint, cuz that’s kind of the easy, easy way out mm-hmm but from a place of, of history and humanity, And, and, and personal integrity. Yeah.
And you know, and I think the, really the final lesson from Megan, it’s lots of lessons. I think one of the final lessons is Is maintaining one’s professionalism, but still being uniquely human and, and, and fighting the power and calling attention to things that are wrong or things that need to be changed.
And also living by. One’s own personal values. Mm-hmm and striving to do good. Even when others are loath to call what you do. Good. So, so good. I I’m, I I’m getting it. I’m seeing the vision here of how these connect for sure. And I think you’re absolutely right. I, I love that you kind of started by framing that by saying, you know, especially in HR, we need to be mindful of what’s happening in the world and in pop culture.
And I think that’s true. Mm-hmm you know, at any company at any size. That if you are in HR, you need to be mindful of that because the world is constantly changing. There’s a lot of lessons that you can learn from that, you know pop culture, that public sphere what’s happening in the world that will eventually bleed into, you know, the workplace.
And so I, I love the, those lessons that you shared there and I’m, I’m gonna take a stab here, Robin. You tell me how off I am, but I’m gonna try and add one more in there. OK. Kinda thought of a lesson. Megan. And, and Harry also, you, you kind of started by talking about how she had signed up for a hard job, right?
Mm-hmm and what’s interesting is, you know, I I’m, I’m not the expert that you are on all of this. Right. But from my perspective, you know, eventually that job became too much and the quote, unquote, employee experience. For them, maybe wasn’t there being part of the Royal family. And so they kind of made a hard decision to remove themselves to some extent mm-hmm from that hard job because the organization of the Royal family didn’t focus enough on improving that employee experience.
And it’s so it’s so similar to what we’re seeing today. With the quote unquote great resignation and everything else, whether it’s you, you don’t treat your HR people with enough respect, and don’t see HR as a strategic function, but more of an administrative function, or whether it’s for your employees.
If you don’t create the experience that they want and need in their work environment, ultimately. They’re gonna leave, even if at the beginning they thought it was this like fairytale story, right? Yeah. Yeah. I think you’re spot on with that assessment and, and, and here’s a little tidbit that really thrives at home as well.
The the firm, of course, that’s what they Royal a family internally call, call, see themselves as a business. They call themselves the firm. And it is, it is a business it’s huge, obviously. Right? So Buckingham, palace and, or the, you know, greater Royal family they have an HR department mm-hmm cause of course they have employees.
And so it. It came out several, you know, years ago. I can’t remember over the pandemic timing of things that when, when Megan first arrived there might have been pre-wedding or shortly after the wedding. She was having some challenges mm-hmm with coworkers let’s, let’s say that’s what it was.
And she went to the internal a according to her and Harry, she went to the internal HR department and did not get the support that. From sort of a mental health, sort of a wellbeing standpoint that, that they felt she should have received from that HR department. And so it’s sort of been under the radar and now this week over the last week or so there’s all these headlines in the tabloids kind of resurfacing it and you know, trying to.
In some respects downplayed again, again, I think I’m a Megan, I’m a Megan and Harry fan. So I can say that but it’s, you know, it is a, it is a job with an actual HR department. Yeah. You’re absolutely right. So interesting. So I wanna go back to something that you said previously, and you kind of talked a little bit about, you know, these, these strong non fans that yeah.
That Megan and Perry have had, you know, In the kind of public sphere and You, you, you kind of hinted at this a little bit, but you think that there are probably some takeaways from this mm-hmm , especially if you work in HR too. Tell us a little bit more about that. Yeah. You know, again, AB absolutely because you know, here’s the reality and that is that most people hate to say this.
You know when we’re, when we know we’re HR Mavericks, but most people don’t like HR mm-hmm they don’t, I mean, and, and we know it for whatever reason. You know, the average employee sometimes wonder exactly what we do all day mm-hmm . You know, they, they think we’re making decisions and, and issuing edicts you know at a whim or something, they don’t understand how the sausage is made, if you will.
Mm-hmm . And sometimes, you know, business owners and CEOs and, and managers you know, see us as an, as an obstacle. Yeah. As opposed to a partner and, you know, they’d rather walk across broken glass than, than come down into our, you know, sacred HR department. Mm-hmm and you know, there’s so there’s these internal naysayers.
That we run into in our companies much like Megan and har have had to battle with those palace insiders and mm-hmm and even her own family for heaven’s sakes. Yeah. And then there are also the external folks who are not fans of HR. Or our particular delivery of HR you know, all you have to do is check a, you know, Reddit message boards or, or go to Google and write, you know, type in search HR socks or something.
And, and you’ll see all kinds of things. And you know, the lesson here is that yes, there will always be haters mm-hmm so all we can do. As, as HR practitioners, as HR leaders is do our best work mm-hmm and be our best selves. Love it. Yeah. That’s perfect. I think you’re absolutely right. And you know, it is something that HR is seen as, you know, the red tape people and maybe not in the best light at many organizations.
It is something that is true. And. We’re trying to actively change. Right. You know, without going on a rabbit hole too far. Why I wanna dive into that just a little bit deeper. Why, why do you think that is? What is it about HR that brings that like perspective from either internal or external critics? I think, you know, I think there are, there are numerous sort of factors and variables that go into that.
And sure. Sometimes it’s as simple as what someone has previously experienced. Mm-hmm we hire someone into our organization. That is coming from another entity where HR was, you know, the, the rules police and the yeah. The stop gap and, and, and seen, and truly, maybe perhaps was a group or a function that was seen as ineffective in Payroll was always wrong, whatever mm-hmm . And so we, we have somebody new join our organization and we have to overcome what they’ve experienced before. Right. And, and so that I think is a lot of what we run into and that unfortunately keeps sort of this perpetual cycle going into independent of the bad press that sometimes HR may get again, you know, some boneheaded move that.
you know, giant corporation over here did handling a harassment case or whatever. Right. That makes news. Sure. So we’re painted with that brush as well, but I think as individual HR leaders or practitioners in our organizations, the best we can do is. Is focus on creating a great HR function, an HR experience that, that takes care of the business mm-hmm and all those things we have to do.
Right. Because we’re never gonna get away from there’s a stuff. People are never gonna know what we’re doing or why we’re doing it, but we know, right. Oh, it’s compliance. ACA, whatever. Yeah. But then simultaneously never lose sight of that. We are. Influencing how people think about HR overall. Yeah.
And, and those little moments that matter in, in Bob, in accountings, you know, five year tenure with us, those little moments that matter if Bob can leave my company and go somewhere else and say, man, I had a great HR experience at, you know, ABC insurance company. Yeah. I I’ve I’ve I I’ve changed one person’s outlook.
Yeah. Of what HR can look like. Yeah, I think you’re absolutely right. And I love how you just described that to me, what it really comes down to is man, it’s, it’s a hard challenge for HR people to change perceptions internally. And externally a lot of times. Yeah, it’s easier. To default to HR, just being an administrative function rather than a strategic function, it’s easier to focus most the majority of your time, just on compliance instead of, you know, building culture and employee improving employee experience.
And when others maybe come with that perception that that’s all that HR does. It’s easier to default to that. And I think right here, you’re saying is, you know, to change that perception, you can’t lose sight of. Yeah. There is some compliance aspect that’s inherent in HR, but the bigger picture again, is building a workplace where people can thrive.
Right. Yes. And there’s so many other things involved in that besides just compliance because when you can build, you know, a workplace where people can thrive, that’s where the business ultimately thrives. Right? Exactly where people and the business thrives together. And that’s ultimately the goal of, you know, in my opinion, at least of HR.
And so it’s a hard challenge, but I, I completely agree. That’s the only way that you’re gonna change perception. Business leaders to be seen as a strategic partner. Mm-hmm right. Mm-hmm and of employees to know that, you know, HR has your back and they’re helping to make a better workplace for you as a, as an employee.
Right. Absolutely so good. So good. So, you know, Robin, you started this off talking just a little bit more about this fairytale and why we’re all intrigued by the Royal family with this fairytale. And so to kind of bring this home, do you think that there can be this fairytale ending for Megan and also for, you know, HR people.
I do. And, and, you know, maybe, maybe I’m a hopeless romantic, I don’t know. I don’t know a hopeless romantic and then optimist. But abs I do, I truly do. I think you know, much is what I see Megan doing. When we work in HR, we can do similar things and that is to live by your personal. Code of values.
We, we know what drives her for what, what we’ve seen, right. She’s driven by social justice issues and, and women’s issues. And, you know, she’s very consistent in, in sort of this footprint that she’s left throughout her life. So it’s living by your personal sort of code of values. It’s delivering the best.
HR service that you can for your organization, whatever world you are living in, do your best work. Be true to yourself, do your best work. It’s, it’s being a shining example of what great, great HR can look like. As we were really just talking about and sort of creating that new vision mm-hmm of what, what HR can be and, and part of that quite often Requires that we reinvent what the role of HR means much as Megan has redefined what it means to be a Duches.
Yeah. It’s it’s reinvention, it’s rethinking. And so we in HR. May not have this huge global platform or the sphere of influence that the Dutch fish of Sussex has, but we, we do have opportunities. We do have a sphere of influence and we have the opportunity to change the world as well, or our corridor of it.
And I, I think that that’s. There’s the fairy tale update. We can do that. We can affect change. I totally agree if there’s anyone in an organization that can affect more organizational change, it’s probably HR, right. That probably more than anyone else in an organization is what I’m trying to say. And I, and I, I really like that.
You talked about how, you know, Megan has her her values, her things that she. Stands for that. She feels are important. And I think that it’s really important for, you know, all employees, but especially HR to understand what value they bring and what they stand for. And what’s important to them. And then to bring that to the organizations that they’re working in and help.
Align their values with the organization’s values and hopefully change perceptions. And ultimately if the organization is not ready to do that, and there’s misalignment, then ultimately finding an organization that has similar values to that HR person, and that’s where they’re gonna impact the most change and have the biggest impact is that.
Absolutely. Yeah. Good. Well, Robin, this has been such a great conversation. I love, I love the creative, you know, topic here, and I totally think that there are some, some great takeaways from this as we kind of wrap up here. I’m curious if you wouldn’t mind summarizing for some of our listeners. Just a couple of the takeaways you think were brought up in this conversation today, about what can HR take away and learn from, you know, the Royal family and Megan Markle specifically.
Yeah, I think it’s I think some of the key takeaways are pay attention to some of this stuff and it may seem fluffy and the Royal family may not be your thing. But it’s representative of What I think drives great, great HR. And that is again doing those environmental scans, staying aware of what is happening out in the world.
Mm-hmm in another state, in another country you know, global changes, whatever, and, and understanding how those. How those, those things or those trends impact you and your organization and your employees, even though you may not think about it. So I think that’s, that’s probably a key takeaway.
We we must, we must. Read and consume and be aware of things beyond, okay. This new, you know F M L a change is coming or whatever it may be. Mm-hmm . So that’s our responsibility for us in HRS is to do that. I think the other key takeaway is is don’t let the And it’s hard cuz we’re humans, but don’t let, don’t let the haters get you down.
Yeah. And it’s, you know, we, we have a tough job just as Megan has or had and you know, it takes, it takes some, some, some thick skin and it takes the ability to sort of reer yourself and think about what am I here to accomplish? What do I believe? What do I stand for? What do I want to accomplish and where, and to your point, you know, where’s the best place for me to do that?
Is it within, in this case, within the Royal family, or is it by stepping away or is it within this organization or is it stepping away? I still wanna do HR. I love HR. Am I affecting the change that I want to. Yeah. And if not, I may need to step away. Awesome. So good Robin, thank you again so much for taking the time to, to join this podcast today and share your thoughts with us as we kind of wrap up here.
One of the questions I really like to ask, all of our guests is just, what’s one recommendation. One tip that you think our listeners should do this week. To help improve their HR or people functions at their organiz. I’m gonna build off our conversation. with my tip mm-hmm . And, and this is less a, this is not a HR task or an operational, or even a department functional effectiveness thing.
It’s, it’s much more inward and, and, and personal looking and little exercise. I always. I always promote to, to HR professionals and, and colleagues that they should create a personal HR manifesto. And, and we think of manifesto sometimes as a bad word cuz of how we see it affiliated with mm-hmm things mm-hmm but it’s but, but it’s really a very positive and powerful word because it creating a manifesto, a personal manifesto, outlines the beliefs That you hold it’s it’s this public declaration, maybe public, you might keep it private, but it can be a public DEC declaration of of intentions and motives and views.
It, it, it outlines how you operate as a human being, but also as a. As a person working in HR and it helps create the future. So it’s not necess, it’s not necessarily strategy, but having a manifesto will help inform your strategy will help inform if you come in as an HR leader a personal manifesto will guide how you operate and.
Guide how you create your department mission statement. Yeah. For example, it’s different, but cuz it’s very personal. And so it’s thinking about what are your operating principles? What are your beliefs? And, and what do you wanna change? Either within the HR profession or, or in the world if you think big.
And so I, I have a, my manifesto created a number of years ago, but I tweak it. You know, every now and again, and, and gently tweak it over over time. And, you know, I kind of have these five guiding principles that have long, long guided how I’ve led my HR teams and how I’ve led within an organization.
And so that’s my. It’s my tip. Think about creating a personal manifesto and if anyone wants to see mine or says, what in the world do you mean? They can reach out and I’m more than happy to share. I love it. I, I don’t even work in HR, but I’m gonna go do that this week too. I, I think it’s a great, great idea.
So, well, last question then, Robin, if there are people who wanna get in contact with you, they have follow up questions on anything we talked about today. What’s the best way for them to do that. It is very easy quite frankly to just Google me and you can find me I’m all over the place. Online mm-hmm certainly LinkedIn Twitter probably the two easiest quickest reachouts.
You can find me on my blog, Robin schooling.com and connect with me through there as well. Awesome. Well, Robin, thank you again so much for taking the time to share some of your thoughts with us today. Hope you have a great rest of the day and you can stay cool in that warm weather. Yes. Thank you, Garrett.
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