Rebranding Human Resources into Workforce Empowerment with Tiffany David

Welcome to People First, Profits Follow. This is the place where we really talk about how people strategies are the lifeblood of your company and why if we focus on people strategies we can really uplevel the game in business with greater results, greater profits, greater productivity and most importantly greater individual fulfillment and satisfaction in the workplace.

Today, we are really excited to have Tiffany David, a personal friend as well as a colleague, be our guest. She is the Principal and Chief People Person with Total People Management based in San Diego. Tiffany is an experienced entrepreneur and culture enthusiast. She brings decades of practical HR to organizations that want to do more than just survive the legal landscape. As a senior leader, Tiffany has developed processes and policies for the state of California, for multi-state, for global organizations to really optimize their workforce and thrive in today’s markets. She’s got over 25 years of leading teams and technology startups and construction and biotechnology and utilities, advertising. There’s a really varied balanced voice that she brings to change management organizational development. I’m so happy to have her here. Most importantly, at the end of the day what she really brings is a human touch, which is really what, at the end of the day, we’re missing in business.

Rebranding Human Resources into Workforce Empowerment with Tiffany David

Tiffany, I’m really excited to have you here today.

Thank you so much. I’m glad to be here, Hollie. Thanks.

It is such a pleasure. Our topic today is rebranding in HR. How do we change the perception of HR and the culture of HR that it adds more value in the workplace? I’d really like to hear what you have to say about that. Let’s start with that at a broad umbrella and set the stage for your positioning on how to rebrand HR?

I think it might be a good place to start to talk about why do we even want to rebrand HR? There’s been a lot of buzz around the HR world of people changing titles. Some people roll their eyes and think, “It’s just semantics and we don’t need to get crazy with our titles,” which I would agree with. If we’re really trying to change the substance behind people and culture leadership within organizations, then that’s a good reason for having this rebranding effort. That’s really the motivation behind it. I think it’s time. I think we’ve come from a place, Hollie, where we used to have the Personnel Department that actually before then came from the administrative assistance. It was very much of a paper processing function.

PFPF 02: Workforce Empowerment

I think it’s time that we go beyond this moniker of Human Resources and we start talking about workforce empowerment.

Now, we have emerged to be beyond the paper. There is still that and it’s still good to know that we have this foundation of paperwork because in HR if it’s not in black and white, it didn’t happen. Really what we’re seeing is this need, this impetus for change and that we are talking about the work relationship and how important that’s become to continue to be competitive on all landscapes, globally and so on. In order to have the paradigm shift to think about people and culture professionals in a different way, I think it’s time that we go beyond this moniker of Human Resources and we start talking about workforce empowerment. The acronym is great. Would you agree, WE?

I love WE, workforce empowerment and how do we make it about people and WE and make it inclusive because very often HR can have the perception of being not there for the employee. It’s there to protect the company versus the employee and how this workforce empowerment maybe shift that paradigm.

I think that’s a great thing that you’re bringing up a good point because we want to get people away from the toxic baggage that they may have had before with HR being on the corporate side and not really being an advocate or standing up for the right thing to do for the employees. By changing the title to workforce empowerment, we’re talking about how do we get a win-win? If this is truly what the employment relationship goal is, which I believe that it is, corporation hire people to contribute to their success and in exchange we give them a paycheck and much more. If we want this to be a win-win on both sides then we have to start thinking strategically about how do we keep workers engaged and how do we empower them to do the jobs that we’re paying them to do? Just by the nature of it, by empowering the workforce, I think people will start looking at people professionals in a different way.

If I’m new to an organization or I’ve been in an existing organization, I’m leading HR and I want to develop a new workforce empowerment strategy, what does that look like? Where does it begin?

I think that it really begins knowing the business and knowing the landscape. Traditional business practices of beating out the competition and squashing creativity and just making sure that people do their jobs within the square box that we assign them has really become yesterday’s news. Because of the way businesses need to compete today, we need to be much more fluid in how we define roles. What I mean by that is we’re starting to see a trend towards people contributing on project basis, and that means a contingent workforce, that means a bench of workers who may come in and work very hard on a project, it could be six months, it could be six years. Then they are graded or given feedback on how well they performed in that project.

If I could just expand on that, we’re starting to see that people want to grow sideways. It’s more important for a person to have full holistic business knowledge than to be a specialist for a certain number of years. In a project basis, they would learn other contributors’ roles as well. To answer your question, if we’re looking at an organization that is forward thinking and wanting to have a workforce that’s empowered, you’re going to see a lot of cross-training initiatives. You’re going to see a lot of promoting from within. You’re going to see very much of this grassroots movement to drive initiatives and sharing of decision-making, if you will. All of those things are very important.

If I’m a leader in an organization, if I’m the functional role, how do I actually shift in HR as coming in and sharing this new strategy? Are functional leaders open to this new approach where we’re looking at a more cross-functional, cross-training, where we’re not putting people in a box? What does that mean to the manager and how they work with HR or how they need to work with their teams?

I think that managers see the value of having workers who understand the business. I often sometimes will work with leadership teams, and I’m sure you have as well, who complain that, “How can they be so narrow-minded? How could they only have tunnel vision for their department or their team and not see beyond to the larger objective?” When we’re talking about growing people sideways and job enhancement, career enhancement, it’s absolutely to the benefit of the leadership team and to the management of the organization as a whole to have people who understand and can contribute in creative ways just because they know.

For instance, you might have somebody in marketing who is very skilled at their job but they’ve never really considered on the sales part how that’s going to look when you’re actually giving a pitch. Or maybe they haven’t talked to a software developer about how long the lead time will be to actually roll out a certain product or initiative. Having understanding of the interrelationships is key.

I’m hearing a couple of things which are really interesting. One is about the employee and their mindset and leading them from a tactical functioning in a box to allowing them and empowering them to think outside of that box and more strategically about how what they do impacts broader areas of the business. I’m hearing that on one level. The other level that I’m hearing is there really is the need for a strategic shift in the leadership branch to change how they actually choose to empower that employee and that potentially there’s work there for that individual or the leader themselves to do individually to allow the employee to feel safe to step into that larger role. Would you agree?

PFPF 02: Workforce Empowerment

Workforce Empowerment: It’s so very important to talk about leaders who support and encourage and engage with their workforce.

Absolutely. The safety component cannot be overstated. It’s so very important to talk about leaders who support and encourage and engage with their workforce. Unfortunately, it’s not very common today to have leaders who really understand that at all levels. I do think we have a lot of work to do there. If we’re successful in showing the performance improvement by having safe workforces that are not toxic, that encourage this work-home balance, then I think that’s a step in the right direction.

If we’ve got a new program, say it’s a new marketing program, it’s a new marketing strategy and I want my team to get around this. How do you see the emphasis needing to shift? My experience, I’m telling you where I’m coming from, is that people look at it from, “Let’s design the program,” but they secondarily think about the people and how they function in it. They haven’t stepped back to really architect the strategy for the program on a people level. My experience is that they tend to define, “We need a communication strategy,” but that’s really a secondary tier thought process in overall priorities. If we’re really talking about allowing people to think larger and to expand how they function, don’t we need to prioritize that earlier and really as the first step into how do you design the program?

I think you’re talking about educating managers on how to better design contributions from workers. That is something that I try to teach and have always taught my leadership teams and my hiring managers, is how to do a skills gap analysis just on a periodic basis, just as a planning tool, strategically looking forward. Being able to say, in your example, “I have a marketing initiative that I want to roll out.” Rather than saying, “I’m going to need a copywriter and a project manager.” To actually come up with a grid that says, “I’m going to need somebody with the skills who can communicate with the rest of the team, who can high broad thought skills patterns and then the very granular logistics operation pieces,” and just put them down in a grid. That will help managers to better understand the actual skills that they are needing rather than the roles. This is where it comes in to importance.

In this example, I’m the Marketing VP and I want to go ahead with this initiative. I don’t need to hire somebody to sit in a chair that I’m going to pay a six-figure salary or any salary if they’re not being used on a project. We have to think in terms of what do I need for this project, parse it out. It’s a very Agile framework for any of your listeners that know the Agile framework, this is what I’m talking about, working in sprints really and how it can be applied to any number of organizations and teams. Then we don’t have the wastefulness of an employee who may not have anything to contribute to, but when they are working, they’re solely focused and working within that team. It’s a win-win.

As I’m listening here, Tiffany, one thing that occurs to me is that you’ve seen a ton of different HR strategies and tactics in the workplace. Could you describe for us one of the items that you’ve seen that has been the most innovative and that has created the best results in how to empower people?

The first thing that comes to mind when you ask me that question was all of the tools that we now have at our disposal for rewards and recognition. I have seen cultures shift dramatically by just giving people an opportunity to pat each other on the back and to say, “Well done. I appreciate you specifically for the work you did on such and such project.” It doesn’t necessarily need to be combined with the monetary reward to be impactful, especially in this day and age when social media is just so much a part of our lives. People like the idea that they can be celebrated for what they do. I think that when you talk with almost anybody and you ask them, “What would your ideal role be?” They oftentimes will say, “I really want to be valued for the contribution that I give to my company.” That’s important. To have a forum, like a peer recognition and a rewards and recognition system that celebrates, announces consistently and meaningfully, is just one of the best things that has emerged over the last maybe ten, but certainly the last five years.

I agree that everybody likes to know they’ve done well as opposed to feeling they’ve done wrong. What I see that’s an interesting statistic in the business place is Gallup’s poll that says roughly 70% of our employees are actually disengaged at work, which means we probably still have a lot of work to do in that reward and recognition arena. One thing I’d like to ask every person, High Jump leadership is all about building leadership influence which is really about that people first, profits follow approach and how we build better leaders today. I’d like to ask, what does leadership influence look like to you and what is HR’s role within that?

First off, I have to tell you, I love the idea of people first, profits follow. I think that’s absolutely spot on. Well done for having that as part of your brand. I tend to think that leadership is a journey, and like so many other things, it’s a journey. Workers who may not have achieved a manager title still can be leaders within their organization. The higher level senior leadership would do well to really understand that it is their job to not only come up with a succession plan but really help to grow the next generation. In doing that, there’s the idea of servant leadership which I like some components of it and others are not so great in my book. If could just take a page from them and just say one of the most important things that we can do for any organization is to help it run without us.

PFPF 02: Workforce Empowerment

Workforce Empowerment: We really have to make sure that we’re teaching people the way to deal with other people and to keep them engaged.

In doing so, we really have to make sure that we’re teaching people the way to deal with other people and to keep them engaged, to keep them working well together and to keep them on point. What I like to do from a people and culture, from a workforce empowerment standpoint is I like to emphasize to leaders that they are there to inspire, to model and to educate. The more that they can do that, the better for everybody. The old joke is that people have bosses that either they hate or they fall in love with. It’s a difficult line to cross but if we can be educators and we can be more human with each other as leaders then that’s just going to help everybody.

If you were to give one tip to every leader on what they need to do to be able to create that inspiration and to be more human in the workplace, what would that tip for each other leader be?

It would be to manage their calendar, to not let their calendar manage them. It’s all a matter of time. So often, we get caught up in the busyness of business and we forget that we really need to take time out to carve time, to listen, to coach, to train, to do all those things that we want to do. There are very few leaders out there that say they don’t want to, they just simply don’t have time. To manage your calendar in a way that you are smart about putting in questions before and after meetings to allow for the unexpected or delegating more of the meetings that you may not need to attend absolutely, send in a proxy. Those are what smart leaders do to allow them to just breathe in and breathe out and be the type of leader that they want to be.

I love what you’re saying there and if I can maybe even extrapolate that a bit. Our calendars, we get to choose how to manage them. That’s really what you’re saying. It’s an intentional choice as a leader. I love your advice around intentionally creating that little window of break between meetings so that you can represent yourself and not necessarily bring the last meeting into the next meeting. You can be fully present for the intention and object and really lead people in that moment rather than keeping your head on something that may have gone off track or what have you in the prior meeting. I think that’s a super good advice. I’m so grateful to you being here. I know we could talk for all day, Tiffany, because there’s just tons of directions we can go on with HR. What I did want to do is make sure people know how to find you. I also would love to see what kind of book or what kind of a speaker do you think every HR professional needs to be in tune with today?

I really like the idea of Conscious Capitalism. Conscious Capitalism is an idea whose time has come. There are elements of what we’ve talked about today on your show that are echoed in Conscious Capitalistic efforts. A lot of that is centered around this idea of time and how we choose to spend it, I love what you said about that, and how we create a better life for ourselves, for our co-workers and for our planet. I’m a big fan of that. I am also a big fan of Susan Cain’s Quiet. I think that that’s a must-read for any people manager to understand and appreciate the different ways that we all contribute to our workdays. I’m a big fan of those two things.

I couldn’t agree with you more on the Conscious Capitalism recommendation. There are so many different vehicles out there to research and understand what that’s about. It really feels like it’s kicking up speed. For those of you that want to learn more about Tiffany, her website is TotalPeople.Management. It’s a beautiful website. She has a LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube profile. If you’re in San Diego, one of the things that we didn’t mention about Tiffany is that she has started and leads an organization and a movement called DisruptHR in San Diego, which has a series of events where people talk on different topics relevant to HR. It sounds great from the event that I’ve got to attend about a month ago.

It’s a lot of fun. I just will give you a sneak peek for you and your listeners, Hollie. We actually are taking DisruptHR to the next level and we’re really going to switch it up and make it much more accessible and actionable. Just look for that. It’s coming later this year.

Tiffany, again, thank you for making your time available to us today and for contributing to the listeners and everyone on the call would love to have you back. At the end of the day, it’s all about people first and profits follow. You will live a life that’s more extraordinary, your team will live a life that’s more extraordinary and your profits will be higher and your results will be more. Thanks for sharing with us today.

Thanks, Hollie.

About Tiffany David

PFPF 02: Workforce Empowerment An experienced entrepreneur and culture enthusiast, Tiffany brings over 25 years of practical HR experience to organizations that want to do more than survive the legal landscape. As a senior leader, Tiffany has developed processes and policies from a California, multi-state and global perspective to optimize the workforce and thrive in today’s market. Industry experience ranges from technology start-ups to construction, biotechnology, utilities and advertising.

Tiffany has been recognized for her innovative work developing fresh and relevant performance management programs, coaching leaders at all levels as well as receiving recognition for her engagement initiatives and Internal Onboarding plans. In San Diego, Tiffany started and currently leads the global DisruptHR movement and event series. You can learn more about their events at

She brings a true human touch to her passion of building working relationships that serve all parties in the transformational age we are navigating through at lightning speed.

Learn more about Tiffany and her company Total People Management at

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This Sliding Bar can be switched on or off in theme options, and can take any widget you throw at it or even fill it with your custom HTML Code. Its perfect for grabbing the attention of your viewers. Choose between 1, 2, 3 or 4 columns, set the background color, widget divider color, activate transparency, a top border or fully disable it on desktop and mobile.
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