Speaker Spotlight: Alana Free, VP, People & Culture, GoodLife Fitness


This week's HR Management Institute Canada’s Speaker Spotlight features Alana Free, VP, People & Culture at GoodLife Fitness, who will be leading a session on “Creating an Exceptional Corporate Culture for Gen Z, The ‘Next Generation Workforce”. 

We had the chance to catch up with Alana this week to ask her a few questions about her role, her career and her advice for aspiring HR Leaders.  This is what she shared with us:

What is the biggest obstacle you’ve faced along your career path?

One of the biggest obstacles we face as a company is keeping great people engaged at work.  GoodLife hires a lot of amazing people but it’s difficult to keep them engaged for extended periods of time, meaning we spend money and time on hiring and training new team members.  It’s also tough on managers who are consistently working to hire, train and onboard new people while they continue to run their departments short staffed. This results in faster burnout for our top management people.

What attributes or personal characteristics do you believe are integral to your role? 

It’s essential to be flexible and caring, but you also need to be firm and know when to draw the line. I am regularly called on to see multiple perspectives at once and help a group with opposing views work together toward a common goal. This requires strong coaching and crucial conversational skills to be able to stay cool and bring people together in a conversation so that solutions can be created and relationships mended/stay strong.

In my role, it’s not enough just to have a human resources background. You need to know the business inside out and at all levels. To get that understanding, you have to work in the clubs in the field for an extended period on a regular basis.  With on-the-ground experience you develop a full understanding the details of your organization, and are able to use their language and demonstrate your business acumen in real life situations.

What advice would you give to the next generation of professionals aspiring to become an HR Leader?  

Make sure you find the right mentors. Mentors can be someone in an executive role at your company, but pick someone who is very different from you -- maybe someone in finance or IT.  Your mentor should be influential and someone you can learn from, but who will also see how amazing you are and help you grow in your career. 

Look for a mentor from an external organization to stay current with business practices outside your company. Also consider a mentoring relationship with someone significantly younger. For example, I’m in my 40s and I have a mentor who is 20.  I stay current with what people just entering the workforce are looking for and they benefit from my years of experience.

Pursue ongoing professional development in HR, but recognize it is not everything.  Make sure you and your HR team are making a difference in the organization and that people can see how critical you are based on your results.  And by results I don’t mean HR results. I mean business performance. 

For example, most organizational leaders are not all that excited when you present how many people were hired, trained, or saved from termination.  BUT if you present to the organization instead that you have been able to get the company to 99% roles filled, and demonstrate that people who completed their onboarding and learning on time sold 80% more and were 90% more effective and efficient in their roles, saving the company tens of thousands of dollars in wrongful termination costs, THOSE results will get you noticed.  Why?  Because the leaders in the company will recognize that HR is part of the business success. They will recognize your team as essential to the bottom line rather than a necessity to be legally compliant.

Join the discussion and walk away with some actionable insights from the HR Management Institute, November 5th – 7th, 2017 at the JW Marriott Muskoka, ON.  

Click here to request your invite.