THE BLOG

Women in Business: Sara Hill, Chief Human Resources Officer, Ceridian

05/06/2015 05:20 am ET | Updated May 06, 2016

Sara Hill is the Chief Human Resources Officer for Ceridian. In this role, Sara oversees the global human resources functions across Ceridian and is based in Minneapolis. She has responsibility for enhancing the employee experience, increasing employee engagement, and developing people and talent management strategies to bring Ceridian to the next level.

Prior to joining Ceridian, Sara most recently served as Senior Vice President, Human Resources at U.S. Bancorp, providing HR leadership for the Wealth Management and Securities Services division. Sara has worked at Fidelity Investments as Vice President of Management Effectiveness. She has also been a consultant with The HayGroup, where she led HR consulting engagements primarily in the areas of organizational effectiveness and management development.

How has your life experience and career made you the leader you are today?
My life experience has taught me to differentiate between what really matters and what doesn't. As a mother, a wife, a business leader, a community member and in so many other roles, I am constantly aware of a multitude of opportunities and challenges. Focus and simplicity are a requirement for being effective in any role.

At Ceridian, we are moving at breakneck speed - evolving from a service bureau to a cloud technology company, which forces one to focus and prioritize accordingly. In human resources in particular, there are always a million tasks to do every day. My career and life experiences have strengthened my ability to zero in on what is important, and prioritize what's needed most. Being able to focus is the only way you can be successful in business today.

How has your previous employment experience aided your position at Ceridian?
My past experience as an HR leader in other industries, coupled with my HR consulting experience at a global management consulting firm, gave me invaluable foundational knowledge about the human resources practice. Essentially these experiences have helped form my conceptual thinking about what human resources is and what HR leaders can do to help drive business objectives.

Innovation within the HR industry, especially at Ceridian, has greatly influenced my thinking. Previous experience says: "this is how it is done", but my recent experience has taught me that we can do things differently, and not always "by the book". As a result, this drives positive change and innovation. This contrast in thinking has helped me as a leader to set the course and develop new practices and concepts that modernize HR. It also highlights the fact that HR is an important component of business success, which is supported by the increasing popularity of the CHRO title within organizations across North America.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Ceridian?
A top highlight for me at Ceridian would be witnessing real transformation in a remarkably short amount of time. When I joined the organization, Ceridian was a leading global services company looking to dominate the Human Capital Management marketplace. Only a little less than three years ago, Dayforce and Ceridian decided to join forces marrying Dayforce's development expertise and innovative technology with Ceridian's experience, established customer base and market research. The combination effectively positioned delivery of the most advanced workforce management solution and subsequent broader human capital platform in the industry. This transformation has reinvigorated the entire organization from HR to software developers to the sales force. Employees and customers alike are excited about our products, services, our brand and the future of the company.

However, this transformation also brought along its obstacles, which required quick thinking to overcome. Blending the two companies' geographic and cultural differences at the start of this transformation was a challenge that we as an organization successfully overcame. Employees from Dayforce and Ceridian are now fully integrated at all levels of the overall Ceridian organization, an achievement I take immense pride in as an HR professional.

What advice can you offer women who are looking for a career in human resources?
For anyone looking to start and build on a career in human resources, the first and foremost piece of advice that I can offer is to take the time to gain a solid understanding of how you, in an HR role, can make a strategic contribution that drives the organizations' business objectives. Once you know you want to be in business, it's critical to drive and impact the business using your line of sight from what you are doing to the end results for the organization.

HR professionals need to understand how the organization they are working for makes money and how the job they were hired for contributes to the bottom line, either through revenue generation or improving efficiencies that save the company money. Then, they must prepare themselves to support this endeavor in proven as well as new, innovative ways.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
Work/life balance is always a delicate dance. The ability to prioritize is a must. The reality is work is part of life. It is not so much work/life balance as it is work/life fit. For personal and professional aspects of life to fit together, I believe that you have to stay true to your life passions. I always aim to define my personal interests and ask myself: "how can I play a role in keeping my personal interests and passions alive?" I believe it is necessary to hold on to all the other pieces that define you as an individual and understand how the personal and the professional worlds are intertwined.

For example, one of my passions in life are my children, so I'm always looking for new and different ways to engage with my kids in activities that aren't just fun, but that also stimulate their development and encourage creativity. For this reason, I'm involved with our local children's museum, serving as a member of the board of directors so that I can play a role in the programs that are offered to families of all kinds. My professional career as an HR leader has been invaluable in this case. Essentially, I'm able to apply my work skills and professional experience in HR to serve my passion for childhood development and education - my own personal example of work/life fit.

Here at Ceridian, we support employee work/life balance through a variety of alternative work options including flexible hours, shortened and compressed work weeks, telecommuting and a reduced summer hours program. I am proud of how we support everyone in managing work/life fit at Ceridian.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
When looking at the data, women may make up the majority of the workforce, but leadership positions are still skewed toward men and in certain industries such as technology, women are still vastly underrepresented. There is a lot of debate as to the reason why not enough women are in leadership positions or in certain sectors such as technology and engineering. To that end, I believe in encouraging women to pursue careers that stimulate them, no matter the industry. I support learning and development programs such as STEM, which offer girls and women a great starting point into careers in the science and technology sectors.

As for aspiring to be a leader in one's field, I believe individuals and organizations need to consider new and innovative ways of working. Leadership should not just be the traditional path. We should embrace flexible careers and career choices and support new definitions of what great leadership looks like.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
For me, mentors give valuable perspective, but it's not always my perspective. For example, I often call on my mentors and ask them for their input on a situation whether it be personal or professional, but I don't necessarily do what they would do. Mentors influence my thinking, but ultimately the decisions I make are a blend of my mentors' perspectives and my own thoughts and perspectives on the matter at hand. In the end, I do what I believe in and take ownership over my decisions knowing that I have fully considered other perspectives and options.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
I admire today's women who are starting their own business, their own way. It takes immense courage to do this, especially given the risk, investment and uncertainty that lead many to not follow this pursuit.

Closer to home, I especially admire Ceridian's CFO, Lois Martin. Her leadership style drives her success. She's always true to herself. That's important to me in business when sometimes it is easier to follow group-think or defer to others who have been there before. She is also an amazing leader because she is not defined by being a woman. She is just defined by who she is and what she believes is right. She believes in herself and her team and that's what matters to her.

What do you want Ceridian to accomplish in the next year?
I want Ceridian to be even more known for not only its bar-none HCM products and services, but also for being a brand that people want to be a part of - whether that be as an employee or a customer. Ceridian is an amazing organization with amazing people and products. We have a certain way of being at Ceridian; we really care about our customers and employees; we work hard and with diligence; we're fast and agile, and we are a very transparent organization. We have an incredible future before us. I want more people to know what an incredible brand Ceridian has become.