Erin Richards: “We're solving puzzles every day and sometimes they don't have clear answers"
Passionate about tech-related projects that blend process optimization with cutting-edge technology, Erin thrives on crafting creative and financially viable solutions for her clients. She’s also a big fan of jigsaw puzzles, a creative outlet that reinforces problem-solving skills. At Nua, Erin is on a mission to make a real difference in the world of HR, solving puzzles that truly matter.
Erin, how did you get started in the HR space and what are the highlights of your career so far?
I’ve always been fascinated by the dynamics of organizational behavior, people, and processes. My academic focus during college centered on Managing People and Technology, and set the stage for my HR journey. I began my career in HR at small construction companies, facing unique and frustrating challenges like enrolling employees in benefits without email, manual paperwork processes, and compliance issues in budget-constrained environments.
These early experiences prompted my move into the tech industry, where I discovered it’s easy for business leaders to be distracted by the latest “shiny new” technologies. More than ever, a solid foundation was critical for HR to support rapid business change. Leveraging technology and optimizing processes in Compensation, HRIS, People Operations, and Benefits ultimately enhances the employee experience and contributes to organizational success.
I firmly believe in the power of process automation to enable HR to scale with the business while freeing up time for value-added activities. My career highlights revolve around bringing fundamental HR principles and technology together to drive meaningful change and contribute to the bottom line.
What made you transition from an in-house HR role into consulting?
I'm deeply motivated by the opportunity to have a broader and more significant impact in HR. In consulting, I apply my expertise to help multiple organizations streamline their HR processes and infrastructure. I believe that HR is at its best when it operates seamlessly in the background, and consulting at Nua allows me to facilitate this across different companies, making a difference on a larger scale.
What kind of projects do you enjoy the most?
I’m particularly drawn to tech-related projects that combine process optimization with cutting-edge technology. I’ve seen many companies invest in new HR tech without considering the underlying processes, often resulting in expensive, outdated procedures. I love breaking down a process that might be unnecessarily complex or manual and reworking it to fit a client’s needs. Simple can be very hard! I enjoy coming up with creative, cost-effective solutions that improve data integrity and help companies achieve their HR goals.
What do you see as the key challenges that your clients face?
HR leaders often grapple with balancing process and technology “wants,” “nice-to-haves,” and “must-haves” for their departments. Designing HR systems and processes to meet complex compliance requirements, while aligning with dynamic business objectives, is a challenge I’m passionate about solving.
What holds clients back from creating great HR/ People programs?
Client organizations often overlook the importance of HR Operations, especially during periods of rapid growth or expansion through acquisitions. HR Operations is a critical 'Center of Expertise,' just like Compensation, Benefits, HRIS, Recruiting, and Talent Development.
While it's exciting to create great talent programs for employees, it's crucial to remember that these programs need a robust HR infrastructure as their foundation. Establishing a strong HR framework may not be the most attention-grabbing aspect, but it’s a necessity. Think of it as putting on your own oxygen mask before assisting others on a plane.
Investing time in building a solid HR framework helps companies manage their growth journey more effectively. Recognizing HR Operations as a key part of the organization ensures that as the company grows, HR can effectively guide and support the entire business.
You’ve talked about jigsaw puzzles and escape rooms - can you tell us more about that?
I'm a big fan of puzzles and puzzle games. And it's not unrelated to my work. Escape rooms are a great way to learn how to think creatively and solve problems. Sometimes there are different solutions, it's not one-size-fits-all. We're solving problems for work all the time and sometimes those don't have easy answers. So when I'm doing puzzles for fun, I want something that's relaxing and that has a clear solution!
If you're seeking innovative solutions and transformative HR strategies for your organization, don't hesitate to get in touch! Reach out to Erin and the team at Nua Group to explore how we can help elevate your HR practices and drive meaningful impact.