May 26, 2020 | Clare Chiappetta, MA, HRCI Contributing Writer
Integrating Learning into HR Practice: Spotlight on Rod Flowers, SPHR
Rod Flowers has always understood the importance of learning and development. He originally pursued a career in teaching. Instead, he worked his way up from a work-study position in student personnel as an undergrad at Dickinson College to HR positions at various retail outlets and non-profits.
Flowers’s diverse experience brought him to his current position as Senior Vice President of HR Development and Chief People Officer at Maryland’s State Employee Credit Union. He manages a team of 16 people covering HR, learning and development and facilities but hasn’t forgotten his roots in education.
How did you make the switch from teaching to HR?
I wanted to go into education, but it just didn't jive with me after I did my student practicum. I worked in personnel as a student and in retail over the summer, so I applied to be a training and personnel manager at Montgomery Ward. After I got the position, I changed it to personnel manager so that it encompassed learning and development as well.
I felt a little guilty because my mom wanted me to go into teaching, and she was disappointed that I didn't. But I realized that I could still teach without being a teacher. I’ve always kept that teaching mindset and brought it into my HR practice. I believe that the best organizations are learning organizations.
How has certification supported your practice?
I received a master’s degree in HR in 1997 and originally, I didn’t think I needed certification. But I realized that having the credentials opened doors for advancement and established subject matter mastery. Certification provides a benchmark and cements the connection between theory and practice in HR.
Continuing education is a requirement for everyone in my department. We look at their personal and professional development so that employees are either getting or advancing their degrees. Once they reach the master’s level, they’re encouraged to pursue certification or additional studies.
How do you think HR will evolve over the next few years?
Now and in the future HR practitioners have to be agile and equipped to work with data. HR has to know the entire business, be prepared to collaborate and align HR function with business goals. And in the age of Amazon, we’re used to things being streamlined and instantaneous. HR will have to learn how to take something complex and simplify it so everyone can understand and move it forward.
Certification helps immensely. It pushes practitioners to learn and grow. Whether they are studying for the exam or going to conferences, workshops or webinars for recertification, they're getting the information they need to remain relevant and informed.