Jenn Tardy, Founder, Jennifer Tardy Consulting & Co-Founder & Chief Operations Officer, PWP Health

Jennifer Tardy is the CEO and Founder of the Maryland-based firm Jennifer Tardy Consulting (Team JTC). Renowned for career success coaching and diversity recruiting, Jenn connects job seekers with hiring professionals, driving success for both. Her work with SHRM, Red Bull, the US Chamber of Commerce, and Harvard University, along with accolades like 2020 LinkedIn Top Voice, showcases her dedication to increasing diversity and retention without harm. With 14 years of experience, she aims to universalize Lived Experience Intelligence™ and redefine diversity recruiting. Jenn is currently writing a book with Hachette Books.

Recently, in an exclusive interview with CXO Outlook Magazine, Jennifer shared her professional trajectory, the inspiration behind establishing PWP Health, personal role models, insights on diversity and inclusion in the banking industry, future plans, pearls of wisdom, and much more. The following excerpts are taken from the interview.

Hi Jenn. Please shed some light on your career path and how you started your career in the HR field.

I actually started my career in HR as a corporate trainer. I was in the role for a couple of years before becoming an HR generalist and later a recruiter. I entered recruiting as a contract recruiter in 2008 and soon after became a full-time employee. From there I eventually worked my way up to a manager, director, and before long I was leading recruiting leaders. There’s not one aspect of recruiting that I’ve not had the opportunity to explore, and I am grateful for that.

What was the inspiration behind establishing PWP Health? What sets it apart from other market competitors?

My cousin, Yolanda Stone, and I were looking for ways to give back to our hometown community. We wanted it to be significant and meaningful. Once we were introduced to community mental health services, we knew that it was the right step for us. And so, we moved forward with the provider licensing process.

With 15+ years of industry experience, according to you, what skills or characteristics make someone a seasoned HR leader?

A seasoned HR leader must possess two key sets of skills: general leadership abilities and specific HR expertise. Through years of experience, I have learned that both are crucial for driving a team and the overall company forward. Effective leadership involves understanding people, their motivations, and how to coach them toward their goals, which ideally align with the company’s objectives. This skill is developed over time and through practice.

However, being an effective HR leader also means integrating these leadership skills with deep knowledge of HR practices, particularly in recruiting. It’s essential to understand the intricacies of inclusive recruitment and to communicate effectively with recruiting teams. Mastering the language and nuances of recruitment fosters respect and collaboration within the team, which is vital for successful recruitment leadership.

Who has influenced you the most in life and why?

My father was a man of immense talent and dedication. Throughout his career, he was repeatedly overlooked for promotions simply because he didn’t have a bachelor’s degree, a qualification he neither had nor desired. Despite this, his leaders constantly relied on his skills and expertise, recognizing his value but not rewarding it with the promotions he deserved. Watching him navigate these professional challenges taught me the importance of perseverance, resilience, and the significance of being recognized for one’s true capabilities beyond mere credentials.

On the other hand, my sons have profoundly shaped my personal and professional aspirations. Before they were born, I believed I had achieved all I wanted. By the age of 30, I was making a high six-figure salary, had earned a master’s degree, several certifications, and was leading teams. I was content to coast along and take life as it came. However, the birth of my sons ignited a new drive within me. I realized that I wanted to push my own boundaries and achieve my full potential to set an example for them. I wanted my sons to see firsthand that pursuing your potential is a continuous journey, and if their mommy can do it, so can they. This desire to role model a life of growth and achievement has been a powerful motivator, inspiring me to strive for more, not just for myself but for the legacy I wish to leave for my children.

What is your secret to striking a work-life balance?

Time is my most valuable resource, and it holds significant importance in my role as I set the vision for our research and training firm. Being highly structured allows my team to anticipate my needs and work more autonomously. This approach not only optimizes our productivity but also ensures I can maintain a healthy work-life balance.

One key aspect of this balance is my ability to honor my own boundaries, even when I feel the historical guilt that often accompanies setting limits. I establish and strictly follow rules for myself, such as no meetings before 10 AM and none after 3 PM. This schedule allows me to transition smoothly into “mommy mode” when my boys get off the bus at 3:30 PM daily.

Additionally, I focus on doing only the work that only I can do, delegating everything else. By staying in my zone of genius, I ensure that I am most effective in my role, while my team, who is more than capable, handles other responsibilities. This not only empowers my team but also allows me to be fully present in both my professional and personal life.

What are your thoughts on diversity and inclusion in the banking industry? How important is it to have authentic conversations with leaders, professionals, and changemakers to create more acceptance across the globe?

Diversity and inclusion in the banking industry are not just important; they are essential for fostering innovation, building trust, and ensuring the industry serves all communities equitably. In my experience, having a diverse workplace brings a variety of perspectives and ideas that drive better decision-making and more comprehensive solutions. Inclusion ensures that these underestimated voices are heard, valued, and leveraged to their full potential.

Authentic conversations with leaders and influencers are crucial in creating a culture of acceptance and understanding. These dialogues open pathways to empathy and awareness, breaking down barriers and challenging biases. It’s about creating an environment where everyone feels they belong and can contribute meaningfully, regardless of their background.

In my work, I have seen firsthand the positive impact that diversity and inclusion can have on an organization. When leaders commit to these values and actively engage in open, honest discussions, it sets the tone for the entire company. This, in turn, influences the broader industry and society as a whole, promoting greater acceptance and equity across the globe.

By fostering such an environment in the banking industry, we not only drive better business outcomes but also contribute to a more just and inclusive world. This commitment to diversity and inclusion is not just a corporate responsibility; it’s a moral imperative that benefits everyone.

What workforce opportunities do you anticipate will be the biggest game changers in the next 5 years?

In the next five years, I anticipate that advances in technology and a focus on flexible work arrangements will be the biggest game changers. The rise of AI and automation will transform many aspects of work, enabling us to streamline processes and improve efficiency. However, it’s the human element—our ability to adapt, learn, and innovate—that will truly set successful organizations apart. Flexible work arrangements, including remote work and hybrid models, will become the norm, offering employees greater autonomy and work-life balance. This shift will not only attract top talent but also enhance productivity and job satisfaction across the board.

What’s a myth about HR that you want to quash?

A common myth about HR is that it is merely an administrative function focused on enforcing policies and procedures. Recruiters especially feel like they are paper pushers rather than genuine influencers and changemakers. The reality is that HR professionals, especially those who are on the frontlines of creating access for job opportunities, have so much influence that can change the outcomes of lives especially of those from historically underrepresented communities, just by their ability to ensure that the managers that they are supporting are going about the business of their work in the most inclusive fashion.

If you could change anything about business today, what would that be?

If I could change anything about business today, it would be to dismantle the obstacles fueled by bias and promote a culture of genuine inclusivity. Many organizations still operate under biases that hinder equal opportunities and stifle diverse talent. By actively removing these barriers, we can create environments where everyone has the chance to thrive based on their abilities and potential. This requires leaders to cultivate empathy and purpose-driven leadership, focusing not just on short-term profits but on long-term sustainability and the well-being of their employees and communities. Leaders must be vigilant in recognizing and addressing biases in all forms—be it in hiring, promotions, or everyday interactions.

Where would you like to be in the next 5 years?

In the next five years, I envision myself continuing to lead and inspire within the diversity recruiting space, driving meaningful change and fostering inclusive conversations. I aim to expand my influence, perhaps by taking on (more directly) diversity recruiting in a global context. Our aim is to be the premier go to hub for research and training on all things diversity recruiting and retention. Ultimately, I want to continue setting an example for my sons, demonstrating that pursuing one’s potential and making a positive impact are lifelong endeavors.

What’s your favorite piece of advice for leaders who want to be better at engaging their workforce?

My favorite piece of advice for leaders who want to engage their workforce more effectively is to listen actively and lead with empathy. Understanding your team’s needs, motivations, and challenges is key to fostering a supportive and productive environment. Continue to identify and remove barriers built by bias fueled obstacles and show genuine interest in their well-being and professional growth, and create opportunities for open, honest communication.

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