Human resources at its core is about people, and no one understands this better than Candace Osunsade. On her journey from VP of HR to SVP and chief administrative officer for the National Aquarium, Osunsade has helped shift the organization’s focus from family entertainment to conservation and its HR department from a tactical service to a true strategic partner.
Her vision, 25 years of proven experience, and impressive leadership earned her recognition in 2015 when she received HRO Today’s Chief Human Resources Officer of the Year Award. Osunsade also appeared at the 2016 HRO Today North America Forum.
In our recent article “Sea of Change,” Osunsade discusses her continued strategic plan for HR, how her experiences prepared her for C-Suite leadership, and why the bottom line still matters for not-for-profits.
Here are a few of her thoughts on strategic HR:
“My language is: We are a community. When you come on site and see our staff in aquarium uniforms, we represent the wonderful diversity that is Baltimore. We are a mission-driven organization where the mission is the social fabric and the culture of our organization.
Our mission is to inspire conservation of the world’s aquatic treasures. We work to empower our staff from the very beginning to embody that. We have programs—Henry Hall, Aquarium on Wheels—that are pathways to bring individuals on board early on who are jazzed about our mission. These people truly want to make an impact, not only where they work, but throughout the community.”
“Not-for-profits need to be willing to adjust and calibrate their mission as needed to connect with their market. Analytics are driving these decisions. But always trust your gut: You don’t want to calibrate and lose a sense of who you are. It’s more important than ever for non-for-profits to be tied to their why The second challenge is also tied to resources: Nonprofits need to be able to attract candidates and provide competitive compensation for the talent that’s needed to truly—and I’m going to use a word that’s a naughty word in the non-profit world—grow your business. No one wants to think about this as a business because you’re fulfilling a passion and a mission.”
“The competencies found in successful HR professionals have now created this new pathway from HR to CEO. I believe that my transition to the role that I’m in was really because I demonstrated the ability to develop high-performing teams.
The investment organizations are making to attract talent and engage them has resulted in a compelling call-to-action for successful leaders in the C-suite to demonstrate a high level of competency in understanding how to leverage the potential of people. I believe that in the continued focus on people and the need for organizations to really embrace talented individuals who deliver results, you’re going to see many HR professionals sitting in the top chair.”