We’re thrilled to welcome Lorna Hagen as Namely’s new Chief People Officer. Lorna brings over 20 years of leadership experience and a passion for data-driven HR strategy to the table. She most recently served as the CPO at OnDeck, where she helped the business scale its people strategy after going public. She has also served in leadership roles at LOFT, Dow Jones, and Harper Collins. Lorna will lead Namely’s people operations team, which manages HR for the company’s over 600 employees across five offices. She’ll report directly to Elisa Steele, Namely’s CEO.
We sat down with Lorna to discuss her passion for HR, what brought her to Namely, and what she hopes to achieve in the coming months.
Many HR professionals tell us they “fell” into the field. How did you get your start?
That's funny, but so true. I studied hospitality management and wanted to be a restaurant owner. I loved food, wine, and the perceived glamour of the restaurant industry. I ended up working in corporate dining, managing over 50 union employees. I quickly realized I was spending all of my time managing people and virtually no time thinking about the customer experience.
Following that, I had a brief stint in retail. I loved the training and recruitment part of my job. I was 24 years old and decided to go into HR full time, even though it meant taking a pay cut. I took a job as an HR assistant at a global sports management firm. The transition from being a manager to an assistant was jarring, but it was a brilliant career move. It taught me the value of humility at work, and that being open to new experiences will take you far.
What advice would you give HR professionals who are early in their careers?
Read. Understand what is happening in the world and how current events shape the context of your companies and industries. That is more important today than in any other era. I read two major newspapers a day. Also keep in mind that not all career opportunities are “up.” I have made lateral moves, moves into different industries, and moves that involved pay cuts. My career trajectory line looks like the outline of the Rocky Mountains, and every choice helped get me where I am.
What’s the biggest HR challenge you’ve faced?
I think this will resonate with many HR professionals: when HR’s counsel and recommendations are questioned by leadership, even when you have the data to support them. All people decisions are business decisions. The way to prevent this is to ensure your people strategy has a direct and measurable link to the business strategy.
What excites you most about the future of HR technology?
The implicit contract between employers and employees is broken. Employees are increasingly in the driver's seat when it comes to their terms of employment. They have the unprecedented leverage to say where, how, and when they do the work. And often, they can demand compensation that falls outside of the traditional structures we have designed. Having easy access to data helps executives, managers, and people (HR) teams make the best decision based on the needs of the business. The days of making "gut feeling" decisions are numbered, and HR technology will power those decisions.
Why did you decide to join Namely?
I have been keeping tabs on Namely for years. I remember 12 years ago seeing a new SaaS HCM system, and I knew they were going to revolutionize the space. They did. However, what was still missing in the market was a tool for HR practitioners and the clients they support that is intuitive, beautiful, and doesn't require dedicated headcount to implement and use. So that's what excites me about the Namely product. More importantly for me, it's our mission. I have the privilege of working with a team dedicated to building better workplaces—that's been my personal mission for 20 years. Now, I get to do it with 600 people.
What ingredients do you think are critical for building a better workplace?
Easy access to smart technology is the price of entry going forward. What I believe makes an exceptional workplace is the ability for the organization to be vulnerable—to allow people the confidence to say "I don't know," to provide employees with a shared meaning and purpose, and a place where collaboration is a team sport. There's an excellent book titled Culture Code that digs into several different teams in a variety of industries to show how high performance and real relationships are built on this foundation.
What are your passions outside of work?
I am raising three kids in NYC and that can be a whirlwind. But when not knee-deep in homework and flag football, I'm working my way through cooking the recipes in an Ina Garten cookbook. I make mean lamb chops. For the last two years, I worked with an extraordinary set of people setting up a charter school for disadvantaged children in Brooklyn.