HR Passion Series  #9: Featuring Kalli Yaklyvich, Sr. HR Business Partner at River Valley Bank

HR Passion Series #9: Featuring Kalli Yaklyvich, Sr. HR Business Partner at River Valley Bank

August 20, 2018 | Rob Catalano

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We’re happy to bring you weekly insights and inspirations from esteemed HR Professionals. We’ve created the HR Passion Series as a medium to connect individuals in the HR World, to learn from each other, create community, and inspire.

This is where you get to hear full, unedited opinions and answers from top practitioners in the field who are excited to reach out and share with the community.

We’re delighted to feature this week’s guest. Please welcome Sr. HR Business Partner from River Valley Bank, Kalli Yaklyvich.



The Interview


1. What was your journey coming up to your current HR role? Any milestone moments in your career?

I’ve had a diverse career path that started in retail, with a couple stops in the education field, and, for the past seven years, HR roles in a variety of industries. Graduating college in 2009 was not the best timing, as we were still in the recession. As I entered the workforce, though, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to learn so much from my experiences as an Executive Secretary at a school district, to a Legal Assistant at 3M, and then, the first milestone moment in my career, landing a job in merchandising with Target at their corporate headquarters.

I loved my job in merchandising, but wasn’t sure the next step in the merch career path was for me. That’s when I moved from merchandising to HR, and I haven’t looked back since. I’ve worked in high volume recruiting, executive level talent acquisition, talent planning, and succession planning, employee relations, policies/procedures, and many of the other things that go along with Human Resources, leading up to my current role as a Sr. HR Business Partner with River Valley Bank.

2. As an HR leader, what keeps you up at night, rounding out 2018 and looking forward to the next year?

Talent Acquisition…that is always in the back of my mind…how do we find and retain the right talent, how do we engage our talent, and how do we create an environment that changes along with the changing talent pool.

I think HR Branding will continue to grow in 2019. I believe it’s going to be extremely important for organizations to understand what’s important to their talent, both internal and external. Everybody has different things that motivate them to do well at work. How do we meet those needs in conjunction with meeting the needs of the organization? It’s an exciting conversation to have!


3. What are some elements of focus for your HR strategy in the coming 12 months?

I’ll be focusing on Talent Planning and Succession Planning in the near future. That will be an important piece of our overall Talent Acquisition strategy.


4. What advice would you give someone going into an HR leadership position for the first time?

As an HR leader you need to connect and build a relationship with your business partners. Be open to having conversations, or trying new ways of doing things. What I’ve learned throughout my career path is that sometimes it takes a colleague outside of the HR field to give you a different perspective on things. I know there are times that I’ve focused too much on the black and white like policies/procedures/etc., but remember there are always gray areas to consider, and the most important thing is being thoughtful and honest in your decision making.

The other piece of advice I have is take some (calculated) risks! I wouldn’t be where I am today if I didn’t look for new opportunities, or take on projects that I didn’t have a lot of experience in. Build a great support system and you’ll be able to grow so much professionally.

5.  Is there anything in your career you’re incredibly proud of?

The thing that I’m most proud of over my career so far is that I’ve pushed myself to try new things. I wish there was a word for somebody in between an introvert and an extrovert because that would be me! It doesn’t come naturally to me to speak up in a meeting, or to volunteer for projects that are outside my comfort zone, or pursue new opportunities. In the long run though, I’d rather say I tried something and learned from it, than to be too afraid to ever change what I’m doing. So for those of you who are not the most outgoing, don’t be afraid to try for that job/committee/project that interests you, the worst that can happen is if you don’t get that one then you continue to grow your skill set and work towards the next one.

I’m also very proud of achieving my SHRM-CP certification.


6. Is there anything you failed at? Any lessons learned?

Absolutely! I know there are lots of quotes out there about failing before reaching success, and there’s a lot of truth behind those. Whether it’s the job that I really wanted and didn’t get, or the job that I took that turned out to be very different than expected, I’ve learned from all of those experiences…I’m careful not to call them mistakes because I’m a true believer in things happening for a reason. At River Valley we talk a lot about how we “fail forward”, and I think that’s the most important thing to focus on. It’s not about what specifically we have failed at, it’s how we’ve moved forward after those setbacks and learned from them that’s important.


7. Can you name a person who has had a tremendous impact on you as an HR leader? Maybe someone who has been a mentor to you?

There are so many people I could talk about who have been influential for me throughout my career. The two people that stand out to me the most though, are Rebecca Lieberman and Jenna Estlick. They were the team of two that I joined in my first role in HR at Target. We were a small but mighty team, and I learned so much from both of them! They not only introduced me to the HR world and how to navigate that, but they were amazing role models of how to be successful working moms. I can’t thank them enough for the impact they’ve had on me personally, and as an HR professional.


8. What are you doing to ensure you continue to grow and develop as an HR leader? any resources you’d recommend to HR colleagues?

I don’t ever want to let my work get stale, so continuing education is extremely important to me. I was able to attend the National SHRM convention last year, and I would definitely recommend it to any level HR professional. If you are able to attend that conference then take advantage of it. It was a great way to connect with HR professionals all over the world and grow my network, but it was also beneficial to hear the things that other organizations struggle with and realize they are the same things you struggle with. Individual state SHRM conferences/groups are also wonderful opportunities to connect and learn. SHRM has been a great resource for me in general.

I also recommend building your professional network. Utilize LinkedIn and meet new people. I think you’ll find that most people are willing to share their journey with you.


9. When you win HR Executive of the year soon, what song do you want playing when you walk up to the stage?

This is actually the toughest question in the list. There are too many good ones to choose from. One that’s always motivating for me is Roar by Katy Perry, so I’ll go with that one.


10. What books or podcasts would you recommend to your HR peers?

I think one of the most important skillsets to have in general is Emotional Intelligence. That’s why I would suggest “Emotional Intelligence 2.0” by Travis Bradberry & Jean Greaves to anybody, no matter what your role is in an organization. I also recommend “Life Under Construction” by Allison M Liddle. Allison does a great job outlining how we’re all affected by change in our lives, and how we can grow from those experiences.


11. Finally, give us three words that you would use to describe the HR profession.

Evolving, Partnership, Purposeful


We’d like to thank Kalli for taking part in the HR Passion Series.


At WorkTango, we’re revolutionizing how the world’s most forward-thinking companies engage and inspire their people. We offer the only Employee Experience Platform built for the modern workplace that enables meaningful recognition and rewards, supports alignment through goal setting and feedback, and offers actionable insights through employee surveys.

Rob Catalano

Rob Catalano

Rob Catalano is WorkTango’s Chief Marketing and Strategy Officer. Rob has spent the last 17 years building HR Technology companies.