Ascent Resources’ Cheri Shepard on HR’s Role as a Problem Solver

 Cheri Shepard, VP, Human Resources, Ascent Resources Management

The HR leader at the Oklahoma-based mining company shares career lessons and workplace strategies.

How can HR build value and influence withing the C-suite?

Cheri Shepard, vice president of Human Resources at Ascent Resources Management Services, LLC, shares career advice that she says has been instrumental in her rise into leadership roles: Be a problem solver, not just an problem finder.

We spoke with Shepard about her career, lessons learned from her efforts to build a great workplace, and advice she had for colleagues at other companies in the latest edition of our “How I Got Here” spotlight series.

Here’s what she shared about her work and where she sees the future of HR and workplace culture trending:

What was the hook that first got you interested in workplace culture?

Shepard: My very first job had a great culture and I believe the general manager played a big part in this. He made it a point to see and speak with everyone. He took time to get to know you as a person and he knew when you were having an good day or a bad day and made it his business to find out why.

This stuck with me and the second chapter of my experience was good in the sense that it showed me what I didn’t want to do. Working in a subsidiary was restrictive and controlled, with everything prescribed by corporate. There was not much room for creativity or making changes. I knew after this experience what type of workplace culture I wanted to foster in the future.

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What has been the biggest challenge you faced in your career when trying to build a great workplace culture?

Shepard: Creative, progressive ideas are not always accepted when first introduced. I’ve learned to be patient and socialize them over time by introducing them in phases for the sake of progress.

My goal is to strive for excellence, even it means making small incremental changes.

What is the No. 1 lesson you have learned about what it means to be a great workplace in a post-pandemic environment?

Shepard: If it wasn’t clear before the pandemic, it became abundantly clear during the great resignation that followed: Having a great workplace culture plays a significant role in retention!

How do you think artificial intelligence will change your work? Are you excited for those changes?

Shepard: AI has the ability to improve efficiency and I have always been excited about efficiency and eliminating waste. So, yes, I want to see what AI can add to HR.

What’s your favorite career advice you’ve ever received? Why?

Shepard: I worked for a Japanese-owned company earlier in my career. I once overheard the president telling a manager: “Don’t just bring me problems; take the extra step and provide solutions for consideration as well.”

I’ve remembered this and never present a problem/issue to my manager without thinking ahead and providing workable solutions for discussion. I also request this from my direct reports as I feel this helps them to truly take ownership and helps us work together towards a common solution.

What’s a recent book or podcast you loved that you recommend to our community?

Shepard: My favorite go to book for the workplace is “The Great Workplace” by Michael Burchell and Jennifer Robin. I read this book many years ago and have reread it a couple times because it is chock-full of best practices for creating a great workplace.

What about your job makes you excited to come to work every day?

Shepard: I feel excited about the opportunity to use my skills to impact (or potentially impact) the lives of our employees. Each day I work towards a healthy work environment, fair compensation, access to generous benefits and opportunities for development and advancement for our employees, and I love it!

If you could wave a magic wand and change one thing about how workplaces operate in the world today, what would it be?

Shepard: I would like to see a shift where employees look forward to coming to work and it’s not just a paycheck for them. I want our employees to enjoy their work and careers which provide them with purpose and passion and not work solely for a means to make ends meet.

I enjoy coming to work because I’m excited to use my skills to help impact the lives of others. My wish is that every worker feels as I do at their own jobs.

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Ted Kitterman