An HR Director on Security Workforce Challenges & Opportunities

In this month’s SECURE Perspectives, Axis Director of Human Resources Elaine Palome discusses the importance of diversity, employee reengagement and more.

SECURE Perspectives is a monthly column by the Security Industry Association (SIA) profiling women in the security industry. This column is part of SIA’s Women in Security Forum (WISF), an initiative to support the participation of women in the security field through programs, networking and professional growth events and thought leadership opportunities.

For this edition of SECURE Perspectives, SIA spoke with Elaine Palome, director of human resources at Axis Communications, a member of Axis’ Americas Management team and an active member of the SIA Women in Security Forum Steering Committee. Palome is the 2021 recipient of the SIA Progress Award, which celebrates individuals who are advancing opportunities and success for women in the security industry.

SIA: How did you get into the security industry?

Elaine Palome: By happenstance. I had never heard of Axis and did not know anything about the security industry. I feel so fortunate to have a job that I love at a world-class company within an industry that is so critical to keeping people safe all over the world.

How does your organization serve the industry?

Axis is committed to innovating for a smarter, safer world. We combine intelligent technology and human imagination to offer solutions based on sight, sound and analytics to improve security and optimize business performance.

What is your current position?

I am the head of human resources for the Americas and have ultimate responsibility for all human capital management activities for the U.S., Canada and Latin America.

What types of job functions do women fill in your company?

I am pleased to say that we have women in almost every role at Axis: in sales, business development, technical positions, the support functions, management, etc. Our marketing and human resources functions are predominantly female, but we are working hard to have a balance of males and females in all functions.

With more and more data that shows diversity makes a better workforce, what opportunities do you see for women in the security industry?

Any job that a man can do, a woman can do as well. That’s why participating in SIA’s Women in Security Forum is so important to the industry. We are a group for both women and men that offers programs, professional development opportunities and networking events with the goal of supporting the involvement of women in the security industry. Our mission is to engage all security professionals to promote, recruit and cultivate the leadership of women for a more inclusive and diversified industry. This is especially important considering the lack of talent available in the marketplace.

What impediments do you see for achieving this? What could remedy some of these impediments?

Just getting started in promoting diversity, equity and inclusion is sometimes a challenge. In an ideal world, there is a commitment from the top to effect real and lasting change, and managers are held accountable for participating in activities that widen the candidate pool to increase the chances of hiring a diverse candidate. For example, at Axis, we strive to have at least one diverse candidate as a finalist for each position. We will always select the best person for the job, but we need to try harder to attract diverse candidates to our organization.

What do you see as important trends in the industry?

From a business perspective, I think that the things that are on the minds of leaders in the security industry these days include cyber risks, privacy protection, dealing with supply chain issues, Cloud solutions and analytics. From a people perspective, it’s employee reengagement, recruitment and retention and talking about mental health.

More specifically, what trends are you seeing in your role in HR leadership for Axis?

The human resources function is currently undergoing a sea change to react to disruption in the marketplace. Changes are happening in the way employees work, how they do their work, where they do their work and how long they do their work. Gone are the days of the old “personnel” function. HR has become a strategic partner in growing the business.

What are the top challenges your company has faced in the last year?

I’m certain that our challenges are the same that many companies are facing: getting people back into the office, the lingering mental health issues stemming from the pandemic, managing the turnover tsunami, dealing with the diminished candidate pool, equipping managers with tools to effectively deal with these issues, etc.

What are the biggest opportunities your company – and the industry – are seeing?

I subscribe to the notion that challenges and opportunities are two sides of the same coin. For example, if you look at the challenges associated with building the next generation of leaders on one side of the coin, you can see exciting opportunities for career growth and retention on the other. Recruiting in a candidate-driven marketplace is challenging, but on the other side of the coin, you can see opportunities to recruit new people with diversity of thought and ideas. I’m clearly a “glass is half full” person.

What do you hope the SIA Women in Security Forum can achieve for the security industry?

We’ve already achieved so much in four years, and I’m super excited about our future. Our annual operating plan is built on three strategic pillars: Connect, Grow and Impact. Within those three pillars, we have activities and goals encompassing networking, professional development, scholarships, awards and recognition, charitable giving and others. It’s a great time to be involved in WISF.

What is your best advice for women in the industry?

Be brave. Women in the industry should challenge themselves and use their skills to their advantage. Women have an innate ability to be effective team members and network builders. These skills open the doors to gaining trust and connecting the dots across an organization. Women are also loyal, don’t tend to job hop as often as men and can be a stabilizing force for any organization.

Who or what was the strongest influence in your career?

My dad, without question. In addition to showing resilience in the face of some pretty devastating life events, he has taught me that I can do anything I put my mind to. I can honestly say that I have never considered NOT doing something because I am a woman.

How do you define success?

Having a job I love and working with a best-in-class HR team at a company that is making a real difference in building a smarter, safer world.

What would you say to new upcoming women in the industry?

Jump in, the water’s fine! Seriously, though, this is a fascinating, stable industry with some terrific people and solid opportunities to learn, grow and build a career.

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