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Faces of HR: Robert Boersma on Trust, Listening Deeply and Living to Work

Analysis  |  By HR Daily Advisor  
   July 21, 2023

'Consistently communicating with and being visible to important stakeholders will build the trust that is necessary to produce not only implementation but also adoption of HR initiatives.'

This article was first published on July 20, 2023, by HR Daily Advisor, a sibling publication to HealthLeaders.

Human resources (HR) leaders in healthcare can learn and take valuable information from HR leaders in other sectors.

Despite high-profile layoffs and an increased unemployment rate, the current job market may be tight but still robust, as candidates continue to seek new opportunities. Benefits and compensation continue to be not only a hot topic but also top of mind for talent as they navigate the job landscape.

According to Robert Boersma, Head of Strategy North America at international job search website, although it may seem like an employer’s market, it won’t be for long as employee benefits play a critical role in attracting and retaining the right talent.

“A comprehensive benefits package that focuses on employees’ healthcare, professional development as well as work-life balance will play a vital role in setting an organization apart,” Boersma shared with HR Daily Advisor. “’s recent survey suggests that American employees value insurance benefits (54%) the most apart from the annual salary increase. This is followed by flex working hours (49%) and more vacation days (38%).

Robert Boersma

“Additionally, many recent research reports highlight a sense of employee burnout, and them desiring a better work-life balance,” Boersma continued. “In order to boost employee productivity, we will see organizations take measures to address this burnout, if not as an immediate implementation of a four-day work week or continued remote working, then testing various forms of flexibility including variations of hybrid model, Summer Fridays, Nine-day fortnight, and company time-off.”

In our latest Faces, meet Robert Boersma.

How did you get your start in the field?

I started my career in Calgary, Alberta, recruiting within the oil and gas sector—mostly high-volume trades roles in remote locations (the traditional meaning of remote, not “remote”). The online job search world was beginning to become very interesting. It was a whole niche world I knew nothing about as I started to manage our job board relationships (what is CPC?). When oil prices crashed heavily in 2014 (long story short: overproduction), I started to see the impacts on people within my industry, leaving many workers without employment or in need of retraining to find new roles. Additionally, the company I was working for was acquired twice within 2 years, leading to consolidation and layoffs. This negatively impacted the jobseekers I was working with and my coworkers. This is when it became apparent that there was room for improvement in how people connect with new work opportunities.

This led me to joining (formerly neuvoo) as one of its first employees, and I have committed to helping solve the challenges facing both jobseekers and employers. Working is a huge part of life, like it or not, and the current systems of connecting with it are wearing out.

Who is/was your biggest influence in the industry?

My first major influence is Lucas Martinez, who is currently our CEO at Lucas is the one who sparked my interest in the industry and was the account manager at my previous company. He opened my eyes—in fact, our whole TA team’s eyes (shoutout to Kathy and Deanna)—to the online recruiting world. He lifted the veil and taught us how things really work behind the scenes. From simple tricks like how to use job titles that aggregators can understand to teaching us how to track our cost per application (CPA), Lucas made us think about our TA strategy like marketers. I haven’t met anyone since who is as passionate about the industry.

Since then, I’ve been lucky to have exposure to many brilliant people in the online job search world—many at and many in other places. I have to say that my latest fandom is for the work that Andrew Flowers is doing at Recruitonomics. The way they look at economic data and make it digestible in recruitment terms is very cool. Andrew has been featured in’s webinars and e-books.

What’s your best mistake, and what did you learn from it?

A valuable mistake that I made was, as I moved into more executive jobs, I was allowing myself to get too far distanced from our customers. When I was working in sales or managing our customer service team, I was constantly being brought back to their recruiting reality (a reality that used to be my own). As the first year passed in my VP operations job, I realized that it had been about that same time that I talkedto a customer. I think it is inevitable that as responsibilities change, so will your ability to talk consistently with your clients, but looking back now, it’s something I would work much harder on maintaining. As I start to set up our new sales strategy department, I find myself playing catch-up to getting back to understanding the real pain that recruiters are facing so that we can provide them with real solutions.

I saw a LinkedIn article once that stated that everyone in your organization needs to be a salesperson, the CEO, product, finance, HR, etc. Of course, this is hyperbole, but the sentiment that the closer you can be to your customers, where your revenue comes from, the more valuable you’ll be to any organization.

What’s your favorite part about working in the industry? What’s your least favorite part, and how would you change it?

There are two main things I love about the online recruitment industry. One is the idea of someone finding a job on Finding a job is hard and rewarding! Recruiting is also hard and rewarding! The second thing is that there’s so much laneway for improvement in our space. It wasn’t very long ago that people looked for jobs in newspapers, so when I see how far technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and search/matching are coming and all the cool things giants like Google, Amazon, and Netflix are doing, I am inspired to be somewhere that we can still apply a lot of this learning.

I think it might be fair to say that Netflix is better and faster at matching you with the perfect series to binge than many jobsites are at matching you with jobs to apply for. One of the things that is a major frustration for candidates and a barrier for employers is the long application processes that jobseekers are asked to endure. This would be the thing in my industry I would change first (and we are trying). No one wants to spend 20 minutes logging in and pasting their résumé word for word into a company’s applicant tracking system (ATS). Making the job application process simpler would be a very welcome change for both jobseekers and recruiters alike. Luckily, parsing systems is getting much smarter, and people are getting less patient, so either way, companies will be incentivized to trim these processes down.

It sounds like, through your experience, you really care about people, and you want to help them feel safe and comfortable, which is important in the industry. Please elaborate here.

I do care! Like I’ve said before, working is a major part of life for most people. Many build their identity around their job. They meet their friends through their job and sometimes even their spouse (me included). Oh, and they make money. Your job is likely the biggest economic decision you make in your life, but it’s also a social decision, a lifestyle decision, and a personal decision. This is why I start with the people around me—my coworkers. Whether it’s people I directly manage or those I hardly know, I want people to leave a conversation with me feeling good about themselves, good about the work they do, and excited about the industry/company. This principle is the same one we try to apply on our website. We want to make sure jobseekers on our site feel comfortable, that the listings they’re seeing are legit, and that they are safe trusting us with their data. Without trust, you have nothing. My favorite saying goes, “Trust arrives by walking and leaves in a Ferrari.” So, in our industry, where the topic is so personal, it’s critical to make people feel safe, comfortable, and heard.

How can HR most effectively demonstrate its value to the leadership team?

HR can effectively demonstrate value to leadership by focusing on programming that aligns with the overall company mission and ensuring that they are seen not only as enablers of compliance but also as professional partners who are co-responsible for business success. As discussed in my best mistake, being disconnected from what’s really driving the business is often what loses trust and, unfortunately, sometimes reduces HR credibility. Additionally, communication with leadership and staff is key. Consistently communicating with and being visible to important stakeholders will build the trust that is necessary to produce not only implementation but also adoption of HR initiatives.

Where do you see the industry heading in 5 years? Or are you seeing any current trends?

We saw the pandemic overhaul the employment industry as we once knew it, and employees are not eager to go back to their pre-March 2020 routines. Flexibility and a transition to hybrid/remote work are two trends that I think are here to stay. Employees are working to live instead of living to work and want to maintain the level of flexibility they had while working remotely. Many organizations are opting for a blended solution, and I believe we will continue to observe an increase in the adoption of hybrid work setups by companies, providing employees with the advantages of remote work such as flexibility and independence, as well as opportunities for face-to-face interaction and collaboration within an office.

Salary, equity, and transparency is another huge trend that I expect we will continue to see in the coming years. New York City, Colorado, California, and Washington have all enacted laws requiring organizations to share salary ranges in job descriptions, which will aid in putting all jobseekers on a level playing field through reducing wage disparities and pay inequalities. did a survey exploring the views of New York City residents on pay transparency, which showed that almost 35% of jobseekers reported experiencing pay discrimination, with over 50% of those affected being women. The wage gap clearly still exists, and as more states enact legislation requiring salary transparency, it will become an expectation from jobseekers.

What are you most proud of?

Are you surprised by this one? I am proud of I am proud of the culture we have built, starting here in Montreal at our head office. When I hear from staff that their spouses are jealous of their job, I think, “Yes!” I am proud of how far the company has come and those people who have grown with it from a small start-up to a growing force. It’s just so cool to see. Personally, I am proud of the contributions I make to the environment in our office. I hope to be a bright point in people’s day.

Do you have any advice for people entering the profession?

My advice for people entering the world of HR/recruiting is to listen. Listen deeply, then listen again. Ask “how” and “why” questions. HR sets the tone for the workplace, and it all starts by understanding what people want and expect. Expectations are a funny thing; they can represent minor things but have real impact. Encouraging open communication and building rapport with the people around you are the first steps to being a great recruiter or HR person. People take jobs because of money, but they leave them because of bad managers. Recruiters need to recruit people who stay, and HR needs to create a sticky place to work. Leading by example is the best first step to achieving this, and it all starts with something free: listening.

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