Jennifer Kirkpatrick, SPHR

Director of Human Resources
Jennifer Kirkpatrick standing outside smiling warmly.

My Story

I fell into a Human Resources career at a time when it was still called “Personnel” and was part of the Finance Department. It felt like a good fit because I was a total rule follower. With my black and white thinking, I could follow a process and apply a rule with the best of them. Back then, our department’s focus was on hiring, firing, and record keeping. I can understand why employees loved to hate Personnel. 

I took several years off work to raise my daughters. Helping them navigate their worlds opened my eyes to what Personnel could be. I saw that the skills, inspirations, and empowerment I wished for my own girls could also have an amazing impact on employees. My black and white thinking was shifting into shades of gray. 

During this time, I became more aware of, and embraced, some universal truths: we all want to do something that feels meaningful to us. We want to be empowered and inspired to be successful (carrots, not sticks). We want to feel seen and heard. Rule interpretation was still important, but I found myself wanting to add a more human element, such as communicating the spirit of a rule, and advocating for employees’ needs. I wanted more personal impact.

As I re-entered the workforce, I was encouraged to see some employers coming around to the idea that human behavior and interaction is not black and white. Yay! Progress! Along with this shift in philosophy came a new name: we were called “HR” now. Unfortunately, this department often got blamed for company decisions. I still felt stifled by the new status quo and unable to make the impact I longed for.

Enter 2020 and the COVID pandemic. Suddenly, HR was seen through a new lens. We were deemed “essential employees” since best practices were not yet established for the HR policies, protocols, and programs needed to keep business open during this life or death situation. I was called upon to tap into my business acumen and psychology training. The company needed me to keep operations running and protect employees’ physical and mental health. Employees needed me to help them navigate ever-changing workplace protocols, but they also needed me to listen, because they didn’t know what to do with new anxieties and fears that went far beyond work and career. 

When the national emergency was officially declared over, nothing was as it had been before. Employees communicated loud and clear that it was time to lean into a new way of working. HR had evolved once again, amplifying the human in human resources. 

I am thrilled to have landed at a company that shares my vision of expanding what is possible through human resources. I love this place, where the work I do requires neither black, white, nor gray thinking, but welcomes a full rainbow of nuanced support for company and employees. My role at Abacus lets me connect employees with resources and each other, clarify understanding, facilitate efficiency and communication, and foster belonging. 

Abacus is a community of open-minded, compassionate people who embrace ideas and take personal responsibility for mutual success. Rather than “doing it for you,” we are a culture of empowerment that seeks to demonstrate our core values to our clients, employees, and employment candidates. It’s a place that embraces the amazing possibilities of what HR can do, and gives me the space to make a personal impact (at last!).

How I’m expanding what’s possible with money

I use both mindset and practice. I weigh my wants versus needs, live below my means, and seek professional guidance to keep me on track and aware of my options. I’m a great saver! For me, the hard part is remembering to find balance. I practice that regularly to foster a healthy relationship with money and enjoy the simple pleasures of life.

Outside of work, my passions include

I find joy in dancing like no one is watching, playing in my garden, the healthy feeling I get after a great workout, and simply being outside in nature.

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