An HR Consultant and Innovative Entrepreneur

Apr 17, 2023
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Meet Melissa Malcolm, one of our gifted Mentors from AHF’s 2021 Fellowship Circle. Melissa Malcolm is currently the Founder and Principal Consultant at Malcolm HR Consulting. With an HR career spanning over 25 years in both the public and private sector, Melissa has built a reputation of being a trusted and respected HR partner and leader to business owners and executives at all levels. She has extensive hands-on experience leading HR initiatives, including HR planning and strategy, organizational design and development, talent management, workforce planning and employee relations.

In her work, Melissa aims to change the narrative around traditional HR and applies a common-sense approach to HR solutions. Her goal is to help her clients succeed in their businesses, utilizing their greatest assets – their people.

Lessons Learned from Mentorship — A Mentor’s Perspective

When asked about her motivation for applying to the AHF Fellowship Circle as a Mentor, Melissa recalled her passion for developing and supporting others in their career journey. “The AHF Fellowship Circle appealed to me because I did not have the same type of opportunity for mentorship and support when I started my career,” Melissa explained, “I thought it was a great program and I wanted to support the Fellows in any way that I could.” By paying it forward, Melissa brought 20+ years of invaluable insight to discussions on entrepreneurship, workplace culture, and skill development.

The AHF Fellowship Circle also emphasizes the importance of Reciprocal Mentoring. Also known as Co-mentoring, Reciprocal Mentoring is a developmental mentoring model in which both parties are equal in the process of learning and both act as mentor and mentee. “As much as I provided advice and guidance and support to the Fellows, I learned from them as well,” Melissa reflects. “Some of their challenges were the same as mine when I started my career, but I gained insight into what they are experiencing and what they are looking for in their workplaces and leaders.” Click here to learn more about AHF’s approach to Reciprocal Mentorship.

To get to her current level of career development, Melissa recognizes the countless mentors, allies, and sponsors that paid it forward as she does for others today. “I cannot name just one person,” Melissa said, “I have been fortunate enough to have many people in my life that have celebrated me, pushed me and challenged me to do things I would not normally do and come out of my comfort zone.”

“I take every piece of wisdom, advice and interaction (both positive and developmental) and apply it as best I can in the decisions I make and in turn in how I provide mentorship to others.”

Reflections and Advice From an HR Consultant

As an HR Consultant, Melissa works with other organizational leaders to address gender and racial biases in the workplace. When asked how businesses can genuinely advance Equity, Diversity and inclusion (EDI) in the workplace, Melissa stressed the importance of organizations to “be consistent and intentional in their actions.”

“Many organizations are simply paying lip service in their public communications and announcements regarding equity, diversity and inclusion. Listen to your Black, Indigenous and racialized employees,” Melissa advises, “what are they saying the challenges are in the workplace and what solutions are they offering? What does your leadership team look like? Is EDI reflected in all aspects of the organization or just one role?”

 “Everyone at all levels within an organization is responsible for advancing EDI.”

After a long-standing career in various HR roles working for the government, we asked Melissa for her inspiration and advice for starting a consulting firm. Two key factors in starting a business are evaluating your personal strengths, and evaluating the needs of organizations and industries around you. Melissa advises those who want to start their own consulting business to “determine what area of human resources services you want to provide and determine if there is a need.”

“I had many conversations with small-medium sized business owners and executives at nonprofits who either had HR challenges that needed to be addressed or HR plans that they wanted to action, but they had no capacity or internal HR expertise,” Melissa states, “I realized there was a need that I could fulfill with my decades of experience.”

Finding and maintaining sight of a key driver or unique purpose for your business helps to ensure that your startup successfully stays on track. “I started my consulting business with the goal of making HR support accessible and I had a desire to advance HR in the minds of business owners beyond recruitment activities – promoting HR consultants as a business partner helping them achieve their business goals.”

Every job is a continuous learning opportunity, “starting your own business is challenging, but I found it to be rewarding.” Melissa believes that her greatest learning as an HR leader is the importance of “acknowledging and embracing people’s differences and to have empathy and patience.” These traits can apply to everyone in a professional setting.

“Compassion is to look beyond your own pain, to see the pain of others.” – Yasmin Mogahed

“You never know what a person is going through and when they show up for work, those challenges do not simply disappear,” Melissa advocates, “remembering this in my interactions with employees and leaders has been a great contributor in my success in building and maintaining relationships.”

Career Coaching to Advance Your Career

In a Globe and Mail article by Radhika Panjwani, Melissa discusses the benefit of having a career coach to help navigate your career and gain a competitive edge. As a recruitment specialist, Melissa describes how individuals coached by a career consultant stand out during interviews, through actions like coming prepared with questions and effectively sharing the value they will add to the organization.

Coaching can be notably advantageous for Black, Indigenous and women of colour as “there are many challenges for women in the corporate world when it comes to career advancement, equitable pay, and work-life balance,” Melissa explains. In cases of career changes or women in later stages of the workforce, a career coach can help them to “identify their skills and give them the push they need to explore something new.”

It is time for women to take control of their narratives, move past imposter thoughts, and get the recognition they deserve, thank you Melissa!