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Faces of HR: Bryan Otte on Being Proactive, Trust, and HR’s Impact on the Bottom Line

Sourced from HR Daily Advisor
by HR Daily Advisor Staff – December 7, 2023

Before Bryan Otte got his start in the HR industry, he had an impressive career serving in executive marketing and operations roles at several of the nation’s leading news and entertainment companies.

Prior to joining MGAC, a global boutique consultancy, Otte led his own HR consultancy, where he partnered with a diverse, global client base, and served for fifteen years as Chief Human Resources Officer in the digital media publishing space. As a result, he has earned a reputation as an HR expert in all areas of the industry, including recruiting, organizational and leadership development, diversity and inclusion, executive coaching and more.

As MGAC’s Chief Human Resources Officer, Otte leads talent acquisition and career development, focusing on the organization’s greatest asset – its people. It’s a perfect match as he believes that an organization’s success stems from its team, which is why Otte approaches his role from the lens of cultivating a workplace, and its culture, from the inside out.

We recently connected with Otte to discuss how he got his start in the industry, his biggest influences, and his thoughts on the future of work.

“We hear a lot that hybrid work is here to stay,” Otte recently shared with HR Daily Advisor. “Work has changed permanently. If that is true, I have a Sony Walkman to sell you. I am convinced we are at the beginning of a lot more change than we can possibly imagine, and HR needs to get ready for it. AI is just one example that we didn’t contemplate just five years ago. What’s next? HR always talks about being proactive. Great. Be proactive!”

In our latest Faces, meet Bryan Otte.

How did you get your start in the field?

Dumb luck. I had built a successful HR practice during the pandemic but felt something was missing – as a consultant I was brought in for discrete projects that made a difference, but I wanted to help build something for the long-term, much like I had previously at SmartBrief. MGAC is positioned to do just that. I should add that in my time at SmartBrief, I was also responsible for the occasional office move and build out, so, at least on a very small scale, I’ve always appreciated the value that MGAC brings to its clients.

Who is/was your biggest influence in the industry?

I’m newly immersed, but Stefan Dytrt of Powers Brown (then SKG) was my partner in the aforementioned buildouts. Stefan’s ability to focus on client needs today, and anticipate those in the future, sets him apart as an architect and problem solver. Working with Stefan was great preparation for this role.

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

When it comes to HR, people don’t notice what you’re doing until something blows up. In my case, missing a payroll would qualify as a disaster. That occurred once early in my career, and I learned the hard way that you don’t mess with people’s money! I always make sure we are double backed-up so there’s never a payroll hitch.

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

I love getting to see the difference we make every day for our clients. Peruse our website and see not just what we’ve helped build but think about the lives those structures impact every day. What I’d like to see changed: no doubt the industry needs to do more to welcome and promote people of diverse backgrounds to the business. We’re working hard on a few initiatives to ensure our workforce reflects the community it’s working in.

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.

We do our best work when we feel valued and heard. I try to speak to as many people as possible to hear directly from them what they need to do their best work (and sometimes it’s just getting out of the way). I get a lot of constructive feedback. That means our employees care.

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

Regardless of industry, I find it’s critical for HR to explain what it’s doing to help drive the business forward. If you don’t think HR can impact the bottom line, you’re missing the big picture. My career before HR is instructive – my goals in marketing or operations were driven by business imperatives, and they were measurable. I believe the best HR teams look at their work with the same lens, and strong leadership teams get that.

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

Five months in, it’s a little difficult to see the future with a lot of clarity, but I don’t think we can lose sight of the value-add we bring to our clients – we are not a commodity, and I think there will be continued pressure to support that mission. From that perspective, it’s not a stretch to say that firms like ours will be counted on more and more to demonstrate extraordinary value, and I’m convinced we are well positioned to do so.

What are you most proud of?

I try to bring the highest standards of integrity and business ethics to work every day. Gaining and keeping the trust of my co-workers is my most prized possession. A decent sense of humor can come in handy as well.

Do you have any advice for people entering the profession? I was given advice early in my career to get as broad of an education as possible. The profession is changing faster than ever before, and we all need to make sure we are prepared to thrive in a changing world. Ask questions. Sidle up to those who’ve been in the trenches for years. Soak it all up. Never rest on your accomplishments.

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