HR Fresh Take Podcast

Our HR Fresh Take podcast serves to provide insight on the latest, statewide, national, and global happenings impacting our HR community from the perspective of local Philly HR, talent, and business leaders. Our goal is to provide timely and local perspectives and solutions to our Human Resources community that could be applicable to their workforce and workplace.


Host and Executive Producer – Joanna “Dr. Jo” Vazquez, Ed.D., SPHR, SHRM-SCP

Co-Host and Producer – Kaela Blanks, SHRM-SCP


  • Shakema Appleton
  • Brisilda Doma
  • Ed Rogers
  • Kena Sears, MBA
  • Theresa Velykis
  • Ragine Williams, M.S.

Sound Engineer and Editor – Jimmy Goodman, Leopard Studio


Season 2:

Episode 6: The Black HR Experience

What does it mean for HR leaders to bring their whole self to work when their identities are not the majority?

Being an HR leader is already challenging, but being the only one who looks like you only amplifies those challenges.

On this episode of HR Fresh Take, we’re revisiting the conversation from our June 2023 event “The Black HR Experience,” hosted by Philly SHRM and the National Association of African Americans in Human Resources (NAAAHR),

We’ll dive into the Black experience and how that intersects with leadership roles within Human Resources and the organizations at large. We’ll also discuss other areas such as allyship, psychological safety, and retaining Black talent.

We’re joined by Orien Barnes, VP of Organizational Development and Effectiveness at CHOP, Alain Duroseau, VP of Client Services at CCI Consulting, and Dr. Tanya O’Neill, Director of Organizational Development at Temple University Health System & Philly SHRM Board member.

Leading the discussion is Co-host and Producer of HR Fresh Take, Kaela Blanks.

More about Orien….

Orien Barnes serves as Vice President of Organizational Effectiveness and Development, at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). Orien is responsible for enterprise-wide vision, strategy, development, and communication of best-in-class practices to address organizational effectiveness, leadership development, learning and employee experience.

Prior to joining CHOP, Orien spent 18 years at AmeriHealth Caritas in positions of increasing responsibility. Her last role at AmeriHealth was Vice President, HR Learning, Talent Management & Organizational Development, where she was responsible for developing the strategy and overseeing the design, implementation, and evaluation of programs that enhance organizational performance, facilitate professional development, and build strategically necessary capabilities and competencies.

Orien holds a bachelor’s degree in Computer and Information Science from Spelman College and a master’s degree in Adult Training and Organizational Psychology from St. Joseph’s University. She believes it is an honor to serve the employees, patients, and families of CHOP. One of her favorite quotes from Robert Greenleaf captures her leadership approach – “The servant-leader is servant first…it begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first.”

While Orien has served in many roles in her career, her most important role is mom to her daughters, Madison and Jordyn.

More about Alain….

As Vice President, Client Services, Alain builds and maintains business relationships with leading HR executives in the Greater Philadelphia region. He has deep expertise in HR services and strategies and helps clients implement human capital management solutions that drive business performance.

Prior to joining CCI Consulting, Alain worked for Insperity, a professional employer organization, where he provided human capital solutions and Fortune 500 HR tools to small and midsize business owners. A significant portion of his time was spent providing methods to C-suite executives so they could mitigate owner liability and risk. Additionally, Alain designed and launched successful proposals focused on retaining high potential talent and enhancing team effectiveness. He also created and delivered training and change management programs across functional areas.

Known for his dynamic professional style and creative approach to working with clients, Alain thrives on helping businesses provide the healthiest and most bountiful workplace environment. He strives to unlock an organization’s potential through analyzing data, identifying key performance indicators (KPIs), and, most importantly, listening to the needs of his clients.

Alain has a bachelor’s degree in History with a concentration in American History from Villanova University and a master’s degree in Public Administration from Villanova University. In 2020, Alain was featured in FunTimes Magazine as one of Philadelphia region’s Men Who Is Who.

Listen Now

Episode 5: The Ethical Dimensions of AI in HR

Within the last decade, there has been a rapid expansion in the availability of and interest in artificial intelligence-based tools to perform HR tasks such as hiring, training, benefits, or employee engagement.

However, the use of AI in HR raises concerns given AI’s potential for problems in areas such as data privacy and bias. These concerns are further amplified in the HR context where decisions can have significant impacts on people’s lives.

In this episode, we’ll talk with Jay Polaki, Founder and CEO of HR Geckos, an HR Technology and Management company and host of the podcast, HR Bytes.

We’ll discuss the risks and ethical considerations of using AI tools in HR as well as ways to mitigate challenges so that organizations are able to implement this technology in an effective and responsible way.

More about Jay…

Jay Polaki has spent the last two decades in several leadership positions across industries, as a business partner, executive human resources consultant, and human resources director. Throughout her career, Jay has impacted how some of the most important HR functions are defined and executed. At HR Geckos, Jay continues to create, fuel, and encourage next-gen ideas, practices, and tools on Human Resources Technology, Leadership Development, Talent, and Compensation Strategies. Jay holds the Senior Human Resources Professional (SPHR) and SHRM Senior Certified Professional (SHRM-SCP) certifications. She attended Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUe), graduating with a Master’s in Industrial/Organizational Psychology. Jay is an official contributing member of the Forbes Human Resources Council and engages global audiences with stories that have defined her work and career in the field of Human Resources over the past two decades.

Listen Now

Episode 4: The December Dilemma

The proverbial saying around the holidays is that “it’s the most wonderful time of the year!”  But for HR professionals, it can be a time of stress in the workplace.  Every December, HR is faced with the difficult task of acknowledging the various religious and secular holiday traditions.

In this episode, we’ll talk with Nina Boe, Senior Workplace Program Associate at Tanenbaum*.  We’ll discuss the dilemmas organizations face when trying to accommodate different beliefs during the holiday season as well as all year round. Leading the discussion is Co-host and Producer of HR Fresh Take, Kaela Blanks.  Also joining in is Executive Producer, Dr. Jo Vazquez.

More about Tanenbaum…

Tanenbaum is a secular and non-sectarian non-profit that promotes justice and builds respect for religious difference by transforming individuals and institutions to reduce prejudice, hatred, and violence.

More about Nina Boe…

Nina Boe (she/her/hers) is a Senior Workplace Program Associate at the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding. Prior to this role, she served as a Peace Corps volunteer in North Macedonia working with Romani non-profit organizations. Nina earned her Master of Public Administration and BAs in Political Science and East European Studies from the University of Washington. Her academic, professional, and personal areas of interest have long included linguistic, cultural, and religious diversity across the world. In her spare time, Nina enjoys learning new languages and exploring New York City.

Listen Now

Episode 3: An HR Halloween

Halloween is around the corner.  It’s time for spooky stories, tricks and treats.  But for HR professionals, scary stories from the workplace happen all year round.

It makes us wonder with all the laws, rules, and regulations in place, why are businesses and the people in them still making head-scratching, face-palmed decisions that could potentially get them into a house of horrors of litigation.

In this episode of HR Fresh Take, we share a few horror stories submitted by the HR community in the Philadelphia area.  The names were changed to protect the innocent AND the guilty.  We’ll also have a little fun talking about the stories and share some insight.

So grab your favorite beverage and enjoy the show!

Special thanks to podcast producers Brisilda Doma, Ed Rogers, and Theresa Velykis for their contributions to this episode.

Listen Now

Episode 2: Leadership Development Trends in the Next Decade

How are companies developing leaders in today’s fast paced business world?

Consider these statistics:

While 83% of organizations believe it’s important to develop leaders at every level of the company, only 5% of businesses have implemented leadership development at all levels.

In addition:

Only 48% of employees view their company’s leadership as “high quality.” and 79% of employees will quit due to a lack of appreciation*.

As a follow-up to our Spring 2023 Premier Signature event, “10 Trends for Leadership Development in The Next Decade”, we’re inviting back the event’s speaker, leadership expert, executive coach, trainer, and book author Shawn Doyle CSP. He’ll highlight two cutting edge trends that can help organizations develop highly effective leaders, improve morale, and increase retention.

Also joining in the discussion is Richard Foronjy, VP of Day Programming and Theresa Velykis, Past President of Philly SHRM.


More about Shawn….

 Shawn Doyle is a training and development expert and proud to carry the CSP designation, (that is a Certified Speaking Professional), designated by the National Speakers Association with only 12% of speakers in the world carrying that designation, which is a mark of quality and excellence.

Spending over three decades in the world of personal and professional development, Shawn while Vice-President of Learning and Development at Comcast, cofounded their Corporate University which was responsible for training and development for over 90,000 employees. Now as CEO of his own company, New Light Learning & Development, home of Shawn Doyle Training, he has the good fortune to work with amazing clients including The White House, Lockheed Martin, U.S. Navy, U.S. Marines, U.S. Army, Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Disney, Comcast, ABC, NBC, MSNBC, Pfizer, Merrill Lynch, Kraft, Coca-Cola and IBM to name a few.

Listen Now

Episode 1: A New Approach to Prioritizing Mental Health at Work

The importance of mental health awareness has never been so prevalent in the public consciousness. Employers who realize how critical this concern is to employees and potential employees will engender not only loyalty in their current people but will gain meaningful interest in those they seek to attract.

Conversely, those employers who ignore the importance of mental health as immaterial or who dismiss its significance by relying on the “back in my day” rationale may be doomed.

For this podcast, we’ll talk with Michael Cohen, partner in Duane Morris’ Employment, Labor, Benefits and Immigration practice group. We’ll take a deeper dive on this topic as well as provide practical, human-centric and business-focused ways that incorporates “Relentless Incrementalism” to continually move forward and create an environment that truly supports employees’ needs.

More about Michael….

Michael S. Cohen is a partner in Duane Morris’ Employment, Labor, Benefits and Immigration practice group. Michael concentrates his practice in the areas of employment law counseling and training and routinely conducts in excess of 200 trainings each year. He has been cited as a national authority on human resources and employment law issues in the New York Times, Associated Press, USA Today, HR magazine, SHRM Online and many more. In addition to being an attorney and a speaker, Michael is a devoted husband, a girl dad to two powerful young women and a softball coach to some of the fiercest athletes in Philly.

Listen Now

Season 1:

Episode 5 – HR as Thought Leaders?

Historically, human resources professionals are not considered thought leaders within their organizations.  Stereotypes of HR of only a “support” function can get in the way.  However, human resources professionals are well positioned to take on the role of thought leader and can have tremendous impact on people, organizations, and even society, including inspiring innovation and championing change.

As we conclude Season One of HR Fresh Take, we’ll chat with our guest, Gary Dumais, Psy.D., Business Psychologist and Human Resource Consultant at Select Human Resources. We will discuss why human resources professionals tend not to be perceived as thought leaders, and how they can be.

Also joining in the discussion are Co-hosts Kaela Blanks and Kena Sears.

This episode is a follow up to an article published in the Philly SHRM newsletter entitled: “Is HR Supposed to Think Differently? How to Be a Thought Leader”.  Link to link to the article can be found here.

 More on Gary….

Gary Dumais, Psy.D., SPHR is a Business Psychologist & Human Resource Consultant at Select Human Resources. Specializing in people-assessment, he profiles people for jobs, protects companies from bad hiring decisions, and provides executive coaching. He has over 20 years of experience working with top-tier HR firms and companies. Gary has a doctoral degree in Clinical Psychology, bachelor degrees in Psychology and Health & Human Services, and is a thought leader content contributor to Philadelphia SHRM.

Listen Now

Special Episode – The World of Work in 2030 

How we work has changed dramatically over the past few years. That change has lead to new work models, emerging workforce trends, and constantly evolving technology to sustain an organization’s operations. The uncertainty surrounding the future of work will be the most disruptive and definitive business challenges of the next decade.

In this special supersized episode, our podcasts hosts got the perspective from 9 of our nationally and locally recognized speakers from the Philly SHRM Symposium on the future of work. We wanted to take dive deep into what they thought the world of work looks like in 2030, how it will affect the Philly region, and what we as HR professionals can do now to meet the challenge.

You can listen to all of our speakers or to your favorite one. The choice is yours.

Here are the speakers in order of which they are recorded:

  • Marcus Allen, CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters Independence.
  • Raymond Lee, Founder and President of Careerminds.
  • Joyel Crawford, CEO/Founder, Author, Leadership Consultant, Crawford Leadership Strategies.
  • Cait Russell, Director of Neurodiversity Employment Network: Philadelphia.
  • Michael Brenner, Founder and CEO of Right Chord Leadership.
  • Brandyn Campbell, President and Founder, DEI Consultant, Brandyn Campbell Communications LLC.
  • Gary DuMais, Business Psychologist & Human Resource Consultant at Select Human Resources.
  • Andre Young, Professional Speaker, Author, and Leadership Trainer; Founder of You Evolving Now Now, LLC.
  • Theresa Velykis, President of Philadelphia SHRM.

We hope you enjoy listening to their perspectives and have a few takeaways that resonate with you and your organization.

Listen Now

Episode 4 – “The Great Awakening” Revisited

As a follow-up to our fall Premier Signature event, “The Great Awakening”, we’re inviting back our speaker, Bobbi Kelly, Director-in-Charge of Talent Advisory at Kreischer Miller, to give us her local take on a national topic. During her initial presentation, Bobbi Kelly took us through the forces of disengagement driving the “Great Resignation” and how we can counter-balance it. Bobbi will walk us through her solution to achieving talent optimization that doesn’t lose sight of driving great results within our organizations. We’ll also dive deeper into the key takeaways that will help us reduce turnover, improve company culture, and engage the workforce.

More about Bobbi…

Bobbi leads Kreischer Miller’s Talent Advisory practice, which helps companies align their business strategy with their people strategy. Utilizing a proprietary framework, she works with client organizations to equip their business leaders with the tools and data they need to hire and retain top performers and create high performing teams. The result is an intentionally-designed people plan that increases productivity, builds a winning culture, and creates the flexibility a company needs to adapt to change over time

Listen Now

Episode 3: Compensation in the Age of Inflation

As we know, labor is the highest cost to an organization. As inflation continues to impact our economy, the effects are not only impacting our supply chains, but also our talent pipelines. Not to mention there’s an ongoing pandemic, advancements in social justice, and the great resignation have made it a candidate’s market, so companies have to pay top dollar for top talent.

During this episode, we’ll be chatting with our guest, Alison DiFlorio, Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Exude Human Capital, to take this to the local level to understand how the national issue of inflation is impacting here in our own city of Philadelphia. Alison will discuss what we, as employers, could be doing differently to remain competitive in today’s talent landscape. She’ll be giving us tips and questions to consider when you’re setting up your compensation and workforce strategy.

More about Alison…

Alison DiFlorio, SHRM-CP is the Co-Founder and Managing Partner of the Exude Human Capital Division. She co-founded the division in 2006 after more than 20 years in HR and training/development roles in the corporate sector. Exude Human Capital provides expertise in the areas of human resources, diversity/equity/inclusion and leadership development. In her role, she serves as a thought partner to both clients and consultants to ensure success. She is the co- host of The Morning Blend, a quarterly webinar series focused on HR and Legal updates, and regularly conducts webinars seminars on human capital topics.

Listen Now

Episode 2: Tomorrow’s Workplace is Today’s

Organizations are expected to be agile as the demand for hybrid and remote work continues to be strong. Across most industries, companies and workers have experienced its benefits and its headaches.  Now more than ever, organizations are being expected to evolve their workplaces and workspaces to meet this demand.

In this episode, we chat with our guest, Jameel Rush, Director of Inclusion Programs at Google, on the challenges in defining what it means to “be at work”.  We’ll discuss how organizations can meet the unique needs of a diverse workforce that are both in physical and virtual workspaces. We’ll also talk about what to consider when scheduling “off hour” activities to maximize participation and that are inclusive and fun.

More about Jameel…

Jameel leads the organization that supports Google’s employee resource groups, executive councils, and diversity programs for over 40,000 Googlers across 70 different countries. Prior to his role with Google, Jameel held roles leading diversity, equity, and inclusion for Aramark and The Philadelphia Inquirer. He has over 15 years of global talent management and human resources experience having worked in leadership development, organizational development, HR Business Partner, and talent management roles across several public and private organizations. He has his master’s degree in Organizational Leadership and Development from St. Joseph’s University and is a graduate from Temple University with a bachelor’s in business administration focusing on Human Resource Management and Management Information Systems.

Listen Now

Episode 1: The Myth of Quiet Quitting

The term “quiet quitting” went viral this past summer for its counter-narrative to the “hustle culture” mentality. Organizations have traditionally looked for superstar performers who are enthusiastic and motivated about their role and are willing to go the extra mile.

Our workforce is experiencing burnout due to the challenges over the past few years. The traditional level of engagement is hard to be expected from our talent when organizations are not focusing on the true problem.

In this episode, we’ll dive into insights from our guest, Anna Greenwald, Founder/CEO of On the Goga, on getting to the root cause of quiet quitting and how we can address burnout in our organizations.

More about Anna…

Anna Greenwald is a wellbeing and future of work expert. Through her work as the founder CEO of On the Goga, she has supported teams including Johnson & Johnson, PwC, L’Oreal, GrubHub, and Lyft to improve wellbeing. Greenwald is a TEDx Speaker and adjunct professor of mindfulness and wellbeing at Drexel University.

Listen Now