Dee Ann Turner of Chick-fil-A Talks About The Evolution of HR

In this Corner Office article, Cyndy Trivella, Events Manager with TalentCulture, spoke with Dee Ann Turner, VP Corporate Talent with the iconic brand, Chick-fil-A. In addition, Dee Ann is the author of the acclaimed book It’s My Pleasure: The Impact of Extraordinary Talent and a Compelling Culture. They talked about the evolution of HR and the impact on how employment and culture, technology, employer branding, and the challenges associated with talent acquisition have all been affected. In keeping with our theme, this article will highlight the perspective and experience of someone who has made the move to the “corner office.”

Cyndy: I had the immense pleasure of speaking with one of the smartest people working in the field of human resources. Dee Ann Turner knows HR inside and out. She worked her way up the corporate ladder and learned great lessons along the way, which she has been able to incorporate into her current role as VP of Corporate Talent.

Cyndy: Dee Ann, you are certainly a role model for any person aspiring to become an HR professional. You’ve seen so much in your 30 years and with that the evolution of the HR function. When you compare hiring today versus 30 years ago, how has culture and productivity been affected by the practice of hiring people as contingent workers more so than ever before in our history?

Dee Ann: This shift to more of a “free agency” staffing model has been developing for over a decade. This has had both positive and negative effects on culture and productivity in the workplace. Culturally speaking, the use of contingent workers can help create an opportunity for the workforce to expand and contract based on work demands without impacting the job security of full-time employees. That scenario can be a positive for morale and the culture. However, the culture can be negatively impacted when a large percentage of work is performed by contingent workers unsure of their future. This can be particularly stressful to both full-time and contingent workers if they do similar work but hold a different employment status. Both parties become concerned about the perceived inequity. In the midst of the distractions inherent in these situations, productivity can suffer.

Communication of expectations is the key for both the contingent worker and full-time employee. The communication needs to address expectations of, not only, the contingent workforce, but of the full-time staff as well to dispel the concerns of inequity. Be sure that the contingent worker has some trade-offs for their flexible contract. An organization employing contingent workers should only expect full commitment to the work contracted, not necessarily the kind of commitment to the organization that a full-time employee exhibits. People are generally only as loyal to you as you are to them. A predominate sense of loyalty strengthens the culture.

Cyndy: Excellent points. There are definitely pros and cons to contingent hiring and it’s important that the company dispel rumors and perceptions. Again, drawing on your years of experience, what evolutions and advancements in technology and philosophy have been game-changers for HR in the past 10 years?

Dee Ann: Without a doubt the biggest technology game changers are the advancements in self-service benefits and data management, web enabled interviewing, the impact of social media on recruiting and branding, and robust applicant tracking systems.

Philosophical game changers include the rise of the millennial generation, which has impacted the company culture significantly from work hours to workplace design to dress codes and more, increased litigation and regulatory requirements, and adequate succession planning with the exit of baby boomers, and a less populous Gen X.

Cyndy: I agree. Technology is a real game changer for HR. I believe it reduces the administrative burden of the duties and allows HR to be the contributing department that it is. I’ve one last question. Let’s talk about one of my favorite topics… employer branding. What do you believe are the best practices for building an employer brand?

Dee Ann: The first step is to assess and understand the current employment experience. What’s good? What is not so good? What do employees tell others? How do employees advocate for the company? Where do employees find fault with the company?

Secondly, decide who you want to be as an employer. What is your key competitive advantage over other companies? What attributes do you want to define the employee experience at your company? How does the employment experience tie to the company brand, mission and overall organizational business strategy?

Thirdly, communicate who you are. Innovatively communicate in diverse ways who you are as a brand, organization and employer. Develop a message that even in just a few words communicates the opportunities you offer and what your employee value promise is.

Lastly, assess again what you have created. Measure the impact of the employment brand on attracting and retaining exceptional talent.

Cyndy: A very sound strategy, Dee Ann. More companies need to understand what’s working and not within the organization and find effective ways to eliminate inefficiencies or capitalize on the findings. Thanks for spending time with me and for sharing your perspective with us. Congratulations on the success of your book… well deserved!

Dee Ann: Thank you. It’s been an enjoyable conversation.

Be sure to catch the next interview with Brian Carter, author of The Cowbell Principle, at The TalentCulture Corner Office.

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