The airport hospitality company’s executive vice-president and chief human resources officer talks attraction and retention, succession planning and making memories with family.
Q: What top challenges do you face in your role?
A: Finding and engaging people. Finding the right mix and opportunities for people and managing in the ever-changing world of human resources. We have about 4,600 [employees] and talent acquisition has been difficult. However, over the last six months, I’ve seen the market loosen up a bit as — with the economy and inflation — many companies have paused their hiring initiatives, so the labour market is turning towards employers. The ‘Great Resignation’ period may be coming to an end.
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Q: What new programs or initiatives are you looking to implement?
A: We’ve been working over the last year on evolving our employees — identifying high potential individuals who are really young in their careers . . . and making sure they’re set up for future success. Now we’re looking at our 4,000 hourly workers to see who we can move into management.
Q: What programs do you consider the most successful?
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A: In my role, it’s been our leadership development program. We’ve had 250 people go through our training programs and are starting to establish a foundation for future growth with the company over the next three to four years. I’ve had mentors at [previous employers] who were instrumental in helping me get the resources, training and opportunities that helped me grow, so I understand first-hand what you need to do to help develop people.
Q: How do you judge the success of a program or initiative?
A: I’m a big believer in “action speaks louder than words.” It’s great to see people respond in a survey after a leadership seminar that we hold, but the proof is in the pudding. To see a chef prepare a meal successfully after our training session on how to cook food better, that’s where I think the real measures of success comes from — seeing the progression brought to life in whatever area we’re focusing on from a training perspective.
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Q: What key HR issues do you expect in the coming year?
A: [Diversity, equity and inclusion] is one area in which we’ve made great strides, but we’ve got more to do. Exposing our people to diversity is important because a diverse organization makes better decisions. The other big initiative we’re tackling is safety. I want to ensure we’re doing everything we can to make this a safe work environment, not just for our crew members but for our customers. We deal with hot implements, knives or slippery floors and there are lots of things going on in an airport environment that are out of our control at times. Our crew members must be aware and know if they see an issue, it needs to be addressed quickly, which takes training and reinforcement.
Q: What do you like to do in your free time? What are your hobbies?
A: I like to spend time with family. [In November, I went] on a trip to Ashville, N.C., with 16 family members — a trip we do every year. We often let good quality family time slip away because we’re busy working. It’s nice to press pause and make new memories. I also enjoy sports, particularly golf, and I try to visit different courses here at home or around the world.
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Q: What’s your favourite employee benefit and why?
A: My time off. I don’t use traditional health-care benefits that much because I’m generally healthy (knock on wood). I have elderly parents, so a lot of times I’ll take them to our beach house. Being able to spend time with family is so valuable.
Lauren Bailey is an associate editor at Benefits Canada.