Chief Human Resources Officer candidates on campus

Each discussed the recruitment, retention and development of top talent in their forum

Published by Matthew Glover, Date: December 10, 2023

Slippery Rock University (SRU) hosted three candidates in the last two weeks for the Chief Human Resources Officer position.

Each candidate was told to prepare a 10-minute presentation focusing on the recruitment, retention and development of top talent then answer questions from the audience.

Chief Diversity Officer Anthony Jones chaired the search committee. He was excited about the three strong candidates with all of them having at least 20 years of HR experience. He is also excited to remove many of the interim titles in administration as the university continues to hire.

Kristen Irey was on campus Oct. 16 and prioritized maximizing the power of recruitment and retention in her presentation. Most of her experience is in the public-school sector.

She used data she could find online like SRU vacancy rates compared to national averages, the university’s Glassdoor rating and how likely employees are to recommend SRU as a place to work.

Glassdoor is a website where employees can share with others what it is like to work for their company. SRU’s rating was a 4.5 out of 5, Irey said.

Irey said SRU can use these high ratings, awards and DEIB (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging) recognitions to attract candidates with the value of its brand. SRU can be proactive in recruiting at job fairs, putting a greater emphasis on employee referrals and using social media campaigns that highlight staff instead of only students.

Irey also emphasized creating opportunities for mentorship and the active role HR plays in supporting employee mental health.

“An employee who is burned out is not only jeopardizing their health, but they’re not performing their job to the best of their ability,” Irey said.

Anita Orozco, the second candidate, was on campus Monday. Her presentation emphasized understanding developing top talent.

Through her 30 years of experience, and after recruiting SRU students, she has learned that top talent looks different in every organization. Top talent makes life easier for themselves, their coworkers and the organization as a whole.

Orozco also expressed willingness to move struggling employees to a different position where their skills may fit better instead of “returning them to the community,” as she put it. She said people are sometimes not hired into the best role for them, and she has experience moving people to different positions better suited to their knowledge and skillset.

“Once you find the right fit for the right person, all of the sudden, someone that might not even have been performing very well goes right to the top,” she said.

Orozco also said the university can retain top talent by treating them differently including seeking them out, providing development opportunities and considering their goals. After finding the top talent, the university can look at the outliers who could be in the wrong position for them to reach their full potential.

She also emphasized the importance of candidates knowing the university’s mission and values and was happy to see that as one of the first documents delivered in the hiring process. She said the university’s and candidates values must match for them to be happy here, and the candidate must see those values through every step of the candidate experience.

Instead of exit interviews, Orozco has used “stay interviews” to find out what employees enjoy about working for an organization. She said a leader needs to listen to employee concerns but be honest when remedy is difficult or unfeasible.

The third candidate, SRU’s current Interim Chief Human Resources Officer Holly McCoy, spoke at her forum on Tuesday. McCoy has been in the position for about one year and three months and has worked at the university for 20 years.

“If we think about hiring and employment as a linear process, you recruit to retain to develop,” she said, “but it’s really a circular process.”

McCoy began by discussing retention, or “engagement,” and explained that just because employees have worked at SRU for a long time does not mean they are happy and actively contributing to the organization. To retain them, the university must focus on individual wellbeing, relationship building and creating meaningful work.

Benefits are not just healthcare and retirement plans anymore. Benefits may include opportunities for remote work and allowing flexible daily hours. Candidates also want to see a welcoming, inclusive community where the majority also stands up for underrepresented populations.

Meaningful work also creates job satisfaction when employees see how it affects the larger department or organization. She also advocated for offering advancement opportunities similar to corporate entities then outlining the training or education needed to advance.

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Matt is a senior majoring in Strategic Communication and Media with a concentration in converged journalism and minor in Political Science. He enrolled at SRU as a junior in the spring 2021 semester and contributed to The Rocket before becoming the news editor in fall 2022. Before that, he wrote sports articles for The Penn at IUP. Matt spends his free time playing music, socializing with friends, and playing with his cats, Max and Odele. Matt is graduating in December and is currently actively seeking employment.


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