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Executive Insight: Q&A with Terri Hoskins, Chief Human Resources Officer at Hooters

Gerald Mathews Executive Features, Human Resources Leave a Comment

Terri discusses how her background in finance has impacted her approach in HR and the importance of talent acquisition and career development at Hooters

Forefront Magazine: You received your undergraduate degree in marketing and accounting and spent time working in finance before going down the HR career path. Can you talk about what you learned from you time working in finance that has helped you in your HR career?

SD15_0501_Hooters_Mag-68-2Terri Hoskins: I learned to always focus on return on investment, no matter which position you hold in a company. To this day, I’m a very process-oriented individual and consistently stop and evaluate my output against the strategic business objectives towards which I’m working. My finance career focused on analyzing a company’s values and assessing its financial situation and this gave me a solid basis for almost any career.

FM: How did that early finance work give you a better understanding of how HR operations can impact the bottom line and how has this impacted your approach to HR strategy and initiatives?

TH: I feel fortunate to have had that financial perspective early in my career and I believe it shaped the way I approach HR. I recognize the impact that proper staffing strategies, strong personnel and a positive work environment can have on the bottom line. HR is a strategic part of Hooters business strategy, and I work with our HR leadership team to make sure they understand Hooters revenue goals in order to align our HR strategies and goals with business objectives.

FM: You spent time working for Outback Steakhouse and Front Burner Brands which were your first HR roles in the hospitality/restaurant industry. What did you learn in those opportunities that have helped you in your current role with Hooters?

TH: One of the great things about restaurant culture is that it’s filled with loyal employees who are nothing but passionate about the brand they represent, which is a trait that always resonates for me. The transition into the hospitality industry with Outback Steakhouse and The Melting Pot was an easy switch, I felt right at home. Now working at Hooters, I fully understand the essence of Orange Pride and all that comes with working for an iconic, vibrant brand. However, it has always had a tender place in my heart because I actually had my first date with my husband at Hooters! It’s funny how some things come full circle in life, my role here was just meant to be.

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FM: What challenges did you see and work through in those opportunities that you would say are indicative of the industry and how has that changed how you are approaching things at Hooters?

TH: As in any industry, career development is both a challenge and an opportunity for an organization. At Hooters, we invest heavily in the recruitment, retention and development of our team members, from trainee level all the way up through executives. Many may not know that career planning and training is a huge priority for our team, and this includes actively focusing on career development for the Hooters Girls. I am proud to work for a company that stands for investing in its employees’ career progression and advancement of females into management. From my perspective, I want to foster that environment and simply shine a light on Hooters as a truly competitive destination for employment opportunities. In addition to career advancement, perks include flexible hours, excellent team spirit and opportunities to meet and work with other ambitious professionals around the globe.

SD15_0501_Hooters_Mag-83FM: One of the key things that you talked about implementing at Hooters is an electronic learning platform and learning management system. Can you talk about the importance of putting this type of system in place? What impact do you see this having both domestically and internationally?

TH: An effective e-learning system is extremely important to our brand because it builds consistency in our training across the entire Hooters system, both domestically and internationally. We want our guests to enjoy the same incredible Hooters dining experience no matter which one of our more than 400 worldwide locations they visit. We strive to train our iconic Hooters Girls to the same standard, whether they’re serving up Hooters world-famous wings in Hong Kong or Atlanta. Having a universal e-learning system also reinforces Hooters core values: show you care, elevate the spirit, respect everyone, value feedback and exceed expectations.

FM: How are you working with IT to integrate this system?

TH: We’ve integrated our e-learning management platform with our overall IT systems and removed any unnecessary intervention for a seamless operation.

FM: We also talked about the overall leadership transition that has taken place which has also been reflected in the HR department. Can you talk about the impact of bringing in HR leaders such as a VP of Talent Management?

TH: Yes, in 2011 Hooters transitioned to a new ownership and leadership team, including a new CEO, Terry Marks. Since then, Hooters has focused on growing the company through our strategic brand plan that focuses on three tenants of our guest experience—food, atmosphere and service. It’s no doubt Hooters makes you happy, but the intent is to make more people happy, more often by being a destination for a broader variety of occasions. The great service and memorable experience guests have because of our Hooters Girls are the reasons many of them keep coming back. We are also focused on remodeling our corporate-owned restaurants with our latest contemporary design concept, in addition to expanding our footprint globally. With this directive, the Hooters leadership team has seen several key new hires. Our HR leadership additions, such as our vice president of talent management, have a deep understanding of Hooters Girl retention which, again, is one of our top priorities, so it absolutely makes sense for us to invest in their recruitment, retention and succession planning at a strategic level.

FM: How will these changes help HR better support the organization and Hooters employees and what impact will this have on talent acquisitions?

TH: When your leaders are focused on investments in key personnel and guest-centric enhancements across the board, it unites all employees for a common purpose and generates excitement for being a part of the organization—especially when that organization is an iconic, global brand like Hooters! With an increased level of focus on talent management and acquisition, we will retain more and more of our employees on a long-term basis. I always hire people I have confidence in, and those who will project confidence onto my team. Each of our new hires are valuable additions to the overall HR unit and allow us to better align with our four major pillars, which are organization and succession planning, learning management system, recognition and recruitment/retention.

SD15_0501_Hooters_Mag-23-2FM: We spent some time talking about the development of your HR team and you stressed the importance of helping people understand their strengths and weaknesses as well as helping them experience new areas. Can you discuss how you go about doing this on your teams and how you encourage people to be leaders within the function?

TH: I’ve always been a strong advocate for self-awareness, and I dedicate time to help my team work on their own personal development. It really is true—happy teams are productive teams. We recently integrated a new coaching module in our leadership development series which includes a self-awareness assessment and the team has really embraced the opportunity to learn about their leadership style. Another enhancement I’m excited to introduce soon is a 360 internal review process for all of our corporate and management team members.

FM: How did some of your previous leaders do this for you to help you grow and develop in your career?

TH: I have been so fortunate to have fantastic coaches and mentors that have positively impacted my career in many ways, and I am especially grateful for the infinite support of my family and best friend throughout the years. From my beginning in finance and marketing to the human resources field that defines my career now, I have had supportive people in my life who have helped me set clearly defined, realistic personal and professional expectations while encouraging my continuous development. It is so important to have open lines of communication, honest feedback has helped me shape my career and I don’t think you can ever absorb or give enough! I have an undying passion for getting the job done, no matter how big or small, and I will put my best foot forward every time. I purposefully infuse that passion into my leadership style, and I wholeheartedly believe that the energy I put into the brands I represent and the people behind the organizations I support is because I have had important people in my life who have done the same for me.

SD15_0501_Hooters_Mag-47FM: We also talked about development across the entire organization and Hooters has built a strong culture around investing in employees and career development, especially for the Hooters Girls. Can you talk about how Hooters has done this? How has Hooters created opportunities and developed field level employees and the Hooters Girls to becoming leaders within the organization?

TH: While any restaurant has servers, only Hooters has Hooters Girls! Overall, the nearly 18,000 Hooters Girls around the world reflect women who are students, aspiring actors, models, entrepreneurs, mothers and philanthropists. From college tuition reimbursement to career pathing, mentoring and personal development training, our Hooters Girls are one hundred percent supported and are given every opportunity to get to reach their personal and professional goals.

Hooters Girls receive unrivaled opportunities that someone outside of the organization may not be aware of, including involvement in international marketing and advertising initiatives, participation in the annual Hooters International Swimsuit Pageant, Hooters Calendar appearances, world travel and promotion opportunities, hosting events, community and philanthropic engagement and in some cases, serving as a media spokesperson. Internally, Hooters Girls can seek any number of positions, from regional manager to area coach or trainer, the opportunities are endless. We actively encourage Hooters Girls to apply for a Hooters corporate role. We’ve promoted a high percentage of staff internally to move into management roles, and this includes several Hooters Girls.

It’s such a wonderfully unique situation in the service industry, and it is ultimately the people who make up the Hooters family that continue to fuel my passion every day.

Comments, thoughts, feedback?