The Job You Were Born to Do

J.L. Greene Human Resources, Issue 13 - Sept/Oct 2014 2 Comments

A Religion and Philosophy major, EVP and CHRO Telvin Jeffries is putting the culmination of his skills, knowledge and beliefs to work at RadioShack

By J.L. Greene

Most of the time you choose a career; sometimes it chooses you.

As a Religion and Philosophy major, Telvin Jeffries never dreamed human resources (HR) would fulfill his ambition. His managers thought otherwise. Though he was just entering the retail world, Jeffries’ strong work ethic and determination drew the attention of his superiors, who quickly promoted him to Personnel Manager.

As he began screening, interviewing and training new employees, Jeffries realized his duties in HR matched his work ethic and entrepreneurial spirit. Over 20 years, that same drive brought him from a Kohl’s Assistant Store Manager to the company’s Executive Vice President (EVP) of HR.

And then RadioShack called. Seeing his success record, the famous retailer asked him to implement his development programs to help turn the company around. It was a far jump from the stable and growing setting he knew. Lured by the challenge and chance to continue a 100-year-old brand, Jeffries joined the company in 2012 as EVP and Chief HR Officer. He manages all HR operations for RadioShack’s 4,600 stores across the U.S., Caribbean, Mexico and China.

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Delivering Brand Messages

As soon as he arrived, Jeffries saw that the company’s personnel needed a cultural shift if they were to grow and develop. A business’ success stands on a shared vision rooted in principles and goals.

“The brand message doesn’t get delivered unless it’s part of the DNA of the people,” he said.

Jeffries believed going back to company basics was the only way to create this united force. He met with managers to focus on RadioShack’s identity: Who are we as a company? What do we do? What are we trying to accomplish? As they found answers to these questions, managers were able to share them with their staff.

The change in culture soon trickled down to the rest of RadioShack’s associates. To empower each worker, the company provided more education on how to deliver customer service, discussed store procedure and helped employees understand how a store’s touchpoints validate its external message. Jeffries also cemented the message in a companywide “knowledge map” infographic that serves as a daily reminder of the importance of the customer experience.

“People need words for their head and pictures for their heart. When you connect those two together, you have something that’s powerful and sustainable,” Jeffries explained.

The visual is a daily reminder of RadioShack’s core values.

Finally, Jeffries was able to focus on team-oriented principles. The company’s slogan is D.I.T., or “Do It Together,” and it’s a message that flows out of the internal community to reach the customer experience. RadioShack was built on customers coming with questions, seeking answers from well informed employees, and knowing they would both work together to achieve the customer’s goal. Jeffries wants that reputation back and is doing his all to get it.

Avoiding the Hiccup

Jeffries’ philosophy also hinges on communication, meaning open communication. He finds it, both within a department and between departments, to be critical to a company’s success. One common hiccup, according to Jeffries, is that HR staffers talk in HR terms, which disconnects them from broader business objectives. Ignorance and miscommunication will fracture a company’s infrastructure and consistency.

Jeffries even applies this principle when extending access to his own bosses. He embraces the idea that employees should have equal access to his superiors, allowing team members to understand their leaders’ priorities and ask questions directly rather than through an intermediary. Clear communication is essential.

The Strategic Weapon

“I come from a philosophy that everything rises and falls on leadership, and the strategic weapon for any company is its people,” Jeffries said.

As he joined RadioShack, he saw that strengthening the team meant offering continuing education for employees, rearranging roles and bringing in new talent. The company also restructured the jobs function to align with desired outputs. Jeffries has been determined to have the right jobs in the right structure with the right resources to accomplish the brand’s vision.

Its success shows why Jeffries caught his first managers’ attention more than two decades ago. It’s also a reason he’s sure to catch more.

J.L. Greene is a freelance writer based in Nashville, Tennessee.

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Telvin’s Key Partners: Hay Group (Management Consulting) | Infor PeopleAnswers Talent Science™ (Predictive Talent Analytics™) | Cornerstone OnDemand (Talent management solutions)

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