Knowing Your Workforce: Eric Severson and Amber Judd

Hosted by Chris Dyer, the CEO of PeopleG2 – TalentTalk Radio features engaging conversation with CEOs, thought leaders and HR executives.  TalentTalk connects professionals who care about talent-related issues and who care about knowing their workforce to get the best out of them.

Today’s guests are Eric Severson, Co-Chief Human Resource Officer & Senior Vice President of Global Talent Solutions at Gap Inc., and Amber Judd, Owner of Creative Lighting Displays. Both hit on the key need to know your workforce and manage talent relations based on this knowledge.  To hear the entire show, click here.


Eric Severson is Co-Chief Human Resource Officer & Senior Vice President of Global Talent Solutions at Gap, Inc., a Fortune 500 retailer that includes the brands, Gap, Banana Republic, Old Navy, INTERMIX and Athleta.  Before joining Gap, Inc., Severson spent several years at Macy’s in operations and HR roles. 

Severson explains how having two chiefs of HR at Gap allows them to divide and conquer and get much more accomplished. “In 2014, we were able to implement two really important initiatives – our minimum wage initiative and pay equality initiative. They were ideal opportunities for Gap to get a competitive advantage. We were able to act in a matter of weeks (versus the typical months or years for most companies).  It’s really imperative for market share to move quickly,” says Severson.

Working Whenever, Wherever

At headquarters, they embrace flexible working for their workforce.  “Many of our brands are part of the Results Only Work Environment (ROWE).  Employees can work wherever they want, whenever they want, as long as they get results.  It matters much less where people are physically,” explains Severson. In key locations where they attract creative talent – New York and San Francisco — finding good talent is competitive and challenging.  He believes carving out a competitive advantage with ROWE is going to be a 21st century trend with millennial talent, who tend to focus more on work-life integration. “Our workforce is three-quarters female and close to 80 percent millennial. It’s imperative for us to keep in pace with the way people’s lives are evolving,” asserts Severson.

Mind Your Workforce

In a former position, Severson says he made a change to titles. “I eliminated the title of HR and instead we had Talent Managers; instead of Recruiters, we had Talent Attraction leaders. What people are giving you when they come to work is not their body, it’s their talent. What you’re hiring is someone’s brain. The job of HR is to figure out how to make the most of people’s minds.”

An emerging discussion is the connection between well-being and performance.  In the last year, Gap replaced its entire performance management system – in place for more than 15 years — and based it on neuroplasticity research and on mindset psychology. To this end, they have eliminated performance ratings because they are at odds with high performance. “It’s an example of how we’ve integrated the latest science that connects employee satisfaction and higher performance at work.”

Severson is part of the National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship, working to build competitiveness in the workforce.  He serves on the Workforce Development Committee where they strive to connect the interests of businesses with the interests of employees.  Gap’s employment brand focuses on the theme of “Better You, Better Gap.’”  “We look for programs, practices and policies that are both good for the business and improve people’s lives so employees can say, ‘I’m better when I left Gap than when I came in’”, says Severson. 

Another program they implemented is Gap, Inc. for Community Colleges, which is connected to the White House program Skills for America’s Future. They train community college students by in-house staff, inviting those with the highest potential to participate in an in-store internship program.  The goal is to build the skills of the long-term unemployed as well as those of young people.

What are You Reading?

Severson is reading “Rookie Smarts: Why Learning Beats Knowing in the New Game of Workby Liz Wiseman. It’s based on research that with a rookie mindset, despite age or experience, people continue to approach challenges as you did as a rookie. This, Severson believes, is what successful people continually do.

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workforceAMBER JUDD

Judd is the Owner of Creative Lighting Displays (CLD).  Prior to becoming an entrepreneur, she was an HR professional. She and her husband came up with the idea of Creative Lighting Display as a “non-scary” alternative to the traditional Halloween displays she was used to seeing.

The company took off when others started to ask for her help to create similar displays, and today CLD works with both residential and commercial clients.  

A Growing Workforce

CLD brings in most talent using forums, word-of-mouth and social networking, leveraging Judd’s background in HR. “I am able to bring them together to create cohesiveness, to bring focus and to keep them on track,” says Judd. 

CLD currently has several jobs running across the country – in Tennessee, Alabama and Virginia.  They are doing an install on a Naval Ship in San Diego.  Judd says she needs to manage the jobs and ensure they reach the milestones.

Culture Then and Now

In regard to culture in her past positions, Judd says, “I researched a company’s mission statement and core values to see how they aligned with their 10K report or feedback on social media.”

Now, Judd says she looks for leaders who truly practice the culture of the company. “Giving people feedback and giving them hands-on training and exposure will usually open a lot of doors they may not have found before,” says Judd. In her experience, individuals who are motivated solely by money tend to contribute less to the team. 

The Orchestra Effect

Judd says it was her fourth grade teacher who exposed them to diverse people including an orchestra. The orchestra experience made her realize how much a group can accomplish when they work together.  That experience has stayed with her ever since.

What are You Reading?

Judd is reading, “Catch! A Fishmonger’s Guide to Greatnessby Cyndi Crother.

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Remember, do what you love….and show the world how talented you can be, today.

Date:  December 16, 2014