Growing companies are in constant need of finding the right people for their team. This week’s podcast is with Tova White, Executive VP of Human Resources at Chapters/Indigo. I have been in a number of their stores over the years adding to my book collection. I am constantly impressed with the quality of people that they have working with their organization. Books are one of my main passions in life. I distinctly remember reading Papillion as a young teenager and entering into a different world through the written word. Interestingly enough, Chapter’s mission is to “add joy to customers’ lives”. As I thought about their mission, I realized that a great book really can impact you for life. It really is the gift that keeps on giving!
Working in recruitment for many years previously, one of the things that I noticed was the clear differentiation in company cultures between organizations. A company is really a tribe of people. The word tribe comes from the Greek tribus. The great Greek author and poet Homer spoke of the natural divisions that happen in the community. A person was known as an outlaw if they were not in a tribe. Companies are essentially tribes. I think this is where they may have taken the word headhunter literally! The role of HR in an organization is to understand the cultural elements of the tribe and to find and hire the right people that will fit into their distinct culture.
Tovas’s own career journey is quite interesting. She graduated from The London School of Economics with a focus in Labour Economics. Tova worked in executive search and in the Chairman’s office at The Bank of Montreal. She left the bank to join Chapters/Indigo at a point where there were a lot of changes and she is now Executive VP of Human Resources/Organization development. Tova’s attraction was to be part of something that was growing and moving in an interesting direction. “Why not make work an amazing experience for people we spend so much of our time with doing the things that pay the bills. Why not make it a great experience for both the organization and individual. There was something magical about the fit that was intriguing for me and that is a very big part of what we do here.”
What are her secrets to finding and keeping great people? A majority of their employees come from two areas. One is through referrals. Like all tribes, birds of a feather hang out together. This is their number one source of great people. They have worked diligently at making their company a great place to work and paying attention to their employees’ needs. They reward their employees handsomely for referring potential employees to their stores. Retail is not the best paying industry and the hours can be challenging, that is a well known fact. However, they have created innovative ways to recognize and reward their team. The second key place they hire is from their customers. “We are looking for people who are passionate about books.” A number of well known clients and book lovers approach the managers directly and network about opportunities. Like Tova’s own career journey, she has networked herself into all of her positions. Ask not what your potential employer can do for you but what you can do for your potential employer! Her role is to work on creating a work environment with the leadership team that resonates with a wide range of people.
Ironically, Chapters and I are in the same business, bringing joy to peoples lives. Book an initial consultation. It is never too late to turn a new page in your Career.
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P.P.S. Here are my Top 10 career books of 2009.
Along the road with you!