People and Strategy

Suzan McDaniel on Bridging a Career in Talent Management to CHRO

Episode Summary

In a career with previous roles at Bristol-Myers Squibb, Hewlett Packard, and BHP, talent management has always proved both a passion, and a key aspect of Suzan McDaniel’s responsibilities. In this episode of People and Strategy, McDaniel speaks with host Tony Lee about the breadth of her current role as Chief Human Resources Office at Edward Jones, advice for aspiring CHROs, and her take on the most important talent-related issue HR leaders should be thinking about this year and beyond.

Episode Notes

In a career with previous roles at Bristol-Myers Squibb, Hewlett Packard, and BHP, talent management has always proved both a passion, and a key aspect of Suzan McDaniel’s responsibilities. In this episode of People and Strategy, McDaniel speaks with host Tony Lee about the breadth of her current role as Chief Human Resources Office at Edward Jones, advice for aspiring CHROs, and her take on the most important talent-related issue HR leaders should be thinking about this year and beyond.

Episode transcript

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Episode Transcription

Tony Lee:                      Welcome to today's People and Strategy podcast. I'm Tony Lee, Vice President of Content for the Society for Human Resource Management and the SHRM Executive Network, which is the premier network of executives and thought leaders in the field of human resources.

                                    I'm very excited today to speak with Suzan McDaniel, Chief Human Resources Officer at Edward Jones in St. Louis. Suzan has followed a steady path to her current position, traveling the world through positions at Bristol-Myers Squibb, Hewlett Packard, and BHP. In each of those roles, talent management has been an area of passion and a key aspect of her responsibilities.

                                    Now at Edward Jones, Suzan is overseeing all aspects of HR and serving as a member of the firm's senior executive leadership team. Suzan, welcome to the People and Strategy podcast.

Suzan McDaniel:           Hi Tony, it is such a pleasure to be here with you today, and thank you for having me. I want to begin too with gratitude for SHRM, looking at your amazing impact that you have on all of our HR colleagues and building their skills and capabilities from around the world. We are grateful for you.

Tony Lee:                      Well, that's very kind of you, Suzan. Thank you and thanks again for being here. So let's start by talking about you. You started at Edward Jones with a focus on talent management at about the same time that the pandemic arrived.

Suzan McDaniel:           Yes.

Tony Lee:                      So I'm curious, how has your role evolved in the more than three years since then?

Suzan McDaniel:           So you're absolutely right. I joined Edward Jones on March 1st, 2020, and we all know, just a few weeks later, the World Health Organization officially declared Covid-19, a global pandemic and a health emergency. While we know many of us were shut in and the world essentially shutting in, at Edward Jones, we really remained focused on taking care of our clients and their families, our colleagues, and our communities.

                                    Tony, looking back, it was a really challenging time. In addition to starting a new job at a time where there was so much fear and uncertainty in the world, I was also moving my family across the globe, as you had shared, from Melbourne, Australia to here in St. Louis, Missouri, where Edward Jones is headquartered. So my role has evolved in the past three years. I started with the firm as our head of talent and then was asked to be responsible for the overall human resources division and last year I was asked to step into the role of CHRO, joining our managing partners senior enterprise leadership team.

                                    Before the pandemic, Tony, Edward Jones was well on its way in a business transformation that has been aimed at serving more clients, more completely, through deep, trusted personal relationships, comprehensive advice and planning. Our firm is over 100 years old and we have a very rich and a very proud history. We have a culture and a spirit of caring that is like nothing else I have seen, and we have deep trusted relationships with our clients and these three things together really make what is for a secret sauce at Edward Jones.

                                    And as we continue on our transformational journey, it's really about evolving our business model, our delivery model, and our operating model. So as you can see, it's largely a people transformation as we think about helping our firm develop the right skills and capabilities for the future and helping our people be prepared with the best mindsets and the right mindsets, skill sets and tool sets, as we call them, to thrive in our new ways of working and that's been most meaningful for them to have a rich and rewarding career.

                                    So as you can see, in my role, I've continued to grow as we evolve our human capital function to best support this business transformation that I described and serving our clients.

Tony Lee:                      Well, it sounds like a great approach, and I think if you talk to the folks who are listening to this program, the first question they're going to have is, well, you've really gotten very broad experience. A number of different organizations, different industries, different countries, as you've said.

                                    So when you think about your career, what advice do you have for others who would love to be the CHRO of a major company like Edward Jones? Should they look at different organizations to build their career? Should they stay put and try and advance that way? What's your guidance?

Suzan McDaniel:           Yeah, great question. As I think about my career, you often get great advice when you're starting out and one of the great pieces of advice I got was don't think about your career Suzan as being linear, but think about it more as a lattice. Be open to building new skills and getting new experiences throughout your career. In fact, seek those out, seek them out to be able to learn and grow.

                                    And in that lattice, yes, there will be promotions but there'll also be lateral moves and sometimes you grow and develop the best in those lateral moves where you're really stretching your comfort zone, and I'll give you an example, Tony. I remember I had been in a center of excellence in talent management for a number of years in consulting and then joining Bristol-Myers Squibb, and I was asked to move into an HR business partner role leading up a global division, and it was a new division, Tony, so it was a couple of different capabilities coming together.

                                    And it really, at first I was like, oh my gosh, I'm stepping out of my comfort zone. I know the talent work inside and out, but I was very open to it and I'm so grateful I did and got to be really comfortable with being uncomfortable and learned such a great deal from that experience about how you think about talent strategies to enable business strategies. Thinking about how you lead really diverse teams from all over the world and creating that inclusive environment where folks can really thrive and that skillset continues to serve me well today.

                                    So first piece of advice is think about gathering different sets of experiences so that when other opportunities come by, you'll have the right tool set to be able to jump into those. So key is about skills and experiences.

                                    And then the second thing that's always been important to me, and I'm sure many of our listeners out there is, really be prudent about choosing an organization and a role that fulfills your personal purpose. Where you can thrive and be your best and have values that are aligned with what the organization values are. And I know this is so true for me coming into Edward Jones as I'm very empowered by our firm's purpose, it aligns very closely to my personal purpose which is helping to make a positive difference in the lives of those I love and lead and to teach and serve others and help people achieve more than they thought was possible by having big and unconstrained thinking and also being a leader that aspires to bring clarity and humility, vulnerability, kindness, love, optimism to those I lead and creating those conditions for others to thrive.

                                    And so that very much aligns with our firm's personal purpose about having a positive impact.

Tony Lee:                      Okay. I guess the key question here is talent. It has been your love, been your passion throughout your career, and now that you've expanded into other areas, I assume you can't let it go. Given the talent shortages we're all seeing, certainly every company is wrestling with finding the right people for the right job more so than ever before. So how has your background helped you address that?

Suzan McDaniel:           Yeah, it's interesting. I tap into my experiences and learnings in industrial organizational psychology daily as it relates so heavily to the talent space that we have out there. You're right, there are talent shortages and forecasted to be continuing to have these talent shortages and so you have to think about how are you growing and developing and coaching your folks in your organization and helping them work to their strengths, helping them grow from new experiences, helping them have new ways of working and thinking, and that's really all about psychology.

                                    How you help people grow and get better change behavior, I use that every day. I also think about the work that we get to do in the operating model, which is part of our transformation, and really understanding what capabilities we need to have to win and then organizing our great firm so that we are delivering on the value and delivering that value to our clients.

                                    I also use it daily as I think about that learning I had when I was a business partner about taking a business strategy and when those things pivot and change, we have to evolve the people strategy, the talent strategy to support that. So we have to identify new skills, new capabilities and what we need to win in that strategy, and then develop an integrated talent strategy for the workforce around do we buy the capability in our hiring strategies? Do we build it with our internal talent and re-skilling? Do we borrow it with our contractors and/or consultants or do we bot it, is the fourth one, and that's where the exciting world of generative AI is coming into play.

                                    So I use it every day in how I think about the work and as you mentioned, the challenge today in the talent market is it is really competitive and there are huge labor shortages that economists are predicting will remain and employees around the world, they have options. So at Edward Jones, we're really focused on three things here and how we're helping address these talent challenges.

                                    One is we have a national hiring strategy for all of our North America operations where we're bringing in talent to help serve our over eight million clients and that talent can reside anywhere and does across the 50 states and the Providences in Canada. We also are thinking about how we are re-skilling our current talent. We have such talented associates here at Edward Jones and building out re-skilling and up-skilling practices and strategies to continue to grow and build our current associates experiences.

                                    And then lastly, really importantly, I talked about purpose a second ago and my personal purpose, but we also here continue to lead with our firm's purpose and this is so important for everyone. And our purpose, or our why at Edward Jones, is to partner for positive impact to improve the lives of our clients and our colleagues, and then together improve and better our communities and society as a whole.

                                    We are a business that wants to be a force for good and whose aims and strives to be a force for good in this world and it is great to be and very proud to be a part of an organization that has such a strong purpose that our people are inspired by. And this rings true, we've got great data that we have in our colleague experience survey that really shows that our purpose-driven approach really resonates with our workforce and has a very positive impact on retention of our top talent that we need to achieve our firm's purpose and retention overall as well.

Tony Lee:                      So Suzan, what do you think is the most important issue regarding talent that HR leaders should be thinking about this year and beyond?

Suzan McDaniel:           Just one, Tony, because it's hard to get to just one, but a couple things come to mind. So first, it's really important to remember that organizations that talent is the true enabler to Achieving our business goals and the important work that we need to do as organizations transform that we evolve our people strategies to be able to best support those new transformations and be thinking about the workforce as more of an ecosystem, as I talked about. Thinking about skills and capabilities to win in our business strategy.

                                    Also important, we are expecting more of our business leaders to lead in these ambiguous times and really important that as a collective in human resources, we are actively thinking about how we build the skills and capabilities of our leaders to lead more empathetically, to help grow and develop the skills of our associates that we know we need. It's just really, really important.

                                    And we focus a lot on our, we call it our magic middle. Our leader of leaders and leaders of associates and how we're building their skills and capabilities to lead in these challenging times. And then lastly, very near and dear to my heart, as an HR function and division, we need to continue to focus on ensuring that we have amplified our focus on total wellbeing. The emotional, the mental, in addition to the physical, financial and social wellbeing. So those would be three quick things I'd say, Tony.

Tony Lee:                      That's great. Well, it sounds like you have a strategy that has been working well. Let's pivot a little bit to a bit of a more touchy subject, which is return to office. At least it's touchy for some companies that have been trying to bring employees back while of course many employees prefer to work remotely, they say they did it successfully during the pandemic. How have you been handling that issue?

Suzan McDaniel:           Yeah, Tony, you're right. Like most companies, I like to say, we are learning out loud and we are learning our way through this and there's not a one size fits all answer for all organizations. And it really comes down to a balance organization must do what's right for its business, its clients or customers, its colleagues and as you say, bring through all the great and tremendous learnings that we've had from the pandemic and how we work.

                                    And at Edward Jones, we are very committed to providing flexibility for our associates across all of our 50 states while maintaining that special culture that I talked about, that servant leadership and that spirit of caring and enabling collaboration and innovation to serve our clients. And that right balance is what we're striving for as we think about how we accomplish creating that holistic associate experience and we use lots of data out there, surveys from our internal associates, external research more, to really inform those strategies that we want to take to ensure that we're bringing those learnings forward from the pandemic and also achieving the important business outcomes that we have.

                                    It's interesting, our branch teams, and we have over 19,000 branch teams out there, they have been open during the pandemic and after. So they have been working in face-to-face situations with our clients to better serve them. So we've got different populations, but as we think about our headquarters locations, we like to see the office really as a tool. It's a tool to do our best work together. It's not just being about a destination.

                                    So we view it as a space to come together for really intentional in-person interactions and gatherings. So think about where you need to collaborate and create brainstorming, business strategy, planning. Think about coaching and feedback, think about onboarding. That's a wonderful way to use the office as a tool in really experiencing our very, very vibrant culture.

                                    And our flexibility has enabled us to really grow and to hire and retain associates from all over, as I mentioned, the United States. And we've seen that this has had a positive impact on our retention and our flexible work model has helped keep that retention at a really good rate as we have this talent shortage that we talked about.

                                    So like all businesses, we continue to look at what our business needs are, what our associate needs are, and how we marry up the best of those and using internal and external data to guide us.

Tony Lee:                      Are you hybrid? Are there people who are fully remote? Is it a mixture of all of the above?

Suzan McDaniel:           It's a total mixture. So we've got folks that are hybrid. We have folks that come to the campus every day. We have folks that are in between and some home-based associates. So for example, if we've hired folks in California or Texas where we don't have a headquarters, a home base, but we do have and encourage opportunities for everybody to come in, again for certain types of work, so that we can ensure that we're experiencing our culture but also really importantly, getting the right business outcomes.

Tony Lee:                      Yep. No, it makes sense. Suzan, Edward Jones has been noted for celebrating diversity, equity and inclusion really throughout every aspect of your business. What's driving that effort? And I'm curious, the Supreme Court ruling earlier this year on affirmative action in college admissions is having an impact at some companies. How about at Edward Jones?

Suzan McDaniel:           Yeah, absolutely. As we think about diversity, equity, and inclusion. We all know it makes good business sense and we get better business outcomes when we have a more diverse and a more inclusive workforce and as we think about our DEI strategies, Tony, it's really about everybody, and Edward Jones is truly a place of belonging for everyone. We define diversity, equity, and inclusion, and particularly diversity in the broadest sense of the word. Different experiences and background, age, race, gender, different experiences and circumstances. So truly, again, the broadest sense of the word.

                                    And Tony, I always find each one of us has a very unique story and a unique perspective to share, and that it's really important and vital to have a diverse and an inclusive workforce that can hear those stories and that can hear those perspectives so that we can get, again, to serve our clients in the right way as we have a very diverse client base.

                                    And we know out there, there's a lot of great research that shows that DEI, it's not a human capital or a human resources imperative. It's a business imperative and really enables companies to perform much more strongly and achieve greater business outcomes and results when they have an inclusive and diverse workforce and we have felt the same.

                                    So we believe that every person deserves the opportunity to thrive, both personally and professionally, and to strive in creating a true place of belonging. Not a sense, but a place. A place, whether you walk through our branch doors, whether you walk through our Zoom doors or technology doors, as we're hearing here, you walk through our office doors. Where you feel valued and heard and seen and respected and a part of something bigger.

                                    So that's really important to us. We have set, as you noted, very ambitious goals to increase the number of people of color and women among our leadership and our financial advisors in the US and Canada by the end of 2025 and we also remain very focused on multiplying our impact with DEI through our different business resource groups, which are open to all of our home office associates and our field associates.

                                    And this is just an amazing place to bring together just a wide range of perspectives to discuss unique experiences, help attract and develop talent and retain them. There's wonderful leadership opportunities within each of the BRGs for our associates to grow and importantly, to understand and be able to serve our clients more deeply and more completely.

                                    So bringing it back to our business, it is important for us to truly understand the diverse group of clients that we have, and we want our associate base to be able to mirror that so that we can serve the clients, the eight million that we serve today, and the tens of millions that we hope to serve in the future.

                                    And just an example of that diversity, over the last 100 years, we've served seven different generations of clients and their families, and soon we will need to be prepared to serve five generations more at one time. So this is just important for us to be able to, again, better serve our clients.

                                    And as you talk about the Supreme Court ruling, we monitor that. We are looking at that. We know we have a very strong diversity, equity, and inclusion strategy. We're committed to that and we remain focused on that important work ahead.

Tony Lee:                      Yeah. Well that's great. Thank you so much for sharing that. Suzan, we've run out of time, but I want to thank you so much for sharing your expertise with us today.

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