Extending Her Reach

Since taking over the reins as the senior HR business leader at Amazon.com's MOD operation, Jordan Furbee Vroblesky has seen her responsibilities -- and impact -- grow exponentially.

By David Shadovitz

This article accompanies Shining Examples.

At the heart of Amazon.com's business philosophy is CEO Jeff Bezos' well-publicized mantra "work hard, have fun and create history."

For 2015 HR's Rising Star Jordan Furbee Vroblesky, that seems to fit the way she approaches her job to a tee.

Vroblesky joined Amazon, the world's largest online retailer, in October 2012 to build HR capability within its North Charleston, S.C.-based CreateSpace subsidiary, which provides "just-in-time" media products such as books, DVDs and CDs. Since then, Vroblesky has rapidly expanded her role as the senior HR business partner within the firm's Make On Demand business. Indeed, in her first two years at Amazon, she's been instrumental in launching two new production sites and transitioning CreateSpace and one other facility into the MOD operation.

Part of that transition -- which occurred during the incredibly busy holiday "peak" season -- included putting in place a wide range of new policies and practices, and making sure all four operations understood and reflected Amazon's unique culture.

During that critical period, Vroblesky demonstrated the strong set of skills she brought to the job, including those she honed while building HR functions from the ground up at companies in the software-development and food-services fields.

When Vroblesky was asked to develop HR capability for all four MOD facilities, including one that embodied Bezos' belief in "servant leadership," none of the locations had dedicated HR people in place for supporting the day-to-day needs of the associates and the leadership team.

As Vroblesky puts it, "there really wasn't a lot of structure" in place, so "I had to figure out what kind of HR representation I could bring to the table in order to allow people to feel they were cared about and were being supported."

For her, that meant bringing in talented HR professionals who could be HR points-of-contact at each of the locations. "We needed people who worked with associates every day, watching and listening to what was going on, keeping their fingers on the pulse of what engagement was like, and what potential risks existed that needed to be quickly mitigated."

In addition to the hiring and training of HR team members who could provide daily support at each facility, Vroblesky took much-needed steps aimed at making sure the various sites were aligned with the HR standard practices currently in place in North Charleston. (Other MOD sites are located in California, Kentucky and Delaware.)

Each week, Vroblesky hosts an HR team meeting in which participants look to mitigate potential risks and explore next steps that need to be taken at those sites.

One of the first steps Vroblesky took in her new role as senior HR business partner was to develop strong relationships with the MOD leadership team.

Through an assortment of initiatives, including ongoing one-on-one sessions and regularly scheduled meetings, she made sure everyone was on the same page.

At the same time, she encouraged leaders to hold similar one-on-one sessions with their direct reports.

"The thing I'm most passionate about is coaching others and helping them meet their goals," says Vroblesky, who graduated with a business degree from the University of Richmond.

In addition to classroom training programs, Vroblesky holds 30-minute-to-one-hour conversations with each senior leader on a weekly basis. Part of that discussion, she says, involves gauging where those leaders are in terms of their own career paths. "I constantly check in to see what the next steps need to be for those leaders," she says.

Backing up her efforts are some impressive numbers. Since joining MOD, more than 30 percent of those she's coached have been promoted to other positions within 12 to 18 months.

Vroblesky recalls the significant role mentoring has played in her own development. In addition to two personal mentors she's had during her career, she's always looked to her supervisors as "real-time" mentors who have enabled her to fine-tune and perfect her craft, she says.

At the same time, Vroblesky has also been instrumental in putting in place a comprehensive training plan at MOD, as well as various "as-needed" training initiatives.

Recurring training programs include Managing Direct Reports to Success, Engaging Your Associates, Utilizing Tools and Resources More Effectively, and Understanding HR Metric Snapshots.

Through these and other efforts, Vroblesky has, not surprisingly, earned the trust of her boss, Jeff Raines, general manager of MOD.

Raines, who nominated Vroblesky, describes her as "a natural leader and a trusted coach and mentor to members and leaders."

Vroblesky, he says, has developed the reputation of being someone who is very respected and leads a team that is consistently viewed as among the best in the Amazon HR network.

Because of her success, Raines says, she was asked to assist the training team at corporate headquarters in Seattle with their programs, and has assisted others outside of MOD in developing their onboarding, training, and coaching and development programs.

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Jordan Furbee Vroblesky

May 6, 2015
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