Fluent in the Language of HR

Corey Turner

Greatest Challenge: Developing -- from scratch -- a strategic approach to sourcing, hiring and placing the right talent in a rapidly growing professional-services organization.

Greatest Achievement: Saved more than $300,000 by leveraging internal recruiters instead of executive-search firms, reduced average time-to-fill to less than 45 days and created a talent pipeline of 600 prequalified candidates for future hiring needs.

This article accompanies Meet Some Future CHROs.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012
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It's a truism that being fluent in a second language may open doors that would remain otherwise locked to a monolinguist.

In the case of Corey Turner, it opened an entire career and also helped land him a spot on our Rising Stars list.

"The ability to communicate in another language, especially Spanish, has been invaluable," he says, adding that the skill is actually what got him into his first HR position -- as a job-placement specialist at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago.

With a master's of science degree in rehabilitation counseling, and bachelor's degrees in both Spanish and rehabilitation, Turner's role at the Institute included helping disabled patients -- many of whom did not speak English as their first language -- position themselves for hire. He then spent his last two years there building strategies to recruit and retain quality nurses.

Turner's advanced degree in counseling also came in handy during those early days, he says.

The degree, he says, "has helped me a lot. So much of what you do in recruiting is building relationships, and the ability to do that is based on knowing and understanding people."

After reducing time-to-fill at the organization by 25 percent, Turner made the move to real-estate investment and management company Jones Lang LaSalle as an HR business partner in 2006. There, he worked on two of the company's growing business lines: project development services and property management. Two years after joining the company, he relocated to San Francisco, was promoted to senior HR business partner and led the company's West Coast team.

In 2008, Turner's linguistic skills -- as well as the attendant cultural knowledge that came from living abroad with a Spanish family during his undergraduate days -- again came to his aid when the company, a $3.6 billion global business, anticipated future growth in Latin America and decided to shore up both its HR and business operations there. Despite local HR professionals' input, the company's people practices in the region were either nonexistent or inconsistent.

To develop the HR plan, Turner started with first understanding the structure, which quickly evolved to the need for a talent assessment of the existing employees. Facilitating these conversations identified the gaps in skill sets -- with clearly defined plans to build or buy to address the gaps.

Simultaneously, while reviewing the company's policies to understand its ability to attract the necessary talent needed for growth, his fluency in Spanish language and customs helped him connect with the local people already employed at Jones Lang LaSalle.

After six months and two trips down to Mexico City, Turner was able to implement updated policies that were compliant with local laws and align the regional HR practices to the existing company practices. He also acquainted himself with the local talent in order to be ready to quickly respond when the business took a downturn so the company could retain its high performers.

It was during that time that Turner came to appreciate some of the many differences between doing business in America versus Latin America.

"Especially the differences in benefits as they relate to severance," he says. "There's no obligation for the employer [to offer severance] here in the United States, but [in Mexico], even on negative terms of separation, there is still an obligation to provide support, meal stipends or different allowances that we would never think of here."

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Turner's most significant accomplishment within the organization, however, came when its leaders realized that talent demands were outstripping its internal supply because of a lack of a strategic talent-management plan. As vice president of talent acquisition, Turner's first move was an unorthodox one by some standards: He hired a recruiting team that wanted -- and got -- a flexible work schedule, which allowed the team to ebb and flow as demand for recruiting varied.

"The great thing about being a recruiter, as well as the worst thing about it," he says, "is the odd hours. But it's ideal for someone who wants to be a crossing guard at their kid's school or coach baseball."

Turner and his flexible team saved the company more than $300,000 by leveraging internal recruiters and forgoing the use of executive-search firms. They also captured additional savings by establishing preferred vendors for temporary agencies, reduced time-to-fill to less than 45 days and built a talent pipeline that went from zero to 600 prequalified candidates for future hiring needs.

What makes this list of accomplishments so impressive, says Laura Adams, Turner's manager and the company's executive vice president of human resources, "... is that Corey achieved this in his first year into the role [of vice president of talent acquisition] and with a team of only five recruiters."

So how does Turner get so much bang for his buck, people-wise?

"I try and get people laughing," he says, "because if they're comfortable, then they're more likely to share and open up to you."

Last year, Turner was named to the HR leadership team for the Americas region, and, according to Adams, "he quickly showed his leadership potential by gaining the respect of the entire team, challenging our limited thinking and pushing for new possibilities.

"Corey is well positioned to grow into a chief human resource officer role," Adams says.

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