Give employees the opportunity to make a difference. Make this a part of your organizational culture and create an environment where decisions for the good of a greater cause — no matter how large or small — are always invited or welcomed.
Education can provide an edge for anyone looking to advance their career or find a new opportunity. This HR Strategy Series provides a way for millions of professionals to learn what it takes to find this edge. The goal is to aid HR leaders in their hiring and retention strategies, as well as to teach prospects what hiring managers are actually looking for.
As a part of our syndicated series, I’m talking to top experts in the field about their five ways to identify and retain fantastic talent. Today I had the pleasure of interviewing another Human Resources expert at the top of her game in Marcy Hamrick.
Marcy Hamrick is the manager of talent acquisition for Publix, a supermarket chain headquartered in Lakeland, FL with more than 1,200 stores across the southeast. Marcy joined the company in 2012 and provides leadership to the recruiting team, which helps staff the more than 200,000 positions in Publix stores, corporate offices, distribution centers, and manufacturing plants. She is passionate about finding the right associates to start their careers at Publix and says her favorite part of working for Publix is “finding the best candidates to fulfill our mission with a servant heart.”
Thank you for being here! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I’ve always had a passion for education and received a bachelor’s degree in childhood education and a master’s degree in adult education. I found my way to talent acquisition and human resources through the education and training side of the industry. For the first part of my career, I designed and developed the tools that help new employees acclimate to their roles and advance their leadership skills. These roles taught me a lot about people — how they think, what engages them — and that knowledge has been invaluable as I’ve moved into a talent acquisition role. At Publix, we’re known for our customer service. Recruiting the right talent to deliver it is one of the most important ways we’ve continued to keep this legacy alive nearly 90 years later. We can teach anyone how to bag groceries, but the exceptional service we provide is what’s most important.
Can you share the most interesting or funny story that happened to you since you started this career? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I had the opportunity to work in one of our stores as part of my onboarding to Publix. For five days, I worked across various departments in my local Publix store — where I shop myself. Even though I knew how hard our retail associates worked beforehand, having lived it myself brought a new level of appreciation. My body hurt. My feet hurt. Most days my head hurt, too. But I felt fulfilled. I stocked our shelves, bagged customers’ groceries, baked bread from scratch, and ensured the right shelf tags were in place along the aisles. All of those tasks have a direct impact on our customers and having experienced it firsthand was an amazing experience that I value to this day.
Are you working on any exciting new projects at your company? How is this helping people?
Connecting our associates to meaningful ways they can help their communities is always a focus for us. Associates across our more than 1,200 stores participate in our perishable recovery program in partnership with Feeding America member food banks where we recover food that can’t be sold, but is still wholesome, and donate it to those who need it the most. To date, through this program, Publix has donated more than 427 million pounds of food or 356 million meals to families in need.
Outstanding. It’s always nice to hear about programs that give back! Let’s now jump to the main focus of our series. Hiring can be very time consuming and difficult. Can you share 5 techniques that you use to identify the talent that would be best suited for the job you want to fill? Please share an example for each idea.
Publix has a unique culture of service that guides how we identify talent. From our corporate headquarters to the associates working in our stores, we look for people that embody the lessons left behind by our founder, George Jenkins — or “Mr. George” as we call him. He always said that our associates should “treat customers like royalty”, and knew that hiring for the right talent to do this was critically important. Therefore, we always start with the inherent values of the person:
With so much noise and competition out there, what are the top 3 ways to attract and engage the best talent in an industry when they haven’t already reached out to you?
What are the 3 most effective strategies used to retain employees?
Publix founder, Mr. George encouraged a spirit of openness, dignity, and respect across all of our associates — regardless of job class — and that philosophy stays firmly intact today. It is a large part of what continues to make Publix a great place to work. Organizations can put this in play by striving to:
In your experience, is it important for HR to keep up with the latest trends? Can you give some examples of what this looks like?
When you are in the business of people you must stay relevant. One way we’ve done this at Publix is by keeping our training and education programs up to date across generations. The core foundation of the programs is still rooted in the lessons from Mr. George, but updated to resonate with the changing demographics and values of the workforce. For example, we’re finding that sharing personal stories helps new associates connect and engage, so we have implemented more opportunities to do that in our trainings.
Can you give an example of a creative way to increase the value provided to employees without breaking the bank?
Give employees the opportunity to make a difference. Make this a part of your organizational culture and create an environment where decisions for the good of a greater cause — no matter how large or small — are always invited or welcomed. People want to feel like they can make a difference in the world, and have meaning greater than themselves or their job. Another major point is for human resources to always be visible and present for employees. This goes for both reactive problem solving and proactive career pathing conversations.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
I am passionate about education and would want to find a way to improve experiences for underserved youth across our school systems. Half of the battle in improving the quality of education for children in need starts by helping them solve problems at home. For example, if a child is hungry, they probably won’t be in the best state of mind for learning during the school day. I’d start here. The growing number of hungry children in our school systems is something we need to solve and I’m proud to work for an employer that is taken a stance to fight hunger for families across the country.
We definitely share a passion there! Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Begin — the rest is easy.” These words came from Mr. George and I have relied on them to encourage myself, other Publix associates and family members. Sometimes things get challenging — personally or professionally — and it can be difficult to take just the first step. Oftentimes we find that once we get started, it’s not as hard as we thought it was going to be. Just take that first step. In my time here at Publix this lesson has been relevant many times. I have applied for three different job opportunities in my seven years at the company and each time there was a fear of failure. But with each new role, I learned, and when another opportunity came around it allowed me to be more confident — which is ultimately what led me to my current role today as manager of talent acquisition. Who knows what’s in store for me next, but rest assured, I will begin and see where it takes me.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private lunch with, and why?
Honestly, I would choose to dine with my Dad. I don’t get to see him as often as I’d like and miss him tremendously. He is the most influential man in my life — a true role model of generosity, love, and devotion. He is my top choice. No doubt about it.
Thank you so much for your time and for providing these valuable insights!