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Leading women's retailer seeks recruiting edge

Top human resources executive emphasizes Florida connections.

  • By Mark Gordon
  • | 6:00 a.m. April 27, 2018
  • | 2 Free Articles Remaining!
Courtesy. Kristin Oliver was named executive vice president and chief human resources officer at Fort Myers-based Chico's FAS in May 2016.
Courtesy. Kristin Oliver was named executive vice president and chief human resources officer at Fort Myers-based Chico's FAS in May 2016.
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Kristin Oliver, wooed to Chico’s after more than a decade climbing the executive tree at Wal-Mart, is somewhat of an anomaly at the giant women’s retailer in terms of recruiting new people: The Oklahoma native had little Florida blood before joining the firm in May 2016, when she was named an executive vice president and chief human resources officer.

Oliver, instead, followed one of her mentors, Shelley Broader, a former Wal-Mart executive named CEO of Chico’s in late 2015.

Yet being from Florida, or at least having grandparents here, vacationed here or some other affinity for the state, is a key recruiting strategy for the company. The six-person, in-house recruiting team at Chico’s scours LinkedIn and other job sites for Sunshine State vibes. “We try to find people who have a connection to Florida,” Oliver says, “and get them to come back to here.”

Once they get them there, the company’s expansive benefits package, akin to a Silicon Valley tech giant in some ways, helps get them to stay. Perks include onsite daycare and dry cleaning; weekly farmers markets; ice cream trucks and summer Fridays; and a free gym. An on-campus health care clinic is open to all employees, and it was recently expanded to include spouses. “We have kind of a laid back culture,” Oliver says, “but we also offer a lot of unique benefits for a big publicly traded corporation.”

The job market has made it challenging for Chico’s to find employees, particularly in Lee County – where the joblessness rate hovers near all-time lows. “With low unemployment rates, our recruiters have to act fast when searching for and finding great talent,” Oliver says.

In addition to the perks-filled campus, Chico’s has some work-centric programs designed to engage, and keep, young talent. One program debuting in soon is an internal gig system — modeled after the gig economy trending nationally, where people pick up gigs, or a variety of short-term engagements. At Chico’s, says Oliver, employees will be allowed to sing up for projects that last maybe a day, or a few weeks, outside their main work department.    

Oliver says another key to successfully recruiting good people is being cognizant of the potential employee’s spouse or partner, and he or she’s work background. Oliver meets with human resource directors at other large employers in Fort Myers monthly, including Gartner, Hertz and Lee Health, where they talk about the spouse side of recruiting. Sometimes she will bring résumés for a candidate’s partner and switch résumés with her counterparts, to see if there’s a match. Says Oliver: “We try and do all we can to help the trialing spouse.”


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