Hanold Associates Completes Chief People Officer Search for the NFL

As America’s most successful sports league faces challenges on myriad fronts, Dasha Smith is expected to be a driving force to help grow, engage and inspire the league’s personnel across the organization. Diversity and inclusion will be a key focus.

November 19, 2019 – Following a record-breaking year of recruiting top HR leadership into some of the best well-known brands across industry, Chicago-based Hanold Associates has recruited Dasha Smith as chief people officer of the National Football League in one of the most high profile human resource C-suite assignments of 2019. Jason Hanold, CEO and co-managing partner of the search firm, led the assignment. He was joined by his partners Keri Gavin and Katrina Prospero.

The appointment is a vital one for an organization that is among the top professional sports leagues in the world. It comes at a time in which the NFL faces challenges on virtually every front and demands smart, tough-minded leadership.

“Dasha is an incredibly talented leader and outstanding person,” said Mr. Hanold. “She is contemporary in her approach, authentic and wise beyond her years. She will be a great thought partner to Commissioner Roger Goodell, chief operating officer Maryann Turcke, the league office and the club owners.”

“We welcome Dasha to the NFL family,” said NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. “Her sharp insight, work style and unique experience make her the right person to drive our efforts to grow, engage and inspire our workforce. I am excited about the impact Dasha will have in key areas across our organization, especially diversity and inclusion, which is a top priority for our league.”

A More Contemporary Title Switch

The search, which was initiated to find a chief human resources officer (CHRO), concluded with the NFL landing its first chief people officer. “We are recommending the shift in title more often, especially when aligned to a shift in strategic organizational or functional transformation, re-wiring, and turnarounds,” Mr. Hanold said. “The CPO title is connotative of a more proactive strategic and broader advisory focus where the HR function was previously viewed as more administrative and more reactive,” he added. That is not to say the title of CHRO matters any less, said Mr. Hanold. “There are incredibly strategic and proactive CHROs, but this is more specific to setting the tone for a change of direction,” he said.

Title aside, the NFL was looking for a seasoned HR leader who accustomed to driving tough conversations, and who could balance a strategic perspective with an analytical capability and the ability to execute – all this while continuing to build the requisite infrastructure to support a significant transformation. Specific industry experience was less critical than the leadership characteristics required to be credible with and influential to an accomplished stakeholder group, including the 32 club owners.

Experienced HR Leader

Throughout her career, Ms. Smith managed several corporate functions at large organizations including human resources, marketing, investor relations, administration, facilities and operations, diversity, and corporate and social responsibility. She joins the NFL from Sony Music Entertainment, where she was executive vice president and global chief human resources officer.

While at Sony Music, she oversaw global human resources across more than 60 countries. Before joining Sony Music, Ms. Smith was managing director, office of the chairman and global chief human resources officer for a global alternative investment firm. Prior to that, she served as Time Inc.’s global head of employee relations and chief labor and employment counsel.

Hanold Fills Key Post for the NFL
Hanold Associates recently placed Corey Harrison as the new senior vice president of executive operations for the office of the commissioner, Roger Goodell. Jason Hanold, CEO and co-managing partner of the search firm, led the assignment.

 “We were looking for talented leaders who were agile, adaptive, with high IQ and EQ who could help drive critical initiatives and key priorities for the commissioner and the league office,” said Mr. Hanold. “In partnering with Maryann Turcke, you learn that she is more about identifying great talent, and then leveraging those talents where needed most in the organization, rather than building a position description, and then finding the talent to fit within that box or framed confine. She has an incredible eye for the potential and capacity of talent.”

“The NFL’s leadership met with a highly diverse slate of HR officers ultimately selecting Dasha because of her distinctive capabilities and leadership experiences in other demanding environments,” Mr. Hanold said. “We needed a leader who was as credible with the club owners as they were with those who they helping and partnering with externally and in the communities. Dasha’s high IQ is balanced with her exceptionally high EQ. She is a highly transparent, genuine and approachable leader.”

Related: Executive Recruiters Prove Invaluable to Thriving Global Sports Sector

“It’s a privilege to join the NFL, a world class organization I have long admired,” said Ms. Smith. “This is a time of groundbreaking evolution which I am excited to help drive. I look forward to partnering with the executive team to develop a modern and progressive HR strategy that positively impacts the organization.”

In her new role with the NFL, Ms. Smith will be responsible for all human resource activities including talent and diversity strategies, workplace culture, compensation and recognition programs, leadership development and succession planning. She will report to Ms. Turcke.

“Dasha is a dynamic executive with a proven track record of meeting and exceeding the growing needs of employees,” said Ms. Turcke. “Our greatest single asset is our people. It’s critical that they are well-supported so they may excel and be placed in the best possible positions to succeed in their careers and serve the league, the clubs, and all of our partners.”

Related: Recruiters Offer Sports Clients an Expanding Talent Platform

The NFL is America’s most popular sports league. Founded in 1920, the NFL developed the model for the successful modern sports league, including extensive revenue sharing, competitive excellence, strong franchises and national distribution. Headquartered in New York City, it has offices across the globe, including the NFL media office based in Culver City, CA, and the NFL Films office based in Mount Laurel, NJ, as well as offices in Atlanta, Washington, D.C., Chicago, the U.K., China, Mexico and Canada.

“The NFL is continuing to elevate and evolve in all functional areas, and are an ideal partner,” said Mr. Hanold. “We collectively have the diversity of the league at the forefront of our thinking as we scout for talent on behalf of the NFL.”

HR Recruiting Veterans

Hanold Associates, based in Evanston, IL, is a boutique search firm specializing in HR officer assignments. Mr. Hanold founded the firm in 2010. In addition to the National Football League, some its more recent searches for top HR leaders include those for Under Armour, Patagonia, Mylan, REI, Vail Resorts, Paul Allen’s Vulcan, Blue Apron, Riddell, CDW, Laureate Education, Moderna Therapeutics, IT Cosmetics, Hanna Andersson, Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority, Remitly, Carnival Corporation, Fossil, Marvin Windows & Doors, Outward Bound, Ferrara Candy, Foundation Medicine, Griffith Foods and Booking.com, lubCorp, Delta Defense, Western Dental, Heartland Dental and Sportsman’s Warehouse, among many others.

Ms. Gavin focuses on recruiting HR leaders in talent acquisition, organizational development, talent management, operations and total rewards. Her signature strength is said to be her relationship-building skills. Ms. Prospero focuses on the recruitment of HR professionals across industries including learning and development, talent management, HRBP, total rewards, talent acquisition, organizational development, and diversity and inclusion.

Related: Executive Recruiters Continue Their Expansion into the Sports Industry

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media

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