May 26, 2017 – Los Angeles-headquartered executive search firm Shelli Herman and Associates has placed Rob Spooner as the new chief human resources officer (CHRO) of the internationally acclaimed San Diego Zoo. He will join the organization in June, replacing long time CHRO Tim Mulligan. Recruiting firm president Shelli Herman led the search along with her associate, Michele Lyons.
The San Diego Zoo was seeking an experienced, results-oriented CHRO capable of doing it all, from talent management, succession planning, change management, and organizational & performance management to training & development, staff recognition, benefits and compensation, said Ms. Herman.
Proven HR Leader
Mr. Spooner spent more than two decades with Hyatt Hotels & Resorts. Most recently, he was area director of colleague experience, which included oversight of the human resources functions for six hotels and 2,500 employees, representing upwards of $330 million in annual revenue. In 2016, the corporation named him Leader of the Year, in honor of his exemplary leadership within HR.
“Rob he has a strong background of exemplary business partnership,” said Ms. Herman. “In the interview, he described himself as a business person who happens to have expertise in human resources. He also has the demonstrated ability to link employee engagement to an exceptional guest experience, which was one of those ‘have to haves’ for my client.”
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“He also has a track record of advancing talent management in the development of strong teams in the business and his own organization, she said. “His experiences demonstrated the ability to manage successfully through nuanced and sensitive situations. Rob is deeply passionate about the work and commitment to building and sustaining world-class organizations and the San Diego Zoo is certainly in that category. His entire career was with one organization which speaks to his own values and ethic.”
The search was national in scope, with 203 prospects expressing interest. “Our research strategy focused on zoos, aquariums, theme parks, the hospitality industry and the entertainment industry,” Ms. Herman said. “The search really worked because we had a deeply engaged search committee and internal senior leadership team that actively partnered with us.”
The zoo has been a client of Ms. Herman’s for 10 years. “That has allowed for us to have a deep understanding of culture and what works for this particular client in terms of talent,” she said. “The search only took three months because we worked in a very collaborative manner with our client.”
San Diego Zoo is a leading international wildlife conservation organization dedicated to the science of saving species worldwide. It operates two world class facilities: the San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Its San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research is the largest zoo-based research effort in the world.
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Growing Demand for Seasoned HR Leaders
With 20 years of executive recruitment experience, Ms. Herman has built a strong record of leading searches and building upper management teams for a diverse clientele, including Fortune 500 companies. She has completed senior level assignments in many industries, including consumer products, healthcare, high technology and finance, as well as for non-profit & cultural organizations.
Ms. Herman said her firm has witnessed a growing number of assignments for senior HR professionals in recent months, and demand continues unabated. “We are seeing more organizations looking for talent in this vital C-suite role,” she said. “Specifically, my clients want to hire leaders who are smart, who see around corners, who view themselves as part of the organization beyond being ‘just the HR person,’ and who respect that people are everything when it comes to running a profitable organization.”
Turnover in the CHRO position is high, at least partly because organizations are demanding more from these leaders, Ms. Herman said. “These CHRO roles are challenging in a way that is vastly differently from even five years ago,” she said. “It’s not enough to just be good at traditional HR functions. You have to be good at the business side of things, too.”
Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor; and Chase Barbe, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media