One phone call changed Jill Alarcon’s life.
She was interviewing for a recruiting role but had other thoughts about the position. By the end of the call, she had convinced the interviewer the company needed a full-blown human resources department, capable of not only recruiting, but working to implement policies to provide greater structure and transparency, and — perhaps most importantly — enhancing the workplace culture.
That call took place in 2017 between Jill and Caitlin Donovan, COO of DCG Communications. Since then, Jill has delivered on her promise of building a comprehensive human resources department from the ground up. From the time Jill was brought on to lead human resources, DCG has almost doubled in size, drawing in the numbers of talented communications consultants, writers, paid and digital media experts, graphic designers, and researchers needed to secure a growing list of impressive clients.
Along the way, she has also created a workplace culture that is gaining national attention. In fact, Jill was recently named one of Ragan’s 2020 Top Women in HR. For her efforts to recruit top talent, reward them, and help them grow, Jill also earned Ragan’s Culture Czar designation.
Building workplace culture in a digital environment
Is it possible for a virtual company like DCG to have a culture? Judging by Jill’s accomplishments, the answer is yes. How? By focusing on the basic values that inform DCG’s mission: a strong focus on employee well-being and a commitment to providing opportunities for career growth.
Since joining DCG, Jill has taken charge of recruitment, as expected from that phone call four years ago. But much of her day-to-day work is centered on finding ways to enhance employee happiness and job satisfaction and providing a fair and equitable workplace.
She has created a sense of community within DCG by establishing special programs, like an annual internal mentorship program, and committees, like the agency’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee, which is currently focused on building a diverse pipeline of talent to fill future positions.
As a woman and mother of two daughters, Jill makes a special effort to spotlight the efforts of her female coworkers. She encourages women at DCG to further their training and education and negotiate fair and competitive salaries. She spearheaded an update to the agency’s paid parental leave program, providing mothers (and fathers) greater comfort and support as they acclimate to life with a growing family.
She’s also a big advocate for transparency and recently introduced new measures to make sure employee expectations are clear, providing a complementary performance management tool while coaching managers and employees through the performance planning process.
The most important part of human resources
It’s no surprise Jill’s favorite part of her job is working directly with her colleagues. She likes to say, “The first word in ‘human resources’ is ‘human.’”
Even though DCG is virtual, Jill has an “open door” policy, constantly seeking employee feedback and routinely checking in with her colleagues to make sure both their personal and professional lives are going well.
She’s been especially aware of the human element of her job during the COVID-19 pandemic. She has struggled with balancing work and home life over the last year and knows many of her coworkers are going through the same thing. In addition to finding support through talking with family and friends and relieving stress through exercise, she took a live group session on mental health offered as part of DCG’s benefits package.
She’s not shy about sharing the ways she has cared for her mental health because she wants her colleagues to know they don’t have to be brave and put on a façade. She believes everyone wins when people can bring their authentic selves to work.
Follow in Jill’s footsteps
Jill’s experience has shown that investing in people pays invaluable dividends. Satisfied employees are more likely to be dedicated, hard-working employees who produce great work. And great work naturally results in more business.
Jill has flourished in her career, but she wasn’t always laser-focused on human resources. She started her college education convinced she wanted to be an accountant. It didn’t take long for her to change her major. Upon graduation she had a role in sales and marketing, but she soon realized she preferred selling opportunities over selling products. So, she pivoted into the HR field.
If you’re thinking about pursuing a career in human resources, here are Jill’s tips:
-Build a network. For her, it’s alumni and professors from her MBA program at the University of Maryland and peers from the Society for Human Resource Management.
-Explore the best way to earn a professional in human resources (PHR) or SHRM-certified professional (SHRM-CP) certification.
-Decide whether you want to work for a small organization, where you will likely serve in a multi-faceted human resources role, or a large organization, where you will likely have a very specific role.
More about Jill’s award
Ragan’s 2020 Top Women in HR Awards honorees are exceptional female professionals who are leading the charge when it comes to performance management, diversity and inclusion, organizational development, talent recruitment and retention, training and development, and corporate leadership.
Accolades from Jill’s DCG colleagues
A “Cultural Czar” is an understatement! This is fantastic news and more than well-deserved!
There aren’t enough awards in the world to recognize all you’ve done for the team at DCG. We are so grateful and lucky to have such a compassionate and dedicated HR leader!
This is so well-deserved — we are lucky to work with and know you. You’ve been a light in this tough year. Congratulations!