Faces of HR

Stephanie Hernandez on Recruiting with AI and Working in the Retail Industry

Welcome to Faces of HR—in this space every Friday, we will profile one of your peers: ask them about their experiences, successes, challenges, current practices, aspirations, and opinions on topics impacting the HR and the workforce.

Stephanie Hernandez, HR Manager, Gowireless

The subject of our installment today is Stephanie Hernandez, PHR, HR Manager at Gowireless, a retail wireless and mobile phone company with over 700+ nationwide locations that is partnered with Verizon Wireless. Hernandez, who has 13 years of HR experience, oversees 790 employees.

What’s the top HR challenge you need to address?

“I’ve been there a long time, and recruiting and turnover are the really big issues. It’s really tough, and it’s the biggest thing for us. We are using AI now for recruiting, which texts our candidates early on and is making a difference.”

Why do you think turnover and recruiting are such big issues?

“Some of it is the age [of our workers]. You know, there’s younger demographics, typically, for our employees. The other piece is that it’s retail, and we’re not out of the norm of retail. A lot of retail workers just don’t think of it as a career. There are some who do; we have a lot that have been around a long time. For example, a guy we just promoted has been here 19 years. It’s exciting—I’m proud of him. And there are a lot of those success stories, which we promote. We’re promoting more. But still, a lot of people don’t see it as a career.”

What would you tell your younger self about HR?

“Every day is different, it’s a rollercoaster, and this too shall pass. Because no one starts—and I’ve always said this—no one starts off in HR. I’ve been in HR for 13 years. But that’s not where I started.”

Do you mind if I ask what you thought you were going to do?

“Marketing. I was in sales. I actually sold audio/visual equipment for trade shows at this convention center*. Then, I got my masters in HR and organizational management. And that’s kind of led me down the path. First I did it for food manufacturing and since then I’ve been in retail.”

Are there any HR trends that you are happy are no longer trending?

“You know what the one thing is? The big old engagement surveys are going away. And the big performance reviews. They’re moving towards being streamlined, and the old way is kind of going by the wayside.”

Have you seen any interesting strategies lately? What are you guys doing on performance reviews?

“At corporate we do annual. But in the field, we do a monthly scorecard. Just to let [employees] know a snapshot of where they are at.”

Does that come with a conversation?

“Yes. We have a conversation that goes over their metrics, the key performance indicators, and reviews them. It’s also standardized. We’re a sales organization, so when it’s sales-based, that’s a little easier. It’s a lot harder with ones that [don’t have] metrics.”

Do you deal with any employees that aren’t in sales?

“No. I used to do the call center, but not anymore.”

What do you think the next big thing in HR is?

“AI. Artificial intelligence.”

You said you were using AI for recruiting, right?

“Basically we have a service that we use. When someone applies, we put them into the program, and the AI contacts the candidate. It asks a lot of questions and then I schedule interviews from there.”

Do they know they are talking to robots?

“Some do. Some don’t. We still do in person interviews and all that kind of stuff. It’s just honestly to get in contact with the candidate quicker, which is important these days. They want a quick response. And AI is how you contact the candidate sooner than later.”

Do you get ghosted?

“I don’t, not by the time it gets to me. We have a recruiting/staffing team. They are awesome. So it helps.”

How do you feel about engagement in your community? Are you involved in engagement efforts?

“I am involved in the employee engagement survey—that is kind of my baby, for a lack of better word, throughout the years. Some of the ways I have changed it is that it’s fewer questions, and we do it electronically.”

Is your leadership onboard?

“Yeah! I’m always part of recognition committee which promotes recognizing employees, and I think that goes a long way with employee engagement.”

Do you have enough HR people?

“Sometimes, yes. A lot of times, no.”

You are a very efficient answerer. We’ve gone through all of the questions in like 7 minutes.

“[Laughs] that’s the East Coast in me! I’m from New York.”

*Note: We interviewed Hernandez at SHRM’s 2019 conference

Would you like to be profiled in a future Faces of HR and share your experiences, challenges etc.? Or know anyone else in HR you think has an interesting story to tell?  Write us at HRDAeditors@blr.com and include your name and contact information, and be sure to put “Faces of HR” in the subject line.