Faces of HR

Jamie Starner Talks How Cultivating Meaningful Relationships Leads to Success

Jamie Starner has been involved in the field of recruiting for more than a decade. For our latest Faces of HR profile, we sat down with Jamie to discuss how she got her start in the industry, her biggest influence, as well as her thoughts on trends and best practices for the HR industry, including how company leaders can make HR a value within their organization. According to Starner, it all starts with taking care of your people.

Jamie Starner

“Over the past few years, I’ve enjoyed seeing companies giving HR a seat at the table,” Starner recently shared with HR Daily Advisor. “Most recently, Covid has taught us we need to take care of our people and I believe HR has shifted to really putting humans back in human resources. We can no longer focus on compliance, but we need to focus on retention and taking care of current employees.”

Along with her experience, Starner brings a successful track record in motivating team members, revamping processes, implementing software, building strategy, and decreasing spending to her role as Director of Talent Acquisition at bartaco – the upscale street food restaurant brand with a relaxed vibe in a relaxed environment.

In our latest Faces of HR profile, meet Jamie Starner.

How did you get your start in the field?

I started my career in both career services and human resources in both the non-profit and education sector. I was a career services director at both an at-risk high school and women’s non-profit sector. I had many responsibilities but fell in love with the recruiting and the HR function of my role and decided to dive into HR 100 percent. I took evening classes after work, earning my master’s degree in 11 months.

One of my volunteer career coaches encouraged me to take a leap of faith and move into the corporate world. I landed a temp role at P.F. Chang’s in their HR department. From there, I asked questions, took HR professionals out to coffee to learn about their experience and successes, and then studied and took the SHRM test. I look back at my career and wonder how I juggled so many things from school to work to volunteering but am grateful I focused on the task at hand and kept moving forward.

I have always been passionate about restaurants and worked as an hourly worker before and sometimes during my corporate role. I found that working in HR for the restaurant sector was a perfect blend of my two true passions. I have always loved to learn so I was always willing to be the first in, last out, say yes to any project. My eagerness and willingness to learn and work hard have allowed me to move rather quickly in my career.

Who is/was your biggest influence in the industry?

I am so blessed to have met and learned from many different professionals. I will forever be grateful to one of my volunteer career coaches and now good friend, Donna Dietrich who encouraged me to pursue my passion for HR and placed me at P.F. Chang’s. My first true HR leader in the for-profit sector was Carrie Bell at P.F. Chang’s and I am grateful for her mentorship and championship. I’ve learned and grown from all my bosses but two that have really allowed me to grow are Jeff Clark and my current boss, Marc Hinson. Both have provided me with continual constructive feedback, coaching, and mentoring. They have supported and encouraged me to have tough conversations, act as the SME, and own my role. I believe you can only thrive as a leader if you feel supported by your boss.

I’ve also been fortunate enough to work with two extremely talented Operations Leaders as well. In the restaurant world, your biggest partnership is with the restaurants and operations leaders. Both Vice President of Operations, Jenny Elkins and Kate Clark are two brilliant, strong, and amazing female leaders. Because of our partnerships, the recruiting teams were successful. Together we built meaningful relationships throughout operations and built out strategies to ensure their team’s and overall, the company’s needs were met.

What’s your best mistake and what did you learn from it?

Advocate for yourself! I’ve learned over the years; you have to be your biggest champion. When you are advocating for yourself, you also need to present a solution to any challenges you might be facing. You may not have the entire solution mapped out, but leaders want to know you’ve thought about how to make improvements not just complain.

Don’t be your best employee. While it can be difficult to entrust in someone regardless of their experience and capabilities, it is important to coach, delegate, and empower your people. In return, they will feel ownership towards their role and the company. You are only as good as your team, and you cannot be your best employee.

What’s your favorite part about working in the industry? What’s your least favorite part, and how would you change it?

My favorite part about the restaurant industry is the people! Our industry is for hospitality-driven people who check their egos at the door each day. Truly in our line of work, no task is too large or too small. We must move quickly with the industry shifts and be open to change. The most challenging part about working in the restaurant field is finding people. It is a labor of love and not everyone is willing to work nights, weekends, and holidays.

My favorite part about working in human resources is creating relationships with all levels of the organization. You must act like a chameleon and change your approach and often your communication style for each conversation.

How can company leaders make HR a value within their organization?

HR is the best department in a company, in my humble opinion but also a thankless department. We enforce policies, compliance, processes, and changes and champion both the company and its people. I find some companies make the changes before trusting in HR and they are delegated with rolling out the new change or policy when they might have aided in the original discussions. The HR department is not a money-generating department so I believe it can often get overlooked.  Fortunately, this hasn’t been the case for me.

Where do you see the industry heading in five years? Or are you seeing any current trends?

Specific to restaurants, I believe we will become focused on technology, have smaller restaurant footprints, healthy dining options, and ample to-go options.

Specific to human resources, we will no longer focus on what the candidate can offer to us and shift to what we can offer to them. I’m hoping to see more investment in work/life balance, competitive benefits, and work-from-home options. HR will continue to work hard to become technology-centric with the shift in work from home and remote options.

Recruiting has been focusing on artificial intelligence, calendar scheduling platforms, and balancing the integrated technology with candidate experience.

What are you most proud of?

I am most proud of working and learning from other HR professionals. I’ve been blessed with learning from the best of the best and cultivating meaningful relationships across all levels of the company.

Do you have any advice for people entering the profession?

To work in HR, you need to be compassionate, have empathy but also be willing to speak up. You are expected to always do what is right even when no one is looking. It is a very fulfilling career but can also be thankless. Together, we need to put the human back in human resources. Ask questions, find a mentor, and continue to learn!