HRExaminer Radio

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HRExaminer Radio

Guest: Teela Jackson, VP, Talent Delivery, Talent Connections
Episode: 177
Air Date: May 18, 2016


Teela Jackson has successfully partnered with organizations to identify, attract, engage and acquire key talent. She is Vice President of Talent Delivery with Talent Connections and leads the HR Search Practice.

Teela received the Atlanta Business Chronicle 40 Under 40 Award and is a member of the 10th class of honorees. Teela is a member of the Society for Human Resource Management and volunteers with the Georgia SHRM State Council as a District Director. She has been an active volunteer leader in the largest city chapter in the country, SHRM-Atlanta for the past 10+ years where she currently serves in a Board Advisory capacity. Teela was the first African-American female President of SHRM-Atlanta in 2014. She has been awarded the SHRM-Atlanta Presidential Leadership Award and the SHRM-Georgia State Council Volunteer of the Year: Georgia Peach Award. She is the founder member of SHRM-Atlanta’s Young Professionals Community.

Teela is an active volunteer in the Atlanta community and has served as a Board Member for the Brian Jordan Foundation (retired MLB player), volunteered with the Crossroads Career Network, Atlanta Center for Self Sufficiency (ACSS), Habitat for Humanity and she gives time and clothing to foster children.

Teela is active across the key social media platforms including LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. Teela has been featured in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Atlanta Business Chronicle and on WXIA-TV 11Alive News and she frequently speaks at professional association meetings and conferences locally and across the US.

Teela earned a Master of Business Administration degree in Management from Mercer University in Atlanta and a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration with an emphasis in Human Resources from The University of Tennessee at Martin.

Teela is originally from Nashville, TN and has called the Atlanta area home since 2000.

Audio MP3





Begin transcript

John Sumser: Good morning, and welcome to the HR Examiner radio show. I’m your host, John Sumser and we’re coming to you today from beautiful downtown Sebastopol California, the first city settled by the Russians in the late 19th century. Today we’re going to be talking with Teela Jackson, who’s the vice president of Talent Delivery at Talents Connections in Atlanta, Georgia. Teela, how are you?


Teela Jackson: I’m great. How are you, John?


John Sumser: I am on top of the world today. Would you take a minute and introduce yourself to the audience?


Teela Jackson: Sure, absolutely. I’m Teela Jackson and I’m an Atlanta based recruiting consultant. I have a love for makeup artistry and skylines and brilliant minds, truly. I have a wonderful family and a wonderful work family as well. I have considered myself to be a free spirit at heart that enjoys working in an entrepreneurial environment,. That’s me. I actually lead the HR search practice here for Talent Connections, it’s based in Atlanta, and love every minute of it.


John Sumser: You’re a rare bird. You are a recruiter with a focus on HR. How did you end up doing that?


Teela Jackson: That’s a great question. There’s a linchpin in the story, but when I moved to the Atlanta area from Nashville in 2000, I went to interview the staffing company. I walked in and saw a gal, Mia Vincent, who I attended day care, high school, elementary, private school, pretty much all of my primary school years with, and she was working in this HR search firm. I was looking for a recruiting job but I was looking for them to place me on a job. When I walked in and saw her she’s like, “You’ve got to work here. We’re not going to place you out with a client. We want you here internally.” My informal setup interview with this HR staffing company turned into me focusing on HR recruitment.


John Sumser: What is your actual job these days? What does an average day look like for you?


Teela Jackson: My current job is vice president of Talent Delivery, with Talent Connections. I play several roles in our firm and actually work with our clients on a day-to-day basis, primarily small and midsize companies, some large companies, but it has to be a really unique set up, but more small or mid size companies. We’re placing primarily HR management level positions and above in all specialties of HR. Right now, my days are crazy. They’re jam packed, and it’s good. It’s a good thing, but I’m really grateful to not only be in a role that I love with a company that I love, doing what I love, but working with these great companies on a day-to-day basis. It’s really more about understanding what their needs are and helping them identify great HR talent for their companies.


Most of the time it is for the lead HR position in the company, whether that’s VP or director or chief, I’m typically recruiting for that top job, or the number 2 job within HR. They’re working with different CEOS [inaudible 00:03:35] different personalities, but I’m also on the flip side of that talking to HR and business leaders on a daily basis so that we can have great people to present that aren’t actively pounding the pavement to our clients.


John Sumser: You also have an enormous list of community organizations that you’re involved in. Why don’t you tell us about the first say 30 or so of that? You are really, really involved in SHRM and a series of non profits. Tell me a little about that.


Teela Jackson: Sure. SHRM is near and dear to my heart. I started my active work in SHRM in my college HR program. When we started our HR major at UT Martin I decided that we wanted to start a SHRM chapter. I was a student member and then when I moved to Atlanta after college I immediately joined SHRM Atlanta and really the rest is history from there. I grew up in a family where my mom gave back to the community quite a bit, and it is truly a part of the fabric of me, the internal make up of Teela.


I started giving back in small ways with SHRM Atlanta by volunteering at our conference, and then I moved into a role where I was on the conference committee. The next thing I knew I was on the diversity committee, and that went away so then I joined our programming committee. SHRM Atlanta has about 150 volunteer leadership roles, about 300 probably total volunteer opportunities that are available for our members. It’s really frankly easy because it’s such a great chapter and great people, to get sucked in. When you do a good job you move up in the ranks, just like you would in a company, from a volunteer perspective.


Depending upon the amount of time that you’re able to give, you jump in and for me it was one of those things where I started and wanted to give but before I looked up I became president elect, or people were talking about, “You’re going to be a future president of the chapter,” which is a big to-do in the Atlanta community because we are so prominent and so present in the HR community. We’re the largest city chapter in the country. I moved into the president’s role, which is a full time role, helping to run this non profit called SHRM Atlanta, which is fantastic. We do have a staff of people that help.


SHRM Atlanta’s been my mainstay since I moved to Atlanta. I’m still serving on the board as an advisory member of the board. I also have given back to the Brian Jordan Foundation. He was a former Atlanta Braves and Atlanta Falcons player. He has a baseball camp that he puts on every year right before school starts. He has written children’s books and he gives back to schools, [inaudible 00:06:36] come in to read to the children. He has done so much in the community, and he is somebody that I admire and was connected to through a friend who is also a SHRM Atlanta member. I joined his board several years ago and still frankly when they call I’m ready to give back to the baseball camp and go hand out the gloves to the kids.


That non profit is very different from serving in a professional organization. It’s one where you can kind of be a kid again because you’re helping these kids, they’re star struck by seeing this guy that played for the Braves and the Falcons, and he’s awesome. I also give back to foster children in Atlanta and been named in the top 40 under 40 for Atlanta for a lot of the community work that I do.


The 40 under 40 group frankly should bill itself as a non profit itself but we give back tremendously as community as a group, by going out and helping with other programs and non profits like 21st Century Leaders, which is based in Atlanta. It helps those rock stars in high school to develop their skills and curate their skills even more, to be off the charts when they get to college. It’s a lot of great work. It is a ton of time but it is truly my passion and my family knows that in order for me to tick, and to continue on and move forward, I have to have that aspect of my life and it has to be full.


John Sumser: What a great story. SHRM is more important in Atlanta, it’s the largest city chapter in what isn’t the largest city. There’s a disproportional amount of emphasis on SHRM in Atlanta. Why do you suppose that is?


Teela Jackson: Atlanta is a unique place. It’s a community that, Jimmy Carter has always said that Atlanta is a community of givers. We all want to give back, we are a very social and connected community. I believe because of the very nature of Atlanta as a community as a whole, and how connected we are, and that we are a whole bunch of givers that want to give back to the community, Atlanta happened to be a place where HR professionals not only want to go to work every day but they want to be able to grow and develop in other ways.


One thing about SHRM Atlanta, a hidden value I’ll call it, is the fact that you’re able to assume a leadership role in a very viable non profit, whereas you may not have that in your company yet, but you could start honing in on those leadership skills through giving back. I really believe that people see the value in that, and they see the value in being connected. Because Atlanta is such a rich community of HR departments of one, I also believe that many of those HR departments of one want to come to SHRM Atlanta to be around their peers and share ideas and learn and connect with those folks. We’re just, at the core of Atlanta, it’s just a really connected, dynamic community of people that want to give back. I believe that is what has led itself to SHRM Atlanta being such a large chapter.


John Sumser: Sounds like there are also some profound values about the role of people at work that are part of the Atlanta culture, is that right?


Teela Jackson: Absolutely, yes. Yes. Value is a big piece, frankly we live and die by our values in Atlanta. Part of those values are feeling good about being able to work in a community, and the community, I always say, “Atlanta’s given me so much as a person,” that I would feel like a fool, and I frankly should be wallowing in misery if I didn’t find a way to give back to a city that’s done so much for me. Frankly I believe that’s the sentiment of a lot of people here.


John Sumser: I get that [sense, in 00:10:59] all of my experiences in Atlanta what I’ve noticed is that it is better dressed and more civic minded than any other city in the country. It’s a wonderful place to spend time.


Teela Jackson: Absolutely.


John Sumser: SHRM is an interesting thing. Generally speaking SHRM is looked down on because it is not a place that you would go to learn about innovation. It’s very much an organization that tends to fundamentals at the expense of innovation, or at least that’s my opinion. What do you think?


Teela Jackson: SHRM as a national organization has to have … They sort of have to meet their membership where they are. The core of the membership does need those fundamentals. A lot of the members are maybe new to HR and many people aren’t like me John, where they start out and they dream about being in talent acquisition and recruiting. They sort of fall into this space and they need those essentials, they need a place to go to learn the foundational knowledge of HR. Where the cities and the different chapters can come into play is we can provide those innovative pieces.


SHRM Atlanta is exceptionally unique because we do have a board that’s comprised of primarily VPs and chief HR officers and Fortune 500 companies that are based in Atlanta. Because of that they push that group, which I’m a part of from a board advisory standpoint, that group pushes us to operate outside of the box in terms of the offerings and the information and the courses and the training and our young professionals group and what we’re able to offer our members. I really feel like each individual chapter has its own opportunity to bring that innovation where SHRM national has to really cater towards the foundation, the fundamentals, the basics.


John Sumser: Great answer. Great answer. I caught you saying that you were born to be a recruiter [inaudible 00:13:19]. Tell me about that.


Teela Jackson: It’s sort of a funny story because I don’t think I was realizing that it was happening when it did. My mom was a college recruiter when I was growing up. I grew up on the college campus at [Cincinnati State 00:13:34] University where she worked for many, many years. I watched her walk families around and give them tours and recruit them to the university, and I thought, “Gosh, I want to do something like that,” because she loved it. She’s very social and very [inaudible 00:13:49] minded too. I thought, “I want to do that but perhaps on the corporate side.”


I started investigating, is that option available on the corporate side, and it was. I went to college and majored in business with an emphasis in HR, business management with an emphasis in HR, with the sole goal of becoming a recruiter. I remember a friend of mine in college, we would always say, “Gosh, we want to own our own staffing company together.” That was our dream. We just didn’t know all the potential that was available and frankly everything that is available today wasn’t available back then from a recruiting profession standpoint. I was born to do this. I love it and my mission in life is to be able to enrich the life of others. There’s no better place to do it than in the HR community in Atlanta. I just love it.


John Sumser: You are at the center of this remarkable network that is HR professionals and the people who hire them. How do you do it? How do you tell who’s going to fit where?


Teela Jackson: I always say, “A recruiter is only as good as their instincts and their ability to read environments and people.” It takes a whole lot of reading environments and people, and really genuinely wanting to get to know people. I know it sounds weird but a lot of recruiters in this space landed here by default or were pushed here for some reason in their career. You really have to have a keen sense of, what is it that this company needs? What are they looking for? What is this person looking for? Matching those 2 things together.


I was just telling, I was having dinner with a client Monday night and I told him, I said … He asked me to rank the individuals that he was going to see for final interviews and I was like, “This person is a rock star, I think you guys were really meant to be together.” He said, “Why? Why do you think that?” Frankly I believe it goes back to that values piece, they have the same foundational values, very similar career path but a little different. It’s really about finding that secret sauce in the people, what makes them tick, what gets them going, and not always finding somebody that’s exactly like them. Sometimes it’s finding someone the opposite of them. Just really having a good read of people and what they need, is something that you can’t buy, you can’t learn. It’s something that you have or you don’t.


John Sumser: I know that you run in the SHRM set in Atlanta and some of the most impressive forward thinking about the quantification of HR and the use of data for decision making is there. It sounds like the opposite of having good instincts for what make people tick. How do you reconcile those 2 things?


Teela Jackson: That’s a great point. You have to look at the mixture of those 2 things. It’s those 2 pieces playing together. One thing about Atlanta is, it is civic minded. We are great, nice people but you’re not going to make it here if you’re not worth your weight. You’re just not. I’ve seen a lot of people move here thinking it could be easy and they could make it, and they don’t make it. Part of that is, the foundation of it is, knowing that they know their stuff, that they know what they’re talking about, that they know the date of the information, that they can make simple calculations in HR. That’s really the foundation of making sure that someone would be a good fit for a company.


But where the magic happens is in those other things that I was talking about, what makes them tick, what drives … If there’s a VP of HR who loves to groom and grow people, and I’ve got someone that wants to work with someone who will help them grow. Those are all pieces and components of it but they’re all little small pieces that make up the whole. Absolutely, that foundational knowledge and understanding and making decisions through looking at the data have to be there.


John Sumser: I’m going to remember this for a long time. You just said that Atlanta is a place where community values rest on top of a requirement that you be competent. That’s a very interesting formulation. You’re working with a company called Talent Connections and you have been involved with them for like a million years. What is Talent Connections? What does it do?


Teela Jackson: Talent Connections, we’re an Atlanta based recruitment solutions firm. We place HR professionals in contract and permanent positions, as well as consulting projects, throughout the South East actually. Most of our clients happen to be based in Atlanta but we do work throughout the South East. We have a team of great recruiters, and our founder and principal is Tom Darrow who actually is the SHRM foundation board chair this year.


Frankly we all make up a great team because we again have the foundational knowledge and understanding of recruiting, and where the value is for our clients, and then we also have that foundational values based and values driven culture that puts us all together and makes us work really well together. We’ve been around for about 17 years and love our work.


John Sumser: Who’s the target customer?


Teela Jackson: The target customer is really, frankly, any HR business leader. Anyone that’s leading an HR function that’s looking for someone to come in and help them with that. Where we thrive most is in that VP of HR space, chief HR officers are primarily who we’re working with, or the CEO of a small company that’s looking to hire their first head of HR’s whatever they’re calling that person, HR manager, HR director. Those are our key customers.


Most of our customers fit in what I’ll call the mid-size [set 00:20:20], which means they’re from anywhere between about 500 to 5,000 employees. Quite a bit of our clients are smaller companies that are 350 and below, and they’re either looking for their first head of HR or the head of HR is looking for a really strong number 2.


John Sumser: You’ve been at this a long time. You are the, I’m going to guess, premiere recruiter of HR executives in the South East. How do you find people you don’t know? You must everybody by this point in time.


Teela Jackson: That was a kind remark first John, but the way that I find people is many of them come through referral. They work [inaudible 00:21:09] place. This is how the magic happens, right? You place one person in one company, and then all their friends go, “Who did you work with? I’m looking too.” All the sudden they learn that 3 other people are looking, they refer them to me. We meet with them or have phone conversations with them initially and get a feel for what they’re looking for, what their background is. You keep all cataloged in your head, who’s doing what and who’s open to an opportunity at which time.


Frankly, sometimes, in this one particular case where somebody’s actually in a final interview right now for a role that I’m recruiting for as a VP compensation and benefits, of total rewards. That person, one person I met 6 years ago and she’s like, “Teela, just keep your mind open and let me know if something awesome comes along please call me.” I called, and all I said was, “Hi it’s Teela. This is the call.” She’s like, “Oh my gosh, tell me about it.” It’s making sure that people realize that you really are keeping them in mind. It may be a year from now, it may be 6 years from now, it may be 6 months from now, but the perfect opportunity will come along and we’ll definitely let them know.


John Sumser: You must keep an awful lot of information in your head, how do you stay organized?


Teela Jackson: I do and system help. Technology helps with all that. I always say technology is my cheat sheet. Of course we have an [APS 00:22:42] that we work from. It works wonderfully and it helps to keep me on track. But it’s funny, I don’t really forget anybody I’ve met. I have this visual memory where as soon as I see somebody I can almost remember exactly where I met them the first time and what we discussed. People, I think it freaks them out sometimes, because at times they’re like, “Oh gosh, I didn’t think you would remember about my son going to this camp when we talked the last time.” I don’t know, I was given a remarkable brain with a lot of capacity, but that also means that I don’t get to sleep much because my brain is always working.


John Sumser: I noticed that about you, you get so much done. How much sleep do you get?


Teela Jackson: Not a whole lot John, but you know it’s enough. I get enough sleep, that’s what I’ll call it. I sleep every night and I get enough sleep that allows me to wake up the next day and function at full throttle again.


John Sumser: I would love to have a brain transplant. You have all of the capabilities that I’m missing.


Teela Jackson: No. I don’t think so John, you’re awesome.


John Sumser: Really I do not have the capacity to remember the level of detail that you have. It’s always cool when I get to talk to somebody who knows how to do that, so I’m in awe. We’ve been talking for a while, we’ve about blown through our allocation of time.


Teela Jackson: Oh no! Already?


John Sumser: What should I have asked you that I didn’t?


Teela Jackson: I would say, if there was one thing you should have asked me it would be, what didn’t I see coming from the standpoint of working in the recruiting profession and working with clients and doing great business in the recruiting profession. The one thing I did not see coming is, I didn’t see the true friendships and the bonds that I formed in this space. I did not see that coming for miles. Many of my closest and best friends are in the space. People locally in Atlanta like Chris [Havrilla 00:24:58] and [Jeannie Devon 00:24:59] and then Eric [Winegardner 00:25:01] and many others. People that if my car broke down at 2:00am I could call them and they would pick up. Now they would probably first say, “You do have AAA, right? Did you try to call them first?” But they would absolutely come out at 2:00am and help me out the side of the road. These are people that I love and care deeply about, and I just didn’t see that part coming.


John Sumser: That’s interesting. [Do you 00:25:25] think that that’s Atlanta, or do you think that that’s something else?


Teela Jackson: No. No, I think that’s our … I am enamored with brilliant minds and people that I feel are smarter than me in various ways. We all connected from a wanting to get really smart people together standpoint, but then we actually laugh and have fun together. I don’t think it’s an Atlanta thing. I really believe it’s something about something core to our profession, that you can actually find really genuine, authentic, smart people that are awesome to be around all the time in our space.


John Sumser: I hear you, but I have this sort of national view of the whole thing and there’s nothing like the social scene associated with Atlanta SHRM anywhere else in the country.


Teela Jackson: It’s true.


John Sumser: There’s nothing like it, right? That’s why I’m so curious about it, because it’d be nice if it happened more and in other places. There’s a little bit of it in Minneapolis. New York’s a little tough to get it. Boston doesn’t have it. There’s so much-


Teela Jackson: [crosstalk 00:26:50] really unique place, where I genuinely feel people that come here and they’re not authentic, like they can’t find themselves, they don’t make it. Because we’re going to call you out, we’re going to say, “Bless your heart,” but we’re going to call you out.


John Sumser: I think that should be the tagline for the show, “We’re going to say, ‘Bless your heart,” but we’re going to call you out.” Because that’s what we’ve been talking about. What should a listener take away from our conversation?


Teela Jackson: I would say, I tend to appeal to those that are aspiring to come into this profession. I’d like to talk to that audience and I would say, “Be yourself, work hard. Don’t kill yourself but do what you’re passionate about and be authentic with your clients.” That’s one way, with your internal clients if you’re in the corporate space, with your external clients if you’re on the consulting side. The takeaway here is, do what you love. If you’re doing something you’re not passionate about, go towards wherever that light is sending you because it’s calling your name no matter whether it’s in talent acquisition or wherever. Know your life purpose and spend some time exploring that, and exploring whether you are in the right place. If you’re not, go find that and find a way to make some money in it.


John Sumser: Got it. Would you take a moment and reintroduce yourself and tell people how to get ahold of you?


Teela Jackson: Sure. Sure. I’m Teela Jackson, vice president of Talent Delivery with Talent Connections based in Atlanta Georgia. My email address is


John Sumser: Thanks so much Teela, it’s been a real treat to get to know you a little bit better and to spend the half hour talking with you.


Teela Jackson: Same here John.


John Sumser: Thanks for taking the time to do this.


Teela Jackson: Absolutely, it’s been awesome. Thank you so much. Thanks for all you do for the community too John.


John Sumser: Thank you. You’ve been listening to HR Examiner radio and we’ve been talking with Teela Jackson who is perhaps the most effective recruiter in the HR profession. She’s the vice president of Talent Delivery at Talent Connections, and is an extraordinary booster of the town of Atlanta where she makes her home. Thanks for listening. Thanks for doing this again Teela, and we will see you next time. Take it easy.


Teela Jackson: Sounds good. Thanks. Bye.


End transcript


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