Kelly Jones is the Vice President of Human Capital Solutions at The SI Organization, Inc. (the SI), a leading provider of full life cycle, mission-focused systems engineering and integration capabilities to customers within the Intelligence and Defense communities. Jones is committed to providing a unique, compelling work environment that promotes mission success, professional growth, and a healthy work-life balance for the SI’s number one asset, its people. A Temple University grad, Jones was on the path to a career in insurance and financial management when he was drawn into human capital functions.
“I came out of college as an entry-level recruiter working for Mellon Bank in Center City Philadelphia and was planning on advancing into financial management,” said Jones. “As a recruiter, I was able to see the company, from a broad and grassroots perspective. Watching people develop and seeing them succeed is what made me excited to come to work each day. I knew very quickly that I wanted to learn about organizational dynamics and lead the development and execution of organizational strategy.”
Jones has seen success in his 15 years as a human capital leader. He joined Lockheed Martin in 1998 and worked his way to an influential position before joining the SI as Vice President, Human Capital Solutions, where he leads the development of people strategies and human capital processes.
“Working in human capital certainly provides a dynamic environment. I can honestly say that one day is never the same as the next. My day could start with mentoring an employee, to helping our CEO map out an organizational strategy, to working with my team as they engage with our leaders to think about staffing strategies,” said Jones. “I think the beauty of being a leader at the SI is that I’m provided with a breadth of opportunities to get involved, to be engaged, and to help the business.”
Jones’ philosophy on career development emphasizes building leaders, not just managers.
“At the SI, we place a significant emphasis on the role of leaders. There’s a big difference between being a leader and being a manager. Regardless of your position in the organization, everyone has an opportunity to be a leader,” said Jones. “Leadership comes in very diverse forms. We differentiate our leaders by their passion for the mission, their ability to connect our business strategy to actionable terms for their workforce, and their ability to be engaged, to be resourceful, to be mentors.”
He specifically cited why the role of a leader is different at the SI versus any other organization.
“We ask a lot of our leaders. They are the front line of many of our strategies and are a valued resource for our employees. Our executive team strives to communicate early and often with our leaders, give them enough information about what the company is doing so they are able to be that connection point between the business strategy and the goals of the workforce.”
Human capital executives are well-aware of the importance of communicating with employees as a key factor to employee retention and morale. Jones told us that the SI doesn’t have a “one size fits all” approach to its communications strategies.
“We like to have our leadership team engage and dialogue with the workforce through frequent town hall meetings. Additionally, we leverage our internal social media platform for upfront and personal feedback from employees, in a very real-time and transparent way, about what’s going on within the business.”
To build its talent pipeline, the SI has strategic relationships with 10 to 15 universities across the country. Jones says the firm uses those relationships to find the “best and brightest students.” These schools serve as a staffing conduit for the SI, beginning with the college intern program.
“Our university relationships and intern program allows us to inject new ideas, fresh perspectives and a sort of energy,” said Jones. “We give our interns the opportunity to work on meaningful assignments where they can contribute to mission success and interact with our subject matter experts and customers. This year alone, 100% of our interns will be returning as full-time employees.”
In order to balance an experienced, knowledgeable employee base with its dedication to diversity, innovation and technology, the SI has put a major focus on “greening” its workforce over the past several years.
“We strive for a target that 60% of our new hires will be experienced professionals, while 40% will be hired from college. We have an active knowledge transfer program that pairs senior subject matter experts with early-career employees to foster information exchange and collaboration across programs.”
Jones makes it very clear that the SI’s employees are of the utmost importance to company’s success.
“To attract and retain the best people, you’ve got to give them meaningful jobs that matter and I think our organization does that better than our competitors,” Jones said. “You’ve got to give your people the opportunity to connect with the customer and be engaged with the mission, so they can see how their job fits into a higher purpose; and for us it’s about national security.”
Mac Curtis, formerly of Vangent, was named CEO of the SI this summer. Jones touched on the kind of direction Curtis gave him and his human capital management team.
”Mac brings passion and energy, and he’s connected very quickly with our workforce. The day that Mac took the job, he called me at home and we had a long conversation all about our human capital strategies. Mac is authentic, down to earth, committed to growing the business, and dedicated to making sure that our people are able to contribute and have rewarding careers. He wants to model the right leadership behaviors.”