The finalists for WashingtonExec’s Chief Officer Awards were announced April 15, and we’ll be highlighting some of them until the event takes place virtually May 27.
Next is Chief Human Resources Officer Award finalist Jack Jackson, who’s vice president of HR at DCS Corp. Here, he talks professional achievements, proud career moments, turning points, primary focus areas and more.
What key achievements did you have in 2019/2020?
Key achievements have been assisting DCS achieve its business objectives and building the necessary HR infrastructure to support the record growth and profitability of the company.
Since mid-2018, DCS has grown from just over 1,000 employees to currently nearly 1,900 employees. Company revenues have increased by 56% and adjusted EBITDA earnings by 57% while edging margins slightly higher in a 2-year period. DCS has seen continued organic growth across every business unit.
During that time, our Employee Stock Ownership Plan valuation has grown 73% in 2 years, directly benefiting all of our employee owners. Significant growth on existing contracts, successful defense of recompetes, and new strategic contract wins further expanded our customer footprint and broadened our capabilities portfolio, all contributing to a truly exceptional 2-year period for the company.
Most of this growth was sustained and advanced amidst the COVID-19 pandemic where HR had a major role in leading the companies response to ensure the health and safety or our employees and customers. Specifically, I led initiatives to redesign and improve the core Human Resources Management System to support the growing needs of the business. Improvements were made across the employee lifecycle including talent acquisition, onboarding, benefits administration, performance management, compliance/reporting, employee engagement, training/development and organizational management.
What has made you successful in your current role?
DCS success is primarily due to its employee owners’ constant focus on quality and customer satisfaction. As an ESOP company, every employee contributes and shares in the rewards of our success. Tapping into this amazing and collaborative culture allowed me to further build and develop a phenomenal HR team to help the business achieve its goals and scale for future growth. Improvements have been made in multiple areas as noted above. Our HR team’s creativity and drive to improve our processes and systems have made the difference.
Two examples that stand out are improvements in the talent acquisition area and employee onboarding enhancements. The changes in the talent acquisition area included strengthening the talent acquisition team, providing them with best in class recruiting tools, broadening recruiting sources, conducting virtual interviews and improving collaboration with hiring managers.
An initiative was launched in 2019 to implement changes to DCS’ onboarding processes, which had become fragmented. Changes were implemented across the onboarding process including an upgrade to the existing system, improved pre-hire communication, virtual onboarding and orientation, enhanced Day 1 orientation content, and post day 1-30 support.
DCS implemented a new hire survey to track results and overall satisfaction has registered 91% versus an industry average of 82%. With a focus on improved onboarding and employee engagement post hire, DCS’ voluntary turnover has fallen from 18% to 14% over a 2-year span.
What was a turning point or inflection point in your career?
I can point to two major turning points and inflections in my career that have enabled me to be successful. The first was my transition from being a military officer in the United States Navy to my civilian career with General Electric. While in the Navy, I learned valuable people and leadership skills that were directly transferrable to my career outside the Navy. I learned that people truly are your greatest strength and helping employees be successful leads directly to organizational success.
This understanding led me down the path to transition my career to the HR side of the business as it was where I felt I could have the biggest influence and impact. I was fortunate to have many mentors during my time at GE who helped me transition into the HR field whom I remain close to today.
Another inflection point in my career came more recently when I took a position with a small government contractor, Medical Science & Computing, which focused on supporting the National Institutes of Health.
I had previously been in Fortune 500 and larger organizations where HR and other business processes were more fully developed. At MSC, I wore several hats including chief operations officer and was able to build a strong team in many functions including talent acquisition, IT and HR. I was able to help MSC grow from a small government contractor to one with a much larger footprint.
Key to our success was maintaining the strong customer oriented and entrepreneurial culture that made the company successful. Our employee size grew from under 250 to over 1,000 in a 5-year span. Having this experience gave me the confidence that the approach could be replicated and reinforced the value of the people first approach.
What are you most proud of having been a part of in your current organization?
I am most proud of the success of the HR team and our direct impact on the growth of DCS; seeing the growth of our team members and the collaborative environment we have built. I am also proud of our company’s mission and our support of the military.
In many ways, I feel like I have come full circle in my career with the positive impact we are having on the capabilities of our military and their mission. DCS is involved in many cutting-edge R&D programs to support the warfighter including robotics, weapon systems integration, systems engineering, computer simulation/modeling, mission planning and aviation safety systems. Prior to the pandemic, I was able to visit our employee owners at many of our locations which includes military installations to see first-hand how integrated we are with the mission of our customers.
Looking back at your career, what are you most proud of?
I am most proud of the development of employees and the overall impact I have been able to have on organizations. Often, HR has to balance the needs of the business with the needs of the employees and difficult decisions need to be made. I have taken pride in ensuring fairness and equity throughout the organizations I have supported.
Throughout my career in HR, I have also sought to be approachable and open to new ideas. I hope at some level I have positively shaped the culture of the organizations I have had a privilege to be a part of.
Additionally, I have had a lot of opportunities both as a recruiter and leader to hire and influence many individuals career growth. I hope I have been able to help shape some of their career success through mentoring and coaching.
What’s your best career advice for those who want to follow in your footsteps?
I had previously mentioned that I have had a lot of positive mentors in my career and life in general. Starting with my late father’s advice to view an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy as an opportunity of a lifetime, I have always been open to feedback to those who would provide me with those opportunities.
One such advice came from my first HR boss at General Electric, Bob Truscello, who encouraged me to learn the HR function “in the trenches.” He encouraged me to take my first HR job at a manufacturing plant in West Virginia that had undergone many years of layoffs and employee relation concerns. Even though the job was challenging, I learned much about HR’s role in being a true business partner.
He also encouraged me to take risks and to not be afraid of failure giving me a lot of responsibility. Similarly, I have always encouraged others to take difficult assignments or stretch projects. Learning comes from taking risks, pushing ourselves, and gaining new experiences.
Additionally, it is good to have a broader and longer term perspective when approaching your development. I learned earlier in my career that personal relationships are critical to both short-term and long-term success. Often, we find ourselves in the moment and can be short sighted in our relationships ,which can have a detrimental effect. Never be afraid to learn from any place, anyone, or at any time throughout your career. Allow yourself to be mentored and give back to others when it is your turn.