Amy Alexy’s dad, a machinist, worked to live and support his family and constantly struggled to find enjoyment in his job.
Given that reality, he often sat on the edge of the bed with his very young and impressionable daughters and taught them something that guided Alexy’s life from that point on.
“Whatever you do,” he told his girls, “in the morning when you wake up, make sure you love what you’re doing.”
This is why Alexy chose a career in human resources, though she doesn’t call it that. As Vice President of Global Talent for Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., Alexy believes human resources has changed significantly through the years to a function more deeply connected to the business and solution-oriented.
“It’s critical that we are also externally focused in understanding market trends and preparing for the future,” Alexy says.
For a while, the term of art was “talent management.” Alexy does not believe in “managing” talent, but in helping people thrive at work and advising leaders on how to bring out the best in people.
It speaks to the fact that changing jobs and having multiple careers are now so prevalent that old standards of recruitment are tattered. An example: “They say you can target tech talent at 1.6 years of service,” says Alexy. “So, if you start recruiting people that have been with a company for 1.6 years, there’s a stronger likelihood that you’ll be able to recruit them away.”
Of course, that works both ways.
“My philosophy has always been that when you have somebody new join the organization, wrap your head around the fact that they may only be with you for two years. Then ask what can you do to create a mutually beneficial relationship over the course of two years? I think you’d treat the relationship differently,” she says.
Alexy speaks casually about her entry into human resources, choosing it as an elective while attending Walsh University, a small liberal arts college near her home in Stow, Ohio, north of Akron. Though she earned a communications degree, HR held her attention. At a time when many workers dreaded a call from HR, she saw it as ripe for disruption.
She landed a college recruiting internship with an automotive company while still in school, which then turned into a job with the same firm in business development, mergers and acquisitions, supply chain and operations.
“I felt like I was so much more knowledgeable about the business and expectations of the business for the HR function that I’d be able to be a better HR leader,” Alexy recalls.
Over the years, she had various experiences working at different companies, including business sojourns in France and later in Germany with her husband David and kids, Isaac and Ashley. She eventually landed at Royal Caribbean on the recommendation of a former colleague who worked there and talked about the growth of the company and future opportunities in HR.
Today, Alexy says, the competition for talent is fierce. Potential hires are more interested in progressive companies that give back to their communities, provide opportunities to volunteer, and connect their work with a sense of purpose in addition to pay.
“An individual wants to know their manager cares about them and is developing them,” she explains. “We wouldn’t be in business without the people who are creating the guest experience, who are running the ships, who are supporting the ships on shore.
“When people feel they can bring their best self to work and know they’re being supported, they feel, for lack of a better term, like somebody loves them at work.”
In short, Alexy says, “I don’t want anybody to feel the way my dad felt.”