Developing Leaders at Volaris: Q&A With Grace Annab, Chief Talent Officer
Grace Annab leads the organization in a key role focused on our most important asset at Volaris Group – our people.
As the Chief Talent Officer, Grace applies her wealth of people leadership experience to Volaris, having previously held senior roles in human resources at both start-up and large international organizations. She’s had Canadian and international oversight in the insurance, financial services, and technology industries. As an HR leader, she has overseen a wide range of HR functions— from recruiting to full employee lifecycle, to infrastructure systems, to talent, diversity, and inclusion.
You bring a lot to the table with your varied experiences. How has your role evolved since you joined Volaris in 2009?
The role has evolved from when I joined 12 years ago. At that time, we needed to focus on building out the HR infrastructure to support our future growth. A major focus was also on talent development—building Volaris from an employee experience perspective and with respect to what we were trying to get out of acquisitions from a talent perspective. During that time, I touched all aspects of Volaris from an operational perspective, including in HR systems, payroll and benefits, recruitment, employee relations, talent management, and compensation and performance management.
Now that a lot of the infrastructure is in place, my focus today is heavily involved in acquisition—our acquired growth, both from a diligence perspective and an integration perspective. I have deep and vast knowledge of our businesses and the challenges within them. Since we’ve already built out the HR team, our role is continually enabling and supporting the HR function and active talent management that is focusing on our leaders—the development of senior leaders and ensuring that we are attracting leaders at all levels of the organization, and in local markets.
How does HR work differently at Volaris compared to other companies?
Our HR functions are decentralized, and we provide governance and guidance on how to manage businesses from a best practice perspective. Today, a lot of the HR function and practice happens in the business. We impart what our best practices look like and there is some minimal governance perspective on some HR elements.
This governance is critical in that we are one company comprised of many companies, so navigating the legalities and economies of scale is challenging as businesses are at different points in their lifecycle and business needs and talent varies greatly.
When acquiring a company, what are the key issues Volaris looks at with respect to talent management?
When acquiring a company, it’s important from an HR perspective to understand the culture of an organization and get a holistic view of how the organization operates. That way, when we onboard a new company, we have a full understanding of where gaps are for us to build out a change management plan.
From a talent management perspective, we like to have a sense of who the leaders in the business are—not just the owner or operator of the business, but also the next layer of leaders, their backgrounds, and their contributions to the organization. This helps us identify leaders we can invest in and develop further once they join Volaris. As an acquired business continues to grow with us, we cultivate their talent to take on more leadership roles. We’ve been successful at doing that.
When onboarding a company at Volaris, what are the key priorities on the talent management side?
The first part of the talent management process when onboarding companies is having people understand what they need to accomplish. We want to ensure we have accountability and introduce discipline to businesses, so we are setting goals and measuring outcomes. We do this through scorecards and helping people understand why we want to measure certain metrics.
Then at the end of the year, we look back at how successful that person was. A lot of the companies come from having no HR function and we enable them to adopt our process. However, we still expect the leaders to own it.
Ongoing learning and development are important at Volaris. Can you describe how your team supports our companies in this respect?
I collaborate with our CEO, along with our corporate knowledge and corporate communications teams to pull metrics, enable understanding, and develop programs and events for our employees to exchange knowledge, such as Volaris 101, Quadrants, and Volaris Academy.
From an HR perspective, we identify needs of employees—but not in the traditional sense. When we have high-potential employees, we determine if there are other learnings that need to happen for that person. A development plan is highly individual.
Finally, for our HR teams, we hold a functional summit every year to share knowledge and to build up HR skills and knowledge.
What else can companies gain with respect to talent management by being part of Volaris, as opposed to operating on their own?
Businesses that join us can be supported in helping retain their employees and helping to grow people’s careers.
We provide resources to help our companies develop talent management programs. Those programs can identify people who can ensure continuity of the businesses, continuity of knowledge, and continuity of experience. With that continuity, businesses can develop their people strength within their organization, which they may not have had before. Those companies can then continue to grow.