Faces Of Fargo Business: Kurtis Karn

Written by: Brady Drake

Photo by Gary Ussery

Kurtis Karn, Manager of Talent Acquisition for WEX and Discovery Benefits

Bio: Kurtis Karn has been drawn to people ever since a young age.  In seventh grade, he told his mom, “I think I’m just going to focus on getting to know my classmates instead of focusing on actual school.” That should’ve been a sign that he was destined for a life in Human Resources.  He jokes that if he could have majored in “talking to people”, he would have. During his 10 years in the human resources field, his passion for company culture and employee engagement has driven him to want to help companies make their people better humans. He is an avid runner, musician and is consistently told by his seven-year-old son that he is the funniest one in the family. He has his bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and Communications from the University of Jamestown and has a master’s degree in Human Resources Management from the University of Mary.  He has been certified with his SHRM-CP and his PHR designations in the Human resources field. When he is not trying to help people be better humans, he loves going to concerts with his wife, singing and dancing to 80’s songs with his son and daughter, playing fetch with his wiener dog and is constantly planning his next tattoo.  He is also the co-creator of a new company, Sunshine & 79 Speaking and Consulting.  

Take us through a typical day in your life:
I don’t think that I have a “typical day.”  I basically live and die by my work calendars! But, our team is the touchpoint for all new hires in both organizations from marketing the company in the community to working with new applicants, all the way through the interview process and onto their first day! So we do all things: job fairs, interviews, applicant branding, interviews, promote the company culture, interviews, on-boarding into the organization, interviews and then we will help with other human resources actions as needed, plus some interviews.  We joke that the bullet point on job descriptions for, “all other duties as assigned,” really encompasses the role of human resources in any company!   

What’s the worst piece of advice you’ve ever received?
“Because that is how we have always done it.”  I think we hear this a lot in our jobs and it shows that you are not evolving either as a person or as an organization. You CANNOT stay complacent in your professional development or in growing a business.  You always need to be looking to make things better and continue to evolve.  I think this is the scariest thing that I can hear when asking questions or when looking for direction from other leaders.  

What would you give a TED Talk on?
The positive effects of humor in the workplace. Work DOES NOT have to be a terrible place that you just got to for a paycheck.  I feel like having the ability to laugh at work allows people to be more engaged in their environment and improves retention and drops turnover.  

How does the reality of your job differ from people’s perception of it?
I love this question!  People think I just walk around and talk with people all day.  When you are in hiring it is the “fun” part of human resources.  People always say, “your team is so fun!”  I think that is less about what we do, and more about how we do it.  Our team has to represent the companies we are hiring for and show all the great things that we love about our job.  So yeah, it is fun when you are passionate about your role and your companies and you want other people to work there.  When you have to hire 200-300 people a year, there is a lot of strategy and moving parts that you need to take care of in the process.  Yes, we do need to be out talking with people and doing interviews, but you also have to make sure that you are talking to the right people and putting them in the right place within a company to be successful.  

3 media recommendations:
The book Powerful by Patty McCord. She was the Co-Creator of the Netflix Cultural Deck and did a lot to help Netflix grow so quickly.  Also, if you haven’t, take a look at the Netflix Culture Deck online!  

The Netflix show Explained.  These are short 25 minutes episodes that break down random topics from coding and cryptocurrency to music to why diets fail. The episodes are detailed but easily digestible for your mind.  They can’t make these fast enough for me to binge!

Talent Acquisition Podcasts – Hire Power RadioThe Recruiting Future and HR Happy Hour. This industry moves so fast and there are numerous new ways to engage with your applicant population by using new and different technologies.  It’s fun to see what is out there!   

What’s one characteristic you believe every great leader should possess?
I really believe in servant leadership.  Being able to lead by serving the team around you versus just delegating or telling them what to do.  If you use servant leadership within your organization you will see the support on the team be so much stronger and they will support you as a leader as well.

What’s one way you foster creativity within your organization?
By allowing employees to drive a lot of the cultural events within our company. Human Resources can help to facilitate, but employees need to foster that culture, allowing them to drive the events and fun activities increases their engagement. Employees are really creative, let them run with it!  

Kurtis Karn
Kurtis Karn
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Brady is the Editorial Director at Spotlight Media in Fargo, ND.