Senior Director of Human Resources, J.B. Hunt Transport
We love having the chance to speak with our Members one-on-one and the DirectEmployers Annual Meeting and Conference (DEAM) always presents the perfect opportunity to check in and see what’s new. During DEAM14 in Washington, D.C. I caught up with DirectEmployers Member Eric Airola. A U.S. Marine Corps veteran and long-time employee of J.B. Hunt, he has nearly 25 years of experience in the human resources industry. During our discussion, Eric shared what J.B. Hunt’s HR team is up to and why he values membership with DirectEmployers.
Nancy: We appreciate you taking the time to do this interview and ultimately share your story with others in the industry. Can you please tell us a little bit about yourself?
Eric: I’m Eric Airola, the J.B. Hunt Transport Senior Director of Human Resources, and we’ve been a Member of DirectEmployers Association for about five years now.
Nancy: What would you say is the biggest benefit of becoming a DirectEmployers member?
Eric: There are a lot of benefits that come with being a Member of DirectEmployers. For us, we joined because of the compliance aspect. We’re a federal contractor and the thought of pushing our jobs out to so many venues for us to be in compliance is great, but after we joined we found out there is so much more, especially on the recruiting side. It’s been a great help for us. If I need to figure out a new solution for recruiting in a specific part of the country, or maybe going after individuals with disabilities for example, I know I can call on DirectEmployers and talk to my account representative. She’s got all kinds of great advice and if she doesn’t know the answer she can usually put me in touch with somebody that can help me out.
Nancy: Talk about some of the experiences that membership has opened up for you. You and I recently had the opportunity to visit the White House, can you talk about that experience?
Eric: Yes, about a year and a half ago, President Obama’s Administration was putting together an initiative to get youth into jobs, particularly summer jobs, and myself and several others from DirectEmployers and member companies went to the White House and had an opportunity to hear what the Administration was proposing and to also commit to hiring a certain number of employees for the summer above what we would normally do. It was great.
Nancy: You are also a valued member of our Board. Tell us a little bit about your experience with the DirectEmployers Board of Directors.
Eric: I’ve been on the Board of Directors for DirectEmployers for about two years now and it’s been a great experience, I’ve met so many people that bring so much to the discussion.
Nancy: It sounds like you really enjoy your role on the Board, and we’re glad to have you. What is your favorite thing about being on the Board of Directors?
Eric: I look forward to the meetings because I learn as much as I contribute and working with Bill Warren up close and seeing all the people from these great companies that can bring some ideas not only in recruiting but in compliance –– it’s refreshing. Whenever I come to the DirectEmployers
Board meetings I always try to sit as close to Bill. He’s got that quiet, calm confidence but exudes leadership and if I can be close to that then maybe some of that will rub off on me. That really makes my visit to the DirectEmployers Board meetings.
Nancy: There are a number of companies out there looking to implement new programs and technologies into their organization. What are some of J.B. Hunt’s key initiatives over the next few years?
Eric: One of the largest initiatives we have is to hire more veterans into our driving and installation jobs. Most people don’t know it about J.B. Hunt, but we actually go into people’s homes and do installation of appliances and drive small trucks, which we call straight trucks. People think of us as large tractor-trailers that go cross-country, but that is the perfect venue for veterans because we don’t require a commercial driver’s license and generally the veterans coming out are in great shape, got a great work ethic and it’s pretty demanding work so that’s one of the things we’re looking forward to most and what I’m looking forward to seeing here at the conference is to learn about some other veterans initiatives.
Nancy: Speaking of the conference, tell us what you enjoy most about attending the DirectEmployers Annual Meeting?
Eric: There are two things that I enjoy most about DirectEmployers Annual Meeting. One is the speakers that we bring in –– they’re really great. Some of them are just very inspirational, some are very motivational, some have a great story, but they all pique your interest they all make it worth coming. The other thing I like about the conference are the breakout sessions and just really getting down into the weeds or at a high-level for compliance issues, recruiting issues and solutions to the problems we have. It makes it all worthwhile, that and the fact that it’s all free, all I have to pay for is the travel. I’m bringing 3 of my people to this conference just so that they can be exposed to these things.
Nancy: We truly believe that there is strength in numbers. Why do you think other companies should join DirectEmployers Association?
Eric: I think more companies should join DirectEmployers or consider it because of the resourcing and the networks that they have. With over 700 companies [members], I can reach out to those that may be experiencing the same things I am. We’re putting in a whole new HR system that’s cloud-based, we’re the only transportation company that’s done that. I found other DirectEmployers members that have already put that same system in and have called on them for advice on what they had to overcome with change management. It’s been great and I expect to do that for any other members that would call on me.
I would like to thank Eric once again for taking the time to do this interview! Fellow members can connect with Eric in our member-exclusive community, Pipeline. Interested in learning more about compliance, veteran hiring and recruiting best practices? Register for the DirectEmployers 2015 Annual Meeting & Conference (DEAM15) taking place May 13-15, 2015 in our hometown of Indianapolis!