Deslyn Norris
Deslyn Norris, vice president of human resources at Topgolf

Deslyn Norris has been around the human resources block. In her 20-plus year career in the field, she's managed HR activities for companies like The Music Network, Earthlink and Gamestop, and has worked as an independent HR consultant.

Today, Norris serves as the vice president of human resources at Topgolf, a global sports entertainment community with nearly 20,000 employees worldwide. Norris herself was responsible for much of this staff growth: When she started with Topgolf in 2013, there were fewer than 1,000 employees. Norris grew the team and built a highly organized internal HR structure with more than 30 people and seven distinct teams.

Overseeing HR for such a large corporation is certainly no easy feat, but the core tenets of good human resources work just as well in smaller organizations as they do at Topgolf. In a CO— interview with C-Suite Network's Gregg Greenberg, Norris offered her best HR advice for entrepreneurs and business owners.

1. Plan for retention and work backwards.

Norris says her approach to human resources involves answering one key question about talent: How do you get them, grow them and keep them?

"What are you doing to really attract the talent, what do you do once they're there ... in terms of your benefits [and] the development you're giving them, and then how do you actually keep them?" said Norris.

Managing a rapidly growing company like Topgolf required Norris to "work backwards." She started with succession planning and built development initiatives and infrastructure around that, she said.

2. Give the people what they want.

Keeping personnel motivated is a challenge for any business, but how do you ensure that 20,000 people are all feeling engaged and empowered at work?

Norris noted that many professionals don't feel like they get to be themselves in the workplace, which can lead to low engagement and high turnover. Topgolf takes this seriously and makes it a priority to ask associates about their experience with the company and what it is they want to see.

"We do a variety of things," Norris told CO—. "We deploy engagement surveys. I do something called a 'Rockstar Tour' where I go out to our associates and ... ask them, what we can change [and] what can we do better?"

What are you doing to really attract the talent, what do you do once they're there?

Deslyn Norris, VP of human resources, Topgolf

3. Empower your managers.

If you want to develop a great organization, Norris recommends starting with a high-quality leadership team. From there, you must give them the necessary tools to lead their own teams well.

"We want to make sure our leaders mirror our core values," said Norris. "We [also] have a lot of different tools ... in place to keep the messages and the things that we're looking for them to do consistent. [Our] managers feel empowered, and yet they also have information and guidance."

4. Focus on personality over skills.

According to Norris, Topgolf's hiring philosophy leans more toward assessing the fit of someone's personality and values.

"We can teach you a lot of the technical skills with the job," she said. "We have a lot of development and training that we pour into our people."

But what happens when a new hire appears to be the wrong fit? Norris believes in making a "charitable assumption" that the issue is one of skill, not will.

"If we've determined that it's skill, then we always want to make sure that there's training or we see if there's another opportunity that person can have," Norris explained. "If it's not, we do treat that individual with caring, but unfortunately sometimes it's not a fit."

Watch the full CO— interview with Deslyn Norris interviewed on behalf of CO- by C-Suite Network's Gregg Greenberg.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

Deslyn Norris interviewed on behalf of CO- by C-Suite Network's Gregg Greenberg. 
Published February 25, 2019