Olivia Salas, Director Talent Solutions

An eight-year employee of Assess Systems, Olivia has extensive experience with restaurant and retail organizations.

What led you into this field?
My master’s is in clinical counseling, but following my internships in human resources (HR) and industrial-organizational (I-O) psychology, I began working in internal HR for a large retailer. While I was managing recruitment efforts to help staff the thousands of stores we had, I learned about recruitment technology and strategies. That’s how I was introduced to Assess Systems (now OutMatch). Eventually I had an opportunity to talk to decision-makers there and decided to join the company.

Sitting on the other side of the table has been an advantage for me. I’ve been the client before, so I have an understanding of the struggles that HR managers and champions face day in and day out, especially on the talent selection side.

What or who has influenced your career the most?
My long-time mentor is JoAnn McMillan, who’s been especially helpful for my work on the consulting side. She retired as COO of Assess Systems a few years ago. She had almost 30 years of experience. Learning from JoAnn really helped me understand what it takes to be successful. She’s easy to relate to and very smart.

JoAnn’s welcoming style was something I wanted to emulate. During client engagements, she could help our customers feel comfortable using assessments and tools they’d never used before. For me, it was very helpful watching her work in client meetings as well as seeing her present and conduct leadership training. JoAnn is still the person I look to at times for advice.

What do you enjoy most about your job? What do you find most challenging?
I enjoy growing clients from baby steps to enterprise-wide impact. Starting with an off-the-shelf assessment, I guide them through configuration. As they learn, they’re eager to ask questions like, “How do we use this for employee development? How about succession planning?”

I support a number of restaurants, and each one is different. When I meet with restaurant decision-makers and learn about their world, I find out how to cater to their needs and configure an assessment so it truly fits. I show my clients the value, especially on the operator side. They need to understand how a restaurant assessment will help them find better people and improve their bottom line. They want to know, “Where am I going to see the profits come through? What about that additional dollar per table per hour?” I truly enjoy giving them that answer.

I like the challenge of proving the value of the assessment, and I get that with every new client. It’s about understanding what a particular client needs, applying the solutions, and helping decision-makers see the potential for results. My job is to understand pain points and how to address them. Leaders on the front lines, in the stores, and in the restaurants need to know I understand their situation.

What are some specific challenges in the restaurant industry?
For my restaurant industry clients, the level of service customers expect is pretty high. This spans everything from a fast casual restaurant to fine dining. Some of the challenges we’re having today from a restaurant perspective involve how to get that high-level experience into the hourly workforce. I think that’s something that will continue in the future.

Similar challenges apply to healthcare, hospitality, and every service industry today. Service organizations are asking, “How do we continue to raise the bar on people we’re bringing into the organization who have that service mentality and a heart for service?”

What’s something no one knows about you?

I’m a big, extravagant party planner. We have a huge extended family, so our parties probably have 60 to 70 people. Coming up with party themes is challenging, and I try to outdo myself each time. I do themes, I do custom bags, I do custom shirts, I do everything. I go overboard! My excuse is that it’s only once a year—ok, two times a year.