KRIS DUNN KNOWS TALENT DRIVES BUSINESS RESULTS
Who is Kris Dunn? That’s an easy question – He’s a VP of HR type who has led HR practices in Fortune 500s and venture capital-held startups. He works for a living and believes that the key to great business results is to get great people, then maximize their motivation, performance and effectiveness once you have them in the door. As it turns out, that’s KD’s simple definition of talent management. He believes that all forms of HR administration should be squeezed down to the smallest amount of time possible, giving you (and your HR pros) more time to do stuff that matters.
BOOM! If you like that description, you’ll like KD. It’s that simple.
If you need a more professional rundown, here are KD’s stats: 3 degrees. One marriage. An SPHR that’s been recertified three times. Thousands of hires. 1,000+ fires. A taste for grunge music originating from Seattle. Two turntables. One microphone.
Kris is also among the most transparent HR pros you can find, and here’s why. He cares so much about the art of HR that he’s started two blogs (The HR Capitalist and Fistful of Talent) with the goal of building a community he could learn from. He’s been putting his thoughts down every business day for over 9 years.
That means what you see is what you get. He can’t hide, and if he ever pulled the blogs down, Google would probably haunt him forever anyway.
Specialties: Belief that the HR function rocks. Business chops. Crossover Dribble.
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Kris Dunn (aka KD) was born and raised in Memphis, MO, a small town of 2,000 people where you had to drive an hour to get to the nearest stoplight or go to a movie. His parents had two of the best jobs in town (telephone company lineman and teacher) and absolutely ground out middle-class success for 35 years. Billy Joel had it right (only the good die young) and Kent and Deanna Dunn are gone, but KD looks back and now understands that they gave him everything he needed to be successful. Kids – they always get it late, don’t they?
In his early high school years, Kris developed an at times unhealthy obsession with basketball and was trying to get to the Malcolm Gladwell 10,000 hours before anyone knew that was a thing. Kent dropped by every once in awhile early in that process and made the following contribution – savagely blocking his shot when he went right and letting him shoot when he went left. Deanna remained calm when young KD seemed less than interested in school.
He used unlimited access to outdoor basketball courts and the ability to go left (thanks Dad) to land a college scholarship at Northeast Missouri State (now Truman State), where he generally overachieved and was the recipient of at least three broken noses.
After graduating from NMSU, Kris took a job as an assistant basketball coach at UAB (University of Alabama-Birmingham), where he became self-aware for the first time on just how little he knew professionally. After three successful years and gradually learning that he was probably going to be poor for an extended period of time in coaching, he went back to school and picked up his second master’s degree while working overnight in a wireless industry call center.
Next up in KD’s career was a post-MBA stint as a project manager at IBM Global Solutions in St Louis, where he worked in a division providing Marketing consulting for new product/service launches. Working for a mentor partner, he managed qualitative and quantitative research and learned the ropes of making recommendations to senior leaders with imperfect information. The people he worked for trusted him, gave him more responsibility than he deserved and KD learned how to be quick on his feet professionally.
Kris liked the work at IBM Global – but St. Louis was cold. In reaching out to his former connections in the Southeast, an HR Director said, “We don’t have anything related to what you do now, but didn’t you use to be a coach? Would you be interested in interviewing for a job as an HR Manager?”
The rest, as they say, was history.
That conversation gave KD his first break in HR, joining Bellsouth Mobility as an HR Manager. After two years in that role and being the subject of a misguided attempt to force him to move as part of a succession plan, KD took his first HR Director role at Charter Communications, a company Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen put together by doing 14 acquisitions in the cable industry and spending $7 Billion of his own money.
Life at Charter was good, and Kris was promoted to VP of HR and had a peak client group of 6,000 employees. Both Bellsouth Mobility (now AT&T Wireless) and Charter served as the foundation of KD’s growth as an HR leader, providing mentors, solid HR platforms to learn from enough chaos to prove he knew how to innovate and drive change. He also learned how to say yes to senior leaders, which made him a favorite resource for those in the know.
In 2005, Kris followed a C-level leader he had served at BellSouth Mobility to Source Medical, becoming part of a turnaround leadership team parachuting into that company after the saga of HealthSouth. In shifting to the venture-backed firm, KD went from big to small related to the client group served, got real world experience about building a human capital practice in a software company and learned about the humanity generated when venture money is involved.
In 2009, KD wrote a check, cashed out his equity and moved to DAXKO as the company’s first VP of People, working for a CEO hell-bent on creating a great place to work. KD contributed to that cause, but the next stage of his HR life called in 2010 and as the hippie leader singer in REO Speedwagon once said, it was time for him to fly. He recruited his successor to DAXKO and as a proud alumni, affectionately says the company’s new culture-friendly offices remind him of what would happen if Pottery Barn and Z-Gallie had a love child.
KD’s Fortune 500 life was full of semi-nasty work like union avoidance, union decertification and other labor relations necessities as an HR Leader. Upon arriving at Source Medical, he built the HR function, the team, then looked up one year in and figured out he might need another challenge to stay interested professionally.
2 months later, The HR Capitalist was born.
What’s the HR Capitalist? The HR Capitalist is KD’s professional blog, designed to be the daily thoughts/musings/hot takes of an HR leader in the field. KD launched it in early 2007 and made the semi-insane pledge to write every business day for a year and see what happened. At first, no one came, then traffic started picking up. Today, the HR Capitalist is viewed over 500,000 times a year and is generally regarded as a top blog in the world of HR.
In 2008, KD was approached (based on the success of the HR Capitalist) to create a blog for a HR industry vendor. Instead of taking that job, he pitched the prospect of creating multi-contributor blog in the world of HR, Talent Management and Recruiting, with him owning the site and that HR vendor becoming a sponsor. As a result of that conversation, Fistful of Talent was born and today is viewed over 800,000 times a year and, like the HR Capitalist, is generally regarded as a top blog in the world of HR.
In early 2010, Kinetix founder and CEO Shannon Russo reached out to Kris seeking candidate leads from his HR Capitalist/Fistful of Talent network for an SVP of HR search her company was working on. That conversation morphed into a conversation about the recruiting business model of Kinetix and continued for the next 8 months.
In September of 2010, KD wired a large sum of money to Russo and became an investor/ owner in Kinetix. KD still remembers what the clouds looked like after he exited the bank where he wired the money and made a lifetime bet. Let’s face it, he’s lucky he didn’t pass out before he got to the car. Shannon turned out to be the perfect partner for KD, and together they’ve more than tripled the size of Kinetix since that day.
Kris serves as the CHRO and partner at Kinetix, based in Atlanta with clients located nationally.
You know the reality – most training that’s available to help your managers understand the right way to interact with their teams is hopelessly dry. It’s a lost opportunity to connect on a higher level with the people who are going to drive 90 percent of your company’s success this year – the front-line manager of people.
That’s why Kris had a rare item on his bucket list a few years back: He wanted to put together a training series for managers of people that wouldn’t put participants to sleep – even after a heavy catered lunch from Taco Casa.
Good luck with that, the naysayers said.
Well, KD did it. Available now for your training pleasure is a great training series KD created for your managers called BOSS: Leadership Skills For The Modern Manager. KD and a select team developed it across the span of a year with a few pilot clients, then deployed it in large scale last year. It’s road tested and ready to launch at your company today.
Included in the series are modules for your leaders/managers of people in multiple areas, including Goal Setting, Coaching, Performance Management, Change Management, Interviewing, Building Teams and more.
The BOSS series isn’t your typical training series—it’s designed to let your managers have fun while they learn a better way to manage the people who report to them. The typical class runs 7 hours and the materials feature things to keep attendees engaged—including videos pulled from pop culture classics, music playlists and exercises featuring real problems that will make your managers shake their head in agreement.
If you’re looking for classroom training designed to build better managers of people, this is the series for you. Take a look at just a few of the modules available from the series by clicking here, and call KD if you’re ready to bring it to your company.
It’s true. Kris wrote a book that launched in the summer of 2019 and it crushed it. It’s called THE 9 FACES OF HR.
If you like reading The HR Capitalist or Fistful of Talent, you’re going to like the book and you should buy it.
KD wrote the book because there’s been a clear change in what CEOs, other leaders and even your CHRO/VP of HR is looking for when it comes to HR Pros at every career level. The pace of change has never been faster than it is today, and we’ve all seen many HR friends hired – and fired – based on the new rules.
Consistent with KD’s writing style, here’s what you’ll get if you read this book:
1–Entertainment – You know there’s going to be snark. Kris can’t write any other way. As he digs into some serious stuff, there’s going to be some riffs and rants. He’s weaving pop culture through HR-related stories on people like Drake, Elon Musk and the CHRO at Uber, as well as leading every chapter with a related quote from a cast of characters including Lady Gaga, Oprah, Dirty Harry and Kanye. This is a serious book, but he’ll be damned if I’m going to bore you.
2–A better understanding the changing HR marketplace in terms of innovation, change management and adding value. Sh*t’s changing fast for us in the world of HR, and this book has your back with a new model and notes.
3–The model for The 9 Faces of HR is based on a 9-Box grid – You’ll see how career level mixed with cognitive/behavioral dimensions (such as assertiveness, rules orientation, detail orientation, etc.) converge to shape one’s work world-view and determines which face you are.
4–You’ll learn the details/profile on each of the “Nine Faces of HR” and have a blast identifying yourself, as well as thinking about which face the HR pros around you are (the ones you love, the ones you hate and everything in between).
5–Most importantly – You’ll gain awareness of how others around you perceive your HR capability and get ready for change happening around you, regardless of your profile.
At the end of the day, The 9 Faces of HR is a guidebook for a career in the world’s best profession – HR. Kris wrote this book to prevent you from getting hurt by the change swirling around us in the business world – and to help you reach your career goals – however ambitious they may be!
Kris currently serves as a print feature columnist for Workforce Magazine, one of the leading print voices in the world of HR. You can find the digital version of his 80+ monthly print columns by clicking here.
Kris is active on all the social media channels, racking up decent numbers like 40,000+ twitter followers based on his content stream. You can find him on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn. He’s currently telling Snapchat to get the hell off his lawn but will likely succumb to that in short order.
Kris splits his time between Atlanta and Birmingham and is happily married to Angela Wickert Dunn, his high school sweetheart. They have two sons and between work, family, the blogs and an active pursuit of coaching basketball, KD has zero time for hobbies like scuba diving, fantasy sports or god forbid, golf. His brief moments of alone time are spent scanning Google News for the 411 on what’s going on outside his bubble and ordering books from Amazon it’s unlikely he’ll ever have time to read.
Damn you, Amazon Prime!!