Kali Franklin, NYCFC VP of Human Resources - Work In Sports podcast

Hey everybody, I’m Brian Clapp VP of Content and Engaged Learning for WorkinSports.com and this is the Work in Sports podcast…

One of my favorite parts of my work week is writing the intro to our Work In Sports podcast guest interviews. Gives me a chance to dig into the coming topic, set the stage, throw out some thoughts and opinions -- it’s awesome. 

Well, this week, I’m going to shut up and hand over the reins to our guest, Kali Franklin VP of Human Resources for NYCFC -- this interview is on the longer side, because Kali is amazing, informative and so, so passionate about her role in Human Resources representing and working with the people inside NYCFC



We’re going to discuss hiring trends for the coming year, diversity and inclusion, their organizational approach to coronavirus and staffing, how you should handle a video interview...and so so much more, so buckle up and get your notepad ready - I took four pages of notes from this conversation… 

Here’s Kali Franklin, VP of Human Resources at NYCFC.


Questions for Kali Franklin, VP of Human Resources at NYCFC


1: I love origination stories, to look back in someone’s past and see their path to who how they’ve become is fascinating to me. Your career arc makes a lot of sense, you were a sociology major at Georgia State, and have worked in HR most of your career – did you always have a pretty clear vision of who you wanted to be?

2: You’ve held high-level roles in HR at Target, Microsoft, and others – then in 2017 you jumped into sports with AMB Sports and Entertainment and now with NYCFC – what drew you to the sports industry? 

3: When you first got into the sports industry, were there any “Ah-ha” moments when you thought to yourself, “Ok this is a little different than Microsoft”? 

4: I don’t want to spend a ton of time looking backward, we all know 2020 was a mess and I’d rather spend most of our time talking about how we move forward, but I would like at least a little peek into what it was like for you on the HR side during the start of the pandemic.  

In September 2019 you join NYCFC, On February 29th your first season starts, on March 12 the league suspends play. What were your initial fears from an HR viewpoint, and how do you think NYCFC and the MLS at large weathered those initial fears over the past year?

5: The pandemic hasn’t been the only headline-grabbing event this year, protests, social justice, massive issues surrounding racial inequality, political upheaval – themes that are hugely important for the direction of the sports industry.

With athletes using their voice, teams, leagues, and organizations taking a stand and using their voices, how important was 2020 in terms of establishing a clear corporate culture? 

6: Roles focused on Diversity and Inclusion are relatively new in the sports industry, sometimes we assume these roles have been prevalent throughout the years, they haven’t. In my view, this is one of the better developments ever in the sports industry. Why did it take us so long to give diversity and inclusion the focus it so desperately needed?

7: D&I isn’t just a feel-good initiative – I’ve read studies that say diverse workforces increase revenue, productivity, retention, morale, and more –  why do you think having a diverse workforce makes such a positive impact?

8: What other initiatives would you like to see grab hold in regard to our approaches to staffing and culture?

9: I’ve worked at companies big and small with all kinds of cultures. Some good, some really bad – and you know the difference for sure when you are in it. I know at NYCFC you are working to establish a best-in-class culture…what are the components of a good corporate culture and how do you work to establish them?

9: Aren’t culture wants and demands different for every employee? I’ve had staff members who wanted to work in a quiet corner and others who would shrivel up and die that way. People from different backgrounds, a different point of view, different expectations. How do you create a culture that works for everyone, when everyone is so different?

10: Let’s get deeper into staffing a bit since just about everyone in our audience wants tips on how to get hired.  You play a big role in creating the people strategy at NYCFC, what is the common denominator for employees at NYCFC? What are those must-have attributes – and how do you identify them?

11: I know you and your team at NYCFC get flooded with candidates when you post job openings, people want to work in sports, heck, that’s why we exist. What are some tips you’d share with the audience to help them stand out for the right reasons? How does someone get noticed in a competitive hiring environment like sports?

12: When I was the News Director at Fox Sports Northwest, I had the hardest time finding Technical Directors, that role just proved hard to fill. Are there certain roles you see in the sports industry that are typically harder for you to fill than others?

13: After last year it’s hard to be in the prediction game, just when we think we know what’s happening…2020 happens. But, I’m still going to put you on the spot a bit…where do you think the demand for hiring will be in 2021? What areas will be in high demand? 

14: Remote interviewing has been the workaround for 2020 – we all spend an inordinate amount of time on Zoom. Do you think this trend remains in 2021 and becomes a part of our collective talent acquisition process moving forward? 

Follow -- What tips do you have for our young audience who is likely to have a bunch of these on their horizon? Any best practices or common mistakes you are seeing or hear about?

15: This is very tactical – but I’d like your professional opinion on it since I get this question often and I want to make sure I am sharing good thoughts with our audience. A huge percentage of people have a COVID gap on their resume, their internship was canceled, their job was furloughed, they were laid off -- it’s been a rough one. How should someone handle this on their resume and materials? Is it understood and assumed? or should they spend time explaining their situation in more detail?

16: Well finish up with this, than you so much for your time Kali, this has been amazing  -- Hiring and recruiting, in general, has started to embrace more data, virtual interviews, and even Artificial Intelligence, in their processes. How do you feel about this? I hate to sound like an old man, but hiring to me is such a high-touch, personal thing, can we maintain that while using these more modern techniques? Or are we missing that high ceiling candidate who may not look perfect on paper, but has the “it” factor you can only recognize in person?

Subscribe to the Work in Sports podcast to hear this great episode with Kali Franklin, NYCFC VP of Human Resources!


Check out these video clips with Kali Franklin, NYCFC VP of Human Resources:


Kali Franklin, NYCFC VP of HR on sometimes having a job that's a little above your skillset, but taking on that challenge and growing:



Kali Franklin NYCFC VP of HR on why it takes much more than being a big fan to get hired in sports:



Kali Franklin, NYCFC VP of HR on their organization approach to the social justice movements and how transparency and caring for your employees plays a central role:



Kali Franklin, NYCFC VP of HR on the real task ahead with Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. We aren't there yet.



By Brian Clapp | January 27, 2021
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