Arelis Correa-Arnold learned her dive-right-in, sink-or-swim approach from her parents, who brought the whole family from Puerto Rico to the Illinois suburbs when she was eleven. Correa-Arnold’s parents could have moved earlier to search for work in their field (higher education), but instead, the family all came together and moved into the executive’s godparents’ basement.
“We came with a one-way ticket,” she recalls. “[My parents] had an option to come first, but my dad said this is something we have to do as a family, and so we did.”
Today, Correa-Arnold serves as vice president and director of global talent acquisition at the Brown-Forman Corporation. The Kentucky-based company is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of wine and spirits, responsible for high-profile brands like Jack Daniel’s and Herradura.
The seven of them—mother, father, Correa-Arnold, and her triplet siblings—shared two mattresses in the basement.
“No bed frames or anything like that: each day we would pick up the mattresses and put them back down, and we made that basement our home for the time being,” she says. Once her parents had steady work in their fields, they found their own place in the Chicago suburbs.
Energized and fulfilled by working closely with people, Correa-Arnold gravitated toward human resources rather than pursuing education like her parents. As an independent consultant, she gathered experience in as many industries as possible (e.g., consumer goods, food production, pharmaceuticals, technology, and finance) before contracting with Brown-Forman, her first beverage company. After five years of consulting, she went in-house in 2007. Her first major project was to take the team international.
“For me, that was a pivotal moment,” Correa-Arnold says. “I was given the opportunity to determine what international talent acquisition would look like at Brown-Forman.”
That opportunity gave purpose to her time at Brown-Forman and to her career overall, she adds. “It allowed me to really solidify what I wanted to do for the rest of my life, which was to continue on the journey of talent acquisition and, more importantly, to make it a global piece of the work at Brown-Forman.”
Correa-Arnold loves a challenge, and the dynamic work/life situation the pandemic era has provided. Candidate trends are changing all the time. Recruiting is faster paced and more competitive.
Correa-Arnold and her talent acquisition team are continuously looking for ways to use technology providers to gather the best information and optimize hiring processes. That means synthesizing labor market data, candidate screening, and interview platforms.
Those tools are also in service of major Brown-Forman demographic goals. By 2030, the company aims to have women in 40 percent of the senior leadership seats.
Across the company, 25 percent of employees should be people of color. Using data and surveying tools, the talent acquisition team can go to where those candidates are and make sure the roles are suitable for the available workers. The company set these goals in 2019, and at the time the article was written, it had already hit the 40 percent marker and was well positioned to achieve the next goal.
“Using technology to get that information helps us set ourselves up for success, find someone who can be successful in the role, and fill it quicker,” she explains. “If we didn’t have that information, maybe we would go out and look for someone who doesn’t exist in that location.”
Once those candidates become Brown-Forman colleagues, talent acquisition also has a key role in retaining them. Correa-Arnold describes Brown-Forman as a “culture of care,” where diverse voices are celebrated and valued. She notes that there are nearly a dozen employee resource groups and affinity groups, including one for colleagues who don’t drink alcohol.
That collaborative spirit helps uphold one of Correa-Arnold’s key leadership goals: keeping things fun. “I want the team to feel energized,” she says. “Serve the business, challenge the team, and keep it fun. I want to be able to laugh, get through bad days, and find something joyful in what we do.”
Correa-Arnold continues to recruit at the executive level. After eighteen years at Brown-Forman, she still savors the opportunity to connect people with the roles that fulfill and empower them.
“It keeps me motivated, being able to change someone’s life and being able to help that individual find a great match,” Correa-Arnold says. “On my team, every one of us has a passion for creating those wins on both sides.”
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