CEO Talent Champion: Judy McReynolds, ArcBest

An interview on finding and partnering with a truth-teller CHRO

This video and the following Q&A do not depict the entire interview.

All executive leaders will benefit from working with a truth-teller CHRO who can help them navigate tough talent issues. Learn from ArcBest CEO Judy McReynolds about how she partners with her CHRO, and how organizations can find and develop their own truth-teller.

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Q&A With Judy McReynolds

Judy R. McReynolds is the chairman, president and CEO of ArcBest. Under her leadership, ArcBest has evolved into a multibillion-dollar integrated logistics company — leading the way with cutting-edge technology and customized solutions that help keep the global supply chain moving. Judy guides ArcBest with over 30 years of experience in the transportation and logistics industry, including 25 years with the company. In 2010, she was named ArcBest president and CEO, then in 2016, she was elected as chairman of the board of ArcBest Corporation. Judy is the only member of the company’s senior management who serves on the board.

We find it to be so valuable to listen to our employees and hear their voices. We do employee survey work annually. We also do pulse surveys more often, and it gives us more timely information. We’re hearing from them about what’s on their minds, whether it relates to compensation and benefits or it relates to their work environment, remote or in the office. Hearing those voices and understanding the employee perspective is great information and may be the best input you can have when making decisions.

Getting face-to-face with employees is a good way to build confidence in your relationship with them. I’d like to think that employees understand that my door is open. But it’s important to get out to employee locations. For instance, in our business, it’s good to walk the dock or go to regional meetings. We have 250 locations, so being out there with employees and just giving them the opportunity to see you in a face-to-face environment really presents an opportunity for them to know you and have more confidence when they need to communicate their ideas or issues.

Erin Gattis, who’s our chief human resources officer, has taught me the importance of connecting back with employees on survey input. Circling back to employees to let them know you’ve addressed their ideas and/or concerns works well. It is a discipline at ArcBest to truly receive feedback and to take the time to understand and absorb the issues.

Erin is such a great representative of our values and she’s been in her role nearly the entire time that I’ve been CEO of the company. And so, we’ve experienced, together, the change in our company as the organization has grown and evolved.


Something that I’ve recognized about Erin is she’s really the architect of our values-driven culture. And that culture is a cornerstone of what we call our foundational differentiators. As a company, we must have a strong foundation. That foundation includes our long-lasting customer relationships and our values-driven culture. And Erin has really helped us over the years to embrace and embody that foundation.


Erin gives me the honest answer, the honest truth about things. If we’re faced with a challenging situation and we’re looking at the options and alternatives, she’s a truth-teller. She’s a leader with integrity and we have the kind of relationship where she can tell me what she really thinks. She also helps me to consider the downstream impacts of some of the actions we could take. Having a partner in Erin is very valuable to me.


I have been very open with the board, so my advice to others is share your feelings with the board. The board needs to know your concerns and where you see risk, because they (the board) oftentimes will have a perspective or some feedback or input for you that will really provide value and may even change your mind. I think leaders in my role might fear bringing difficult issues to the board because they might not receive it well. My experience has been that a board is a group of leaders. They have an understanding of these challenges, and oftentimes they’ve dealt with them too.


Erin is a terrific mentor and coach. She is a trusted advisor to our leadership team and that solves a lot of challenges. If you’ve got somebody in the CHRO role that has a view across the organization, it can help diffuse some of those difficult situations.

CEOs should be open to where that leader might be in the organization. Your next CHRO might not have grown up in the human resources function of the company. However, it is important to combine the technical and compliance knowledge with business and employee management experience. It’s also important to have a CHRO that can embrace and understand the strategy for the company and how their role can impact it.


Leaders from the CHRO role should be empathetic, able to see the perspectives of those that are impacted by changes and, also, understand the strategy.


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Watch this on-demand webinar to understand how CEO Talent Champions make decisions differently and gain practical guidance on how CHROs can partner with their CEOs to improve their organization’s talent outcomes.