By Robert Channick
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) From compensation to benefits to training and development, the Cubs’ Ann Weiser, who is the new VP of human resources, handles all things related to people and the storied organization.
The Chicago Cubs have added an HR specialist to bolster their championship lineup, not on the field, but in the front office.
As the team’s new vice president of human resources, Ann Weiser is in charge of hiring and developing prospects to join the Cubs’ business roster, where jobs ranging from ticket seller to team historian are up for grabs.
The Cubs have about 300 full-time employees and hire more than 1,000 seasonal employees each spring as ushers, ticket takers and other workers to help manage the ballpark during baseball season. In the wake of the Cubs’ first World Series championship in more than a century, both full-time and seasonal applications are through the roof, Weiser said.
And the front office is growing, the Cubs have added more than 40 full-time positions already this year, making it wise for aspiring sports executives to get to know Weiser.
Weiser, 59, joined the Cubs in February after four years as an instructor at the University of South Carolina’s Moore School of Business. Before that, she was chief human resources officer at Activision Blizzard, the Santa Monica, Calif.-based interactive entertainment company.
A California native, Weiser has been a longtime Chicago resident and Cubs fan, having worked in human resources management for several Chicago-area companies. She was lured out of academia last summer when she learned the Cubs were looking for a new HR director, and is spending this spring jetting back and forth between her Chicago and South Carolina homes while completing her last semester of teaching.
Weiser recently sat down with the Chicago Tribune at the team’s modest one-story brick headquarters. In April, the front office will move into a gleaming six-story building developed by the team’s owner, the Ricketts family, as part of the $800 million renovation of 103-year-old Wrigley Field and its environs.
The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Q: What is your job description?
A: When most people think about HR they think about hiring and firing. We do lots of the first, lots of hiring, and haven’t done much on the firing side of things. It’s everything in between as well. It’s compensation, benefits, employee relations, training and development, culture development, all the things related to people and the organization.
Q: Does that include vetting Venezuelan shortstop prospects?
A: My primary focus is the business operations side of things. We do have some specific responsibilities toward the minor league players, the scouts, the trainers, as it relates to benefits and employment practices. The major league players we say hello to when they walk by.
Q: What constitutes the front office in baseball?
A: It’s all of the services of marketing, accounting, ticket sales, legal _ all of the business operations.
Q: How big is the Cubs’ front office going to get?
A: This next year we’re going to learn a lot about what it’s going to take to manage and staff the new office building and the park at Wrigley, and then in 2018, what requirements we have to support the hotel. As each of these assets comes online, we’ll have a better understanding of what the staffing requirements are.
Q: What is the best pathway to landing a job with the Cubs?
A: We’re always looking for people a couple years out of college to work in our entry-level sales organization or service organization.
Q: How has winning the World Series affected applications?
A: We’ve already seen a change in terms of demand. People are very interested in working for a winning club. Although the Cubs have always had a wonderful cachet and brand and loyalty, and have been able to recruit people very effectively into the business, certainly the banner of the World Series has raised our visibility with other potential candidates. When we post a job online, we get lots and lots of interested candidates.
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Q: Do you have to recruit for any positions?
A: There are specific jobs that have a unique skill set that maybe don’t exist broadly in the sports industry that we will actually go out and specifically recruit for, like a head of HR or a historian or a particular kind of accountant. But for many of our entry- and mid-level jobs, like the people who work in tickets sales or event operations, there’s lots of people who are interested in working for the organization.
Q: You’re hiring a team historian?
A: There is an opening for assistant director of archival services. It’s somebody who both has experience in archiving historical artifacts, the Cubs have many of them, obviously, after 100 years of being a sports enterprise, and somebody who has the ability to collect and archive the history of the Cubs. We have a lot of people who have done it informally, but we’re looking to bring somebody on board to do that for us professionally.
Q: What are the seasonal jobs like?
A: They generally start shortly before opening day with their training and preparation, and most of them will work through the entire season, and then at the end of the season they will leave the organization. It’s the ushers and ticket takers and security, facilities, guest services, those are all the positions that make up the seasonal workforce.
We have a very large percentage of people who come back every season, which is really great because they sort of know the drill.
Q: What is your best advice for someone who wants to join the Cubs front office?
A: My best advice for somebody who’s interested in working in the sports industry: One, would be to take a look at a college program that is sports management-related. Second would be to investigate internships. Every summer, most of the big sports teams have student internship programs where students can learn about the industry. And the third is be persistent. Keep an eye out for the opportunities that make sense, and make sure that you’re staying in touch with the leaders that you meet along the way, and continue to keep your interest forefront in their minds.