[How We Hire] A force for relief in 64,000 disasters yearly

Published on: Jun 7, 2018


The American Red Cross is a nonprofit force with few equals: Counting 20,000 employees and 300,000 volunteers in its ranks, it responds directly to more than 64,000 disasters every year, while also helping prepare individuals, businesses, and other nonprofits to deal with emergencies before they happen. It also keeps one of its original mission components going: supporting the U.S. Armed Services and their families, both at home and abroad, in preparing for, coping with, and responding to the challenges of military service. Chief Human Resources Officer Melissa Hurst has spent 20 years at the world-renowned organization, and 11 in her current role overseeing talent acquisition and retention, leadership development, succession planning, and more from the Red Cross’s Washington, D.C. headquarters.

My pitch for potential hires: The American Red Cross is much more than most people see. We offer a variety of career opportunities across our lines of service – Biomedical, Disaster, Preparedness, Health & Safety Services, Services to the Armed Forces, General Business Services, and International Services – all with a common goal. We offer a wide range of benefits, including medical and retirement plans, paid time off, and robust career development programs, like an internal career center for exploring new opportunities within the organization. We are also a leader in virtual working arrangements, with a significant portion of our staff teleworking either part- or full-time.

What I love about working here: The sense of community and feeling you get when you tell someone you work for the Red Cross is amazing – almost everyone has a story to tell about how the organization has impacted them personally or someone they know. Often, I find myself getting emotional knowing that the organization I work for does such incredible work, not only saving lives, but also supporting our military personnel and families.

One essential trait to employee success at Red Cross: Living out our mission means being ready, whenever needed, in an ambiguous and ever-changing environment. Our work fluctuates with critical community needs, ranging from disaster response activities to supporting major campaigns (like our home fire prevention program, Sound the Alarm) to making appeals for blood donors. We often say, “Sleeves Up, Hearts Open, All In,” reflecting the commitment and passion we look for in employees.

Something cool we do to support our staff: Every employee can access our development portal to enhance their skills, prepare for future career opportunities, or just have fun learning something new. In addition, we offer a structured, two-year Leadership Education and Development Program (LEAD), designed to prepare employees for senior leadership opportunities by developing skills such as critical and strategic thinking and leadership capabilities All of our executives are highly engaged in LEAD, serving as sponsors for each employee.

One way we help new hires succeed: In addition to virtual and on-the-job training, our structured orientation and training plans include regular check-ins with leadership, timelines for receiving responsibilities, and the opportunity to take on a mentor within their new department.

Why our office is great: In 1915, President Woodrow Wilson laid the cornerstone for the American Red Cross National Headquarters building in Washington, D.C. In 1965, the site was designated a National Historic Landmark. In our second century of service at Red Cross Square – comprised of three iconic buildings, grounds, and commemorative sculptures – we have created a modern campus while maintaining the integrity of our historic buildings. The transformation has created renewed uses for our facilities, ensuring that they are best configured to support our collaborative, extended workforce. Applying modern industry standards for developing workspace environments, the Red Cross also created a new Collaboration Café, a dedicated social workspace for staff and volunteers to gather, share ideas, and work together.

The American Red Cross is a 137-year-old organization that works to provide relief to victims of disaster; help people and communities prevent, prepare for, and respond to emergencies; ensure everyone has access to safe blood and blood products; and ensure all members of our armed services and their families find support whenever needed. Learn more on their website, or by following them on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, or Instagram.