Ryan McGowan ’02 found his sweet spot working in the field of human resources. At Sports Authority’s corporate headquarters in Denver, McGowan’s day job as director of organizational development and learning means he empowers 15,000 employees to find their niche in 470+ store locations across the country.
The Urbandale native majored in elementary education and after graduation, joined Intermountain AmeriCorps to teach K-6 environmental education. He joined Sports Authority in 2012, after earning his MBA at the University of Denver. Today he leads a team of 11 to develop the strengths of every individual in the organization.
Q: Are you using education principles and classroom techniques in your human resources work?
A: Absolutely. There is a direct correlation between education and human resources. I am a teacher at heart so my work is staying true to who I am—investing in talents of others, whether in the corporate office or in the store. There’s lesson planning in project management; there’s blended learning in our initiatives through use of kinetic, visual and auditory programming. Our daily work is experiential-based so there’s lots of crossover with education in developing the next generation of employees.
Q: You are responsible for organizational development, talent strategy and culture transformation. What does that mean in layperson’s terms?
A: Today’s workplace generation wants to know ‘Am I going to have fun? Will I have work/life balance?’ so we have to create a work environment where people thrive and have a good sense of well-being in all aspects of their life—physical, mental, spiritual, emotional, financial. All of this is anchored in continuous learning. It’s also anchored in building a highly effective leadership team through executive coaching—raising leaders’ ability to impact profitability while also influencing employee motivation and morale.
Q: How do you promote a strong corporate culture, to get employees to literally “wear the brand?”
A: In our business, it’s very important to have a sense of well-being; very important to get out and enjoy all sports. We empower play for all so we try to help employees see that it’s a value proposition—that how we invest in employees makes a stronger organization. It’s challenging to make an emotional connection with 15,000 people across multiple locations. It’s not so much how we do it, but why we do it—why we promote healthy lifestyles and sportsmanship; why we want to instill a sense of joy for sport, not just competition; why we want employees to overcome obstacles and be empowered to be better people at work and at home.
Q: Advice for Central students?
- Be open-minded. Take every opportunity to get a foundation to position yourself.
- Be bold in your choices. Take calculated risks with good judgment.
- Find your passion.
- Continue to invest in yourself.