2014 Game Changer: Keagan Kerr

By Frank Kalman

Aug. 3, 2014

Keagan Kerr’s first assignment as vice president of human resources for Coeur Mining Inc. was a big one.

Coeur, the nation’s largest silver producer, had outgrown its organizational model in 2012, and there was a shallow talent pool in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, where the company was based at the time.Keagan Kerr

Mitchell Krebs, Coeur’s president and CEO, needed an HR executive to help the company through the transition. So he hired Kerr, now 36, who over the next two years would help ignite a massive culture change at the company.

Perhaps the most ambitious change occurred when the company moved its headquarters from the idyllic mountains of Idaho’s panhandle to the concrete jungle of downtown Chicago.

Kerr initiated the plan to move to the Windy City in 2013 to gain access to a wider talent pool and be closer to one of the nation’s primary financial hubs, he said.

Though the company offered to take all of its employees from Idaho to Chicago, not all decided to make the move, Kerr said. As a result, he had to replace 50 employees. To fill the talent gap, Kerr decided to recruit 42 percent of the new hires from outside the industry so the company could gain fresh cultural perspective in business areas that didn’t require prior expertise in mining.

“My thought was they can learn the business of mining because we have several mining experts, but we can’t learn what they’ve seen in their careers because we didn’t have that experience in-house,” he said.

Kerr also initiated a new performance management process. Dubbed “Culture of Achievement,” the online application enables managers to set goals linked to the company’s strategic priorities, which then allows managers to track employee achievements without traditional performance ratings.

Kerr said his proudest moments since taking on the job has come in helping Coeur build its new identity in Chicago.

“I think just being able to push reset and start new in a new city with new talent — I think that’s been the proudest moment for the company,” he said.

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