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#OpenUpTheWorkforce with Clarice Colòn, Vice President of Integrated Talent Management and Global HR, Organizational Development and Organizational Effectiveness at Whole Foods

Published by Mitra LeBuhn on May 18, 2023
5 min read

Mitra LeBuhn

Mitra is the Head of Impact and Communications at Symba and leads social impact, PR, and marketing partnerships for the business. She combines a unique background in Global Health and Higher Education, and speaks French. Beyond Symba, Mitra spends her time outdoors, traveling the world and making music.

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Presented by Symba, #OpenUpTheWorkforce interviews feature executives advancing inclusion, diversity, and equity for the future of work. In these short audio-only episodes, we talk with the top about what it takes to develop and implement inclusive processes. 

This episode of #OpenUpTheWorkforce features Clarice Colòn, Vice President of Integrated Talent Management and Global HR, Organizational Development, and Organizational Effectiveness at Whole Foods. Shaped by an unconventional career path and passion for people and leadership, Clarice shares valuable insights into Whole Foods' commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) and how they integrate it into every aspect of the employee experience. This blog post delves into the key takeaways from the interview, highlighting Whole Foods' strategies and programs for fostering diversity and sustaining an inclusive work environment. Listen here.

From Wellness to HR: Clarice's Journey

Clarice's journey into the HR space began unexpectedly when a mentor recognized her leadership potential and offered her an opportunity to transition from the health and fitness industry. With a focus on people and helping them achieve their full potential, Clarice saw a natural alignment between her previous work in wellness and her new role in HR. This alignment would later shape her passion for promoting career health and fulfillment among Whole Foods employees.

Diversity and Inclusion at Whole Foods

Whole Foods has always prided itself on its diverse workforce, even before Clarice joined the company. They embrace a team member-centric approach that emphasizes growth, development, and internal mobility. Clarice describes it; ‘It's not climbing a ladder. It's more like climbing a rock wall. And there’s so many opportunities within our company that can inspire individuals to hone their craft.” Whole Foods creates numerous pathways for employees to explore their interests, whether it's through artisan roles, leadership positions, or specialized areas like wine and cheese expertise. They provide ample opportunities for professional development and ensure that barriers such as language proficiency or digital literacy are addressed through external partnerships and support programs.

Measuring Success and Taking Action

Whole Foods actively measures the success of its diversity and inclusion programs by monitoring team member participation, engagement levels, and sentiment. Through continuous listening programs, weekly pulse checks, and annual engagement surveys, they gather feedback to assess the impact of their initiatives. They also analyze metrics such as internal promotions and the diversity of opportunities to ensure they're making progress and adjust their strategies accordingly.

Success Skills Program and Behavioral Framework

Clarice notes that, oftentimes, confidence is the lever to success; “It's not necessarily capability that's preventing someone from applying for a role. We are encouraging our leaders to tap on the shoulder. I was tapped on the shoulder. I would have never wound up in a career in HR had someone not identified that opportunity in that potential in me.” Beyond that, Whole Foods has recently launched the Success Skills Program, which establishes a competency framework for team members. This framework provides clarity on the skills and behaviors needed for success in different roles within the organization. By equipping employees with this knowledge, Whole Foods aims to boost confidence and empower individuals to pursue growth opportunities. It also helps leaders and HR business partners identify and tap into team members' potential more effectively.

What do leaders need to do to #OpenUpTheWorkforce?

Whole Foods is continuously evolving and expanding its pathway programs. They plan to monitor and refine existing initiatives to ensure they deliver the desired outcomes. Additionally, Whole Foods has initiated a campus recruitment program and is exploring partnerships with culinary institutes to attract early talent and offer career opportunities while individuals are still studying their craft. This forward-thinking approach aligns with Whole Foods' commitment to opening up the workforce and creating equal access to jobs and wealth creation.

In this quick interview with Clarice Colon, we gained valuable insights into Whole Foods' dedication to diversity, equity, and inclusion. By nurturing a team member-centric culture, implementing targeted programs, and leveraging technology to enhance efficiency, Whole Foods continues to create an inclusive work environment where employees can thrive. With a focus on continuous improvement, Whole Foods is poised to make even greater strides in driving diversity and opening up the workforce, setting an example for other organizations to follow.

About Clarice Colòn

Clarice Colòn is a highly analytical, collaborative, and visionary Human Resources (HR) executive with 20+ years of progressive leadership experience directing HR operations management, succession planning, leadership development, culture change, and diversity, equity, and inclusion programs. She is a critical thinker and trusted advisor with a successful track record in supporting multi-state / multi-unit operations aligning business objectives with employee development and implementing talent strategies focusing on culture, engagement, and sustainability. She also thrives as an excellent communicator and HR practitioner with success in establishing best practices, leveraging vendor relationships, and supporting new leadership development within diverse fast-paced environments.  

In 2019, Clarice was named Vice President of Talent and Global Human Resources for Whole Foods Market (WFM) directing their Talent Center of Excellence (COE) operations and developing WFM’s talent planning vision and strategies. She oversees 130+ team members spanning Talent Acquisition, Talent Management, HR Insights & Analytics, Learning & Development, and OD / OE professionals. Clarice built the first-of-its-kind Talent Management Center of Excellence (COE) for WFM from concept and delivered their first scalable and formalized Talent Planning & Succession, Competency Framework, and Mentorship Program “Cultivate.” She also created WFM’s Executive Development Program for aspiring high-potential leaders, Cultivate Whole Women Leaders. Lastly, she reorganized and centralized  WFM’s core capability Merchant and Operations retaining 90% of its highest potential and critical talent.  

From 2018 to 2019, Clarice served as Senior Director of Human Resources, Global Support providing HR partnership and support for Global Support Functional Business Units encompassing 3K+ local and remote roles. She also managed 10 HR Generalists and Business Partners supporting senior leaders including the C-suite, Executive Vice Presidents, Senior Vice Presidents, and Executive Leaders of Merchandising, Technology, Finance, Marketing, HR, Legal, Real Estate, Quality Standards, Business Development, WFM Foundations, and Operations. She has led multiple organizational transformations aimed at improving organizational health through organizational design and optimization.  Clarice provided the framework for the new Leadership Readiness Training, "Ready to Lead," an HR Basics training for all Leaders of People upskilling, growing, and rebranding the "HR Service" model with the Global Support HR team. 

Prior to Whole Foods Market, Clarice served as Vice President of People for Amtel LLC / T-Mobile directing the HR due diligence and transition for 3 acquisitions. She built out their HR structure developing and implementing the human resources functions within an HR start-up environment. She oversaw recruiting, leadership development, training, compensation, benefits, internal communications, people analytics, and regulatory, risk, and compliance. Clarice sourced and implemented HR technology designed their compensation structure, and hired the company’s first CFO. 

She grew and progressed her career from Operations Manager, District Operations Manager (with P&L accountability), Human Resources Manager, and Regional Director of Human Resources for Bally Total Fitness, Divisional Senior Manager / Human Resources Business Partner for T-Mobile USA, and Divisional Director of Human Resources, Midwest Region for Rent-A-Center.  

Clarice holds a Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) and Senior Certified Professional (SCP). She has served as an active member of the Dallas-based Littler Mendelson Employment Law Strategy and Network Council, a member of the City Year Community Service Organization, and a Corporate Sponsor for St. Jude’s Children’s Resource Hospital. 




You can view other episodes of #OpenUpTheWorkforce here. Are you an executive leader increasing access to jobs and wealth creation? Request to be featured and show us how you #OpenUpTheWorkforce.

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