James Kinney has joined Mother U.S. to serve as chief talent officer, a new role at the agency.
He joins from Giant Spoon, where he served as vice president of people. In this role, he will oversee recruitment; guide the independent agency’s diversity, equity, inclusion and culture initiatives; and focus on providing growth and education opportunities for employees in New York and Los Angeles.
Kinney will become part of Mother’s leadership team and report to CEO and partner Peter Ravailhe. Kinney will manage various teams already established at Mother and is not taking on responsibilities previously held by someone else.
He’ll work closely with Maria Scileppi, who joined Mother earlier this year as head of learning development, another new position at the agency.
His appointment is part of a larger push that Mother implemented roughly a year and a half ago to “completely revamp how we approach talent,” Ravailhe said. According to Ravailhe, between 70% and 80% of its revenue goes toward employees, so the agency has been focusing on how it can best support and invest in them.
Mother looked at 32 people for the position, but Ravailhe said Kinney “stood head and shoulders above everyone else.” His work experience outside of advertising—Kinney spent the earlier parts of his career at a law firm—made him an attractive candidate. He’s also the author of the book Living at 30kFT: Insights for Post College America.
At Mother, Kinney said he’s starting off his new job by launching “experience sessions,” or hourlong meetings with each person at Mother, to understand where they’re at and give them the opportunity to be heard. He described the process as taking the temperature of the agency.
“It’s about listening first,” he said. “My training teaches me that I can’t make any decisions on behalf of the organization if I’m not listening.”
Mother recently shared its U.S. workforce diversity data and outlined a number of “commitments and actions” it’s taking for racial justice, which include increasing diversity representation at all levels and investing in marginalized communities.
In June, Dave & Buster’s named Mother New York its agency of record. Tripadvisor and Wrangler both selected Mother New York as global agency of record last year, although the latter no longer works with the shop. Mother Los Angeles was named Sonic’s agency of record last year and released its first work for the chain in February.