Behind The Scenes

Fast Break: Paul Richardson

Paul Richardson

Paul Richardson is one year into fulfilling not one but two demanding jobs, simultaneously.

Since joining ESPN in 2007, Richardson has served as senior vice president, human resources. In that role, he helps guide ESPN’s human resource efforts involving 50 different business units and nearly 7,000 employees worldwide.

In February 2011, Richardson added the role of Chief Diversity Officer for The Walt Disney Company. In that capacity, he works with diversity leaders throughout Disney to devise and execute global diversity strategies.

That’s a lot of responsibility — and regular monthly travel between ESPN and Disney’s corporate headquarters in Connecticut and California, respectively.

In the interview below, the University of Southern California graduate and former executive with Universal McCann, Paramount Pictures, and The Times Mirror Company describes what his jobs entail, how he multitasks, and his most cherished sports moments.

How would you explain your jobs to the layperson?

My responsibilities include overseeing all aspects of Human Resources at ESPN. Within HR, there are five primary functional areas (Compensation, Diversity & Inclusion, Learning and Organizational Development, Recruiting, and our HR Business Partners). I often describe our mission as helping to create exceptional employee experiences. This includes everything from a prospective candidate’s recruitment to ESPN, the hiring and onboarding of that individual through helping to define their total rewards package and development and learning opportunities.

As the Chief Diversity Officer for The Walt Disney Company, this is a new and exciting opportunity for both me and Disney. Within this role, I partner with various Disney business segments to define and implement our global diversity and inclusion strategy. We focus our efforts on three primary areas: the diversity of our workforce, inclusion within our workplace and leveraging our internal diversity to engage the marketplace.

I’m proud to say we are launching several new diversity initiatives this year, including an initiative supporting veterans and military families entitled “Heroes Work Here.”

How do you juggle your responsibilities with ESPN and Disney?
Fortunately, both roles are closely related and I am surrounded by an extremely talented team. By leveraging our collective resources and abilities, somehow it all comes together.

What are the biggest challenges involved with overseeing ESPN’s human resources efforts and Disney’s diversity strategies?
One of our greatest challenges is the constant competition for talent. Our workforce is constantly changing. So, the challenge to deliver to prospective and current employees an employment proposition that attracts, develops and retains the best and the brightest talent requires us to continually evolve our service offerings and add fresh, new, and more personalized programs to the mix.

In the diversity and inclusion space, it’s about moving beyond the stereotypical view of what diversity is about and moving the organization to a plane where we think and act with a global mindset and create environments where every individual, regardless of their gender, color, orientation or ability or any other factor can contribute and are invited to participate to their full potential.

What multitasking tips can you share?
In our fast paced and ever-changing environment at ESPN, multitasking is often something we do without thinking about it. It’s the nature of our business. In terms of specifics, my advice is simple, prioritize your tasks and do the most urgent and important things first, work down from there and never lose sight of the value of teamwork to accomplish the tasks at hand.

How have your roles with other media companies prepared you for these jobs with ESPN and Disney?
Prior to joining ESPN, I was fortunate to work with companies who had television, film production, digital media, and publishing activities. Obviously, ESPN participates in all of these businesses and more. So, understanding the industry and making the transition from my previous employers was an easy one.

How do you split time between California and Connecticut?
I generally spend one week per month in California and try to hold regular office hours out of the Team Disney building when I am there. ESPN also has a number of offices in the Southern California area, so during those visits I will often try to find a day where I can connect with our West Coast colleagues at the Los Angeles Production Facility.

What are your favorite sports teams? Favorite sports moment?
In the world of college sports, anyone who knows me will tell you, I am a diehard USC fan and alum – and yes, I see a BCS National Title within our reach…

In terms of professional sports, I am a huge Los Angeles Lakers fan and do my best to convert as many of our East Coast colleagues to expand their horizons, embrace diversity and adopt more West Coast sensibilities. Admittedly, there’s still more work to be done here.

And, as for the favorite sports moment, there are too many to really choose just one. However, special mentions would be the night Kobe [Bryant] lit up Staples [Center] with 81 points, the New York Giants’ Super Bowl win over the [New England] Patriots in Arizona — and just being able to attend the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, which hands down was an amazing experience.

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