Taking Over a Family Business and Trailblazing Diversity & Inclusion

Seth Morales | CEO, Morales Group, Inc.

Seth Morales learned a lot about people from his time as a football star at Purdue University – from legends coach Joe Tiller and quarterback Drew Brees. And he’s applied many of those lessons to his role as CEO of the Morales Group. 

Based in Indianapolis, the recruitment and staffing agency was originally founded by Seth’s first-generation American father. But it was never meant to only be a staffing business — the purpose of the Morales Group was and is ultimately, to help their communities grow and flourish.

Because of the company’s mission, diversity and inclusion have been at the core of the Morales Group since its founding. “For us, we saw it as a core differentiator,” Seth says.

On this episode of Human Resolve, Seth explains how his company incorporates diversity and inclusion in an impactful way rather than just paying lip service. You’ll learn the importance of prioritizing vulnerability and empathy in your leadership, and how giving HR a voice can help your organization thrive.

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Meet Seth Morales

Seth Morales is President and CEO of the Morales Group, an Indianapolis-based recruiting and staffing agency. Morales, an active business and community leader, also serves on the boards for Indiana Latino Institute, St. Vincent Health System, Young Presidents’ Organization and TrueU.
He has been recognized by the Indianapolis Business Journal as a Forty Under 40 award recipient.  Seth earned his undergraduate degree at Purdue University, where he was a three-year starter and honorary captain of the Big Ten Championship Football team, and his MBA at the University of Notre Dame.
When he’s not blazing the trail in business, Seth is spending time with his wife, Jackie, and their two adorable sons, Sebastián (Sebby) and Mateo.

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Show Notes

Twenty years ago, Seth Morales made a fateful move. Playing as a wide receiver for Purdue University, he scored a touchdown against Ohio State and won the 2000 Big Ten Football Championship.

Seth’s football days are long gone, but he learned a lot playing at Purdue under legendary coach Joe Tiller with future Hall of Fame quarterback Drew Brees. For instance, he discovered the importance of listening and never settling for complacency. Seth regularly applies these lessons to his role as CEO at the Morales Group, a recruitment and staffing agency based in Indianapolis. 

Originally founded by Seth’s first-generation American father, the company is more than a staffing business. Its mission revolves around building communities – literally

“My father felt like he could make a difference by providing a job,” Seth explains. “My dad knew nothing about staffing and recruiting, but he knew that it made an impact on not only the individual who is making money and getting a job, but their family.”

Given their mission, diversity and inclusion have been at the core of the Morales Group since its founding. “For us, we saw it as a core differentiator,” Seth says.

Seth emphasizes the importance of avoiding complacency, listening to employees and actively looking for ways to improve. When conversations of racial inequity in America dominated circulated in 2020, Morales renewed the organization’s urgency to help. In fact, summer intern and Purdue wide receiver Rondale Moore suggested that the Morales Group start to build houses for underprivileged communities at home in Indianapolis, not just in Latin America.

On this episode of Human Resolve, Seth discusses how to incorporate an impactful diversity and inclusion strategy within a company, rather than simply paying lip service. He also shares how playing football helped him become a better leader and different ways in which HR can improve a company’s culture.

Megan Nail, Vice President of the Total Rewards Practice at FirstPerson, joins as well.

Notable Quotes

Creating an impactful diversity & inclusion initiative

“I think the first step is just go do. You’re going to make some mistakes and you’re going to feel awkward, but the fact that you take action and move forward with it, I think is really important. I think leaders are fearful and they don’t take that first step or have that conversation.”

The danger of neglecting HR

“I think there’s a real responsibility and opportunity for the HR suite and leaders to take hold of [this time] as I think the game is changing. … There’s just going to be a ton of goodness and opportunity for leaders in the HR suite to step up. … But it’s really kind of scary to see some of these businesses that don’t get HR and still use it as an admin function. It’s like, man, you just don’t get it and you’re going to be left behind.”

Why investing in people pays dividends

“Our business has really grown a lot when we started to invest in our team and our culture. And we realized staffing is not very sexy and it’s not very innovative. We’re helping fill job orders and finding people jobs. But if you have a better set of team or teammates and you have a healthy culture, then you’re going to have success.”

Putting diversity & inclusion into action

“There were a lot of companies that thought that diversity was kind of a buzzword, but that didn’t really live it out. And for us, we saw that strength. … And from an early stage of building the business, there was a natural draw with diverse communities, especially communities from around the globe that needed an opportunity, needed a job, but also needed a voice and not just a transactional relationship. They wanted somebody to be an advocate for them.”

Coaching is effective leadership

“[Coaching has] been a big part of 2020 with a pandemic and lots of empathy demonstrated. [You should be] making sure that people aren’t isolated and that your communication is up. So whether it’s through a video, [like] a weekly video that I sent out to the team, or just texting people on teams, or just call them and talk to them — it’s important that you make that time to communicate and have some of those coaching moments.”

Ways HR can make an impact

“HR isn’t a thing we do — it’s the thing that runs our business. How do we make HR more impactful? How do we have our HR director as a leader? How do we have a chief human resource officer? How do we create a Chief Empathy Officer? How do we create a Chief People Officer? Those are the ideas that we’re contemplating. … I wish more businesses would invest in their HR department and their people strategy, but a lot of businesses don’t get that. And so I think they’re missing an opportunity.”

What diversity means to Seth

“For me, I saw that diversity was like being invited to the dance. I think it’s more important that you’re actually not only invited, but you get asked to dance. … You’re actually choosing the song and you’re dancing on the dance floor and that’s what diversity and inclusion means to me.”

Importance of having a mission

“When we started our company … we didn’t really have a why, and we didn’t have a mission. And when we finally got a hold of our mission and our why, which is building better futures, one story at a time, our business skyrocketed because people got behind a cause or a purpose.”

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