Strength Under (Wild)Fire: Kristen Long’s Leadership through Tragedy and Triumph

By Kaitlin Sitton

On November 8th, 2018, TAG HR leader Kristen Long woke to news of a rapidly growing wildfire only 90 minutes from her Northern California home. Within a couple of hours, the town of Paradise was destroyed, 85 lives were lost, and thousands of first responders were on their way to battle what would become the most destructive wildfire in California history. The Camp Fire would impact dozens of communities, hundreds of business, and thousands of families—including TA Group’s. And to Kristen, who has narrowly escaped wildfires herself, that meant it was time to take charge.

First, a little insight into Kristen: 

As head of Human Resources for TAG, Kristen serves over 1200 people across a multistate portfolio. She joined TAG in 2006 to build a nascent staffing division from the ground up. (That division has since grown enough to divide into two successful businesses, Averro and Launch Consulting.) As the company grew, she willingly took on an increasing load of HR tasks, and in 2009, she created TAG’s official HR department. Kristen trained, managed, and developed the initial 15 people in that group, implemented the first web-based HR module for the firm, and created and published a compensation model for what was then a 200-person organization. In doing so, she became the first female executive at TAG.

“Kristen Long has done as much to advance our business as any IP, new technology, or business development investment.” – TAG Co-Founder Rick Nelson 

Since then, Kristen has orchestrated multiple integrations after mergers, acquisitions and divestitures, always focused on providing a smooth transition for the people and minimal disruption to business. She implemented the longstanding IMPACT reward and recognition program, which highlights employees driving business results and living company values.

A Senior Certified Professional of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), she also has led efforts to continually improve HR Management Systems, tools, and processes, providing streamlined pay & benefits portals, easier manager tools, better automation, and richer data. Every year, Kristen negotiates for the best possible benefits across the portfolio. As part of offered healthcare coverage, she recently made innovative app-based healthcare available to all employees through 98point6. She also founded and manages the company’s Opportunities for Women’s Leadership (OWL) program, Wellness Committee, and charitable giving platform.

Kristen stands out on our team and for potential investments in three distinct ways:

  • Vision: Kristen is well-known for seeing 10 steps down the line and formulating a strategy to get the company there. She keeps her team, executive peers, and the company focused on set goals while minimizing distractions with aplomb. For over 13 years, TAG leadership has counted on and trusted Kristen to keep her finger on the pulse of our people. Her concise communication gives managers and executives the insight and guidance needed to stay the course in a fast-paced work environment.
  • Industry knowledge: As a professional with over 25 years in the staffing and HR space, Kristen has extensive experience in working with people on both sides of the table. She advocates confidently for the company while ensuring employees are heard, and she can anticipate rather than react to situations that can slow an organization down or derail its success. A master researcher, Kristen frequently analyzes labor & industry reports for benchmarking purposes, and shares her analysis to help TAG portfolio executives stay competitive.
  • Leading by example: Kristen has worked in every facet of this business and, in every role, has exceeded the pace and productivity of her peers. She brings that same fire and enthusiasm to her role as a senior executive. From Rick Nelson again: “Her unquestionable work ethic, impeccable work quality, and unmatched willingness to meet the people where they work allows her to learn from the teams and lead from the front.” She uses many methods to accomplish her work, but her greatest strength has always been her acute attention to what people feel and need at a specific moment in time. 

Which takes us back to our story.

As the Camp Fire blazed out of Paradise and smoke gathered over the Sacramento area, Kristen mobilized TAG’s cohort of companies. After immediately identifying employees who lived in the affected area and personally ensuring their well-being, she sprang into action. First, she created a company fund to match all employee fire relief donations (through payroll deductions, gift cards, and direct donations to area relief orgs or individual survivors), resulting in nearly $15,000 in donations. 

With help from employees who knew survivors, she assembled a targeted list of desperately needed items and spurred a company-wide drive to fulfill the needs of 13 specific families. In addition, Kristen organized the donation of over 100 laptops from our family of companies, enabling people to access online applications for state and federal relief, inform their families that they had survived, and track down missing friends and animals.

Kristen made repeated trips to Chico by herself and with a TAG team to drop off donations and laptops, stored mattresses in her office until they could be given to people who needed them, and responded rapidly to any new need that came onto her radar, putting in scores of hours and hundreds of miles to help out wherever she could. She was instrumental to organizing hundreds of people who wanted to help and making sure that what employees donated could be put to the best use possible, maintaining momentum for over two months.

In addition to the specific needs for Camp Fire relief, Kristen also serves on the Board of Directors for the United Way of Nevada County, overseeing teams that perform community outreach to ensure that everyone in the county has access to food, emergency shelter, and healthcare. 

The leadership, efficiency, discretion, and consideration Kristen embodies through philanthropic ventures are the same qualities that make her a powerful HR leader and a trusted member of the TAG team. She embodies our values of Vision + Action and forges partnerships with others who do the same. In doing so, Kristen helps lead our business, our portfolio, and our people through any trials…and onward, to triumph.

How are you taking action for good using your vision? See how we Give Back and tell us your story today: