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Balancing the Human Equation

September 16, 2001
Related Topics: Change Management, Downsizing, Managing Change, Featured Article
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Between six years in corporate roles and 12 in HR, Kathy Skala gained a 360-degree view of Malden Mills, where she is currently the HR director. Below, she shares her insights about HR and working at Malden Mills.

How did you get into the HR field?
In 1980, I was in the midst of a significant personal career change from education to human services. Then a friend of mine at Malden Mills informed me of an opening in the HR department. I felt my abilities in training, recognizing and resolving conflicts and facilitating teamwork could add considerable value to the company. My first project [that year] was to research Malden’s history for use in a corporate brochure. I met and interviewed those who had known Malden Mills from the beginning days as a knitting operation in Malden, Massachusetts, as well as the R&D engineers who took Malden into the world of synthetic fabrics. It was a great beginning!

What do you like about work at Malden Mills?
The multicultural environment. People representing many nations of the world are all working side by side. I also like the spirit—it’s one of tenacity and dedication. It’s the quality of our people—to do whatever is needed to get the job done. That’s what helped the company rebound after the fire. And I especially like working with a staff that combines business savvy with street smarts. By street smarts, I mean being grounded in real life—knowing that employees are touched by social issues and have personal issues that affect them in their work.

What have recent events taught you about managing change?
I believe the strongest lesson—which I really always knew, but experienced in a new way—is that all change is a process and takes time. Whether planned, as in the case of a division closing, or unexpected, as in the fire, I found that employees move at different paces—from resistance and disbelief to acceptance and involvement. It’s HR’s job to work with groups to understand the resistance and lead employees through the change process. I believe we do that through communication, by acknowledging that resistance is a normal reaction and often a first step toward change.

Workforce, March 1999, Vol. 78, No. 3, pp. 58.

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