Q: How and why did you decide to get into HR?
A: I initially got into HR by chance. A great opportunity to be the manager of the benefits functions [came along]. Over time, I made a conscious decision that HR can and should play a major role in organizational performance. After all, it is all about people and financial resources.
Q: What's the best part of your job?
A: [Having the opportunity to] influence, shape and support the culture of the company, in support of our business strategy.
Q: What's the toughest part of your job?
A: For me, the toughest part of my job is identifying and then sticking to the right priorities.
Q: What are some of the best decisions you've made as an HR professional?
A: Selecting the right leaders. Unfortunately, this is also representative of some of my worst decisions.
Q: What advice do you have for people considering an HR career?
A: Early in your career focus on sound, core technical skills, such as compensation, benefits, selection, organization development and core business skills, finance, marketing, manufacturing and so on.
Q: What advice do you have for other established HR professionals?
A: Become a broad business person who brings excellent functional skills to the table.
Q: What sorts of changes were going on when you started at Pillsbury?
A: A lot. I arrived in 1992, along with a number of other senior managers. The company got a new CEO in the fall of 1991, and he put together a group of us. Before I was a gleam in anyone's eye, we went through a fairly extensive structural change in how we run the business -- we focused on competencies in food technology, brands marketing and that type of thing, and away from the old focus, which was on divisions within the company and functional silos.
A: Back then, human resources was considered a support function -- and we support functions weren't doing well in those days in terms of being a player at the table. That changed in 1992. Business contributions came first, and functional contributions became a given. So as opposed to how it was before, when HR only had to do HR -- that was tossed out. The mission became to attend to what drives the business first, and then [our department] would just happen to be great at HR.
Q: Were there any other changes going on?
A: There was nothing but change in 1992. Work was starting to be done in cross-functional teams. When we made that change it was very traumatic. Philosophically it was a good idea, but the lines of authority got blurred, and new things became important. People became discombobulated -- who's my boss? Where do I go? Couple that change with the fact that as a business we weren't growing -- it was flat. Then we were a fundamentally U.S. business. So we put our stake in the ground saying we wanted to grow outside the United States. So all of a sudden this organization in which all roads began and ended in Minneapolis had to look at things differently. Roads were beginning and ending in Argentina or Bombay.
Q: What was communication within the company like?
A: Prior to 1992, there was very little place for communications. In 1992 we started a business-focused employee newspaper. We started having CEO luncheons every month, and communication meetings with all functions at least once a quarter. We tried to do a lot of things to tell people what this new age at Pillsbury was all about.
Workforce, February 1998, Vol. 77, No. 2, p. 58.