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Organizational Transformation Takes Strategy, Patience and a Lot of Listening

John Sloan, senior vice president of human resources for Sears, talks about the HR function and Sears' transformation process.

March 1, 1999
Related Topics: Change Management, Reengineering, General Excellence
Workforce talked with John Sloan, senior vice president of human resources for Sears, Roebuck and Co., about the HR function and Sears' transformation process over he past several years. The highlights:

What is the toughest part of your job?
The toughest part is trying to manage a workforce of our size. We're about the 8th largest company in the United States. Trying to respond to an extremely large and diverse workforce in which people have different needs and desires, and trying to listen to and accommodate those differences for a workforce our size is always a challenge.

Why do you think the HR team at Sears is a unique and good place to be?
We have a vital part in the overall success of our company. We sit at the table with the most senior executives of the organization. All our HR people are a vital link between the human element and the business element of Sears. We provide a conduit between our employees and their needs and desires, and the company's overall success. We're actively involved in managing the company, which I think is extremely exciting.

What impact do you think today's HR professionals can have on business?
I think they play a vital role in ensuring the strategic direction of a company. HR maps out those issues that are critical from both a human element, as well as a business element, and tying the two together.

What advice do you have for other HR professionals who are going through an organizational transformation?
First, be sure that you listen to your employees. The people on the front lines are the ones closest to the customer. They can give you outstanding advice. Then take aggressive action to respond to those needs and interests. Also have the patience to realize that changing an organizational culture doesn't happen overnight.

Workforce, March 1999, Vol. 78, No. 3, p. 28.

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