17: HR at the Table – The Valued Business Partner

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In this episode, Guy Pedelini, VP of HR at Dialogic shares his career journey, lessons learned and critical skills acquired. He offers advice on how HR can contribute to organizational strategy. Guy has held senior HR experience with diverse global organizations such as McCann Healthcare, UHS, Agfa and GE. He is described as energetic and a dynamic leader, mentor, coach and strategist. He is a consistent member of executive leadership teams responsible for growing businesses and shareholder equity. Guy has been described by his colleagues as having the strength to focus HR efforts to truly support a business and its strategic plan.

Key Learnings From This Episode

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  • What one word describes Guy’s passion? Without a doubt - ‘integrity’. It is critical for any leader, not just an HR leader, to say what you are going to do and do what you say. Your actions have to match your words and beliefs. This is non-negotiable in any leadership role. It is important for people to recognize they are going to get an honest answer. It establishes the right relationship, and that is important going forward.
  • What was a pivotal point in Guy’s career when he realized HR was more of a vocation and not just a job? Guy never thought of HR as just a job. After a year in HR, he was nominated as an early-identified high-potential candidate. The Employee Relations VP advised him that he was a high-potential and that he interview for a developmental role in Procurement. He was offered the job. The VP advised Guy to make his own decision about whether to accept the offer. The VP explained that he didn’t want him to leave, that he was doing great. He just wanted Guy to make his own decision. He knew then that HR was what he wanted to do.
  • The most influential HR functional experience in shaping Guy’s career. Early experiences in Labor Relations had a significant and life-long impact on Guy’s career. His first professional role was with manufacturer of lead lined containers used to transport dangerous chemicals. He was comfortable in the factory talking with employees and became known as ‘the kid in the tie that climbed the 100 ft. ladder and operated the crane over vats of boiling lead’. The union requested his presence in grievance meetings because they trusted him and felt that he understood their problems. In his early labor career, he had the responsibility to resolve grievances, negotiate contracts, and manage the company’s approach to labor arbitrations. Many times, his decisions could create or prevent a work stoppage, a walkout. He needed to develop influencing skills so that he could convince managers as well as union officials to find a solution, an area of agreement and common ground, while maintaining credibility with both sides. He believes developing decision-making competencies at an early age has been a big factor in his career success. Figuring out the right questions to ask, gathering data, making a decision on less than 100% data, getting input from all stakeholders, looking for common ground, being decisive, making a decision and sticking to it and making a decision you are comfortable with.
  • What experiences contributed to Guy’s learning about organizational strategy? As an HR Director and Business Partner at GE, Guy connected strongly with the organizational leaders in Engineering and Operations. By creating credibility around his functional specialty and helping them make key human capital decisions, he earned his way to the table to not only be exposed to strategy, but to actively contribute. He took the position that if he was not invited to a meeting he wanted to be in, he would invite himself. He later moved from Fortune 500 companies to small and mid-size companies which has provided him with a great opportunity to help shape organizational strategy.

    During the last 20 years as top HR executive for smaller global firms, he has traveled the world with the CEO and other executives of the companies. He’s integrated global project management and HR systems, hired and fired employees in 40 countries, opened and closed locations, acquired and integrated global companies. In these roles he has been an advisor and confidante to the CEO and an arbitrator and facilitator of communications for the executive team. He meets with potential new executive candidates, making sure he understands their roles and how they are going to fit on the team. He also participates in ‘not in the box’ HR initiatives. By understanding the organizational strategy, HR or any functional leader can put their decisions and actions in the context to the rest of the organization. When he considers a new role, he makes sure he’s clear with the CEO on four things: where HR is on the strategic spectrum in the company; where he/she wants it to be; how important talent is to the executive team; and where Guy envisions HR being.

  • Communicating with your HR team on strategy.  First and foremost, HR has to understand the business and the consequence of any decision to effectively influence the organization. Guy explains to his team how initiatives or decisions are aligned with the visions and goals of the company, encouraging questions. In every meeting with his team, he talks about two things: Confidentiality and the health of the business including an understanding of products, pipelines, revenue, cash flow, and EBITDA.  He sees his role in the organization as a business executive first who has HR responsibility, and he wants his organization to understand that and emulate it. The HR professional needs to have just as much analytical and decision making ability as any other function – Finance, Marketing, Operations – in order to effectively contribute to the organization’s success. The CEO, COO or key functional product managers come to his meetings to share real life examples of the business problems and solutions – providing his HR team with exposure to how decisions are being made and how those executives think, while exposing those executives to the talent that he has on his team.
  • How to align your HR team. Upon joining an organization, Guy assesses how HR is impacting the  organization; what the leadership thinks of HR service levels; and what meetings, decisions, and initiatives HR is involved in. That gives him an idea of HR’s strategic involvement. He spends time with the leadership team to understand the organization’s direction and hot spots. He actively listens and engages the leadership to understand needs and to present his philosophy of HR and how it can best support their organization. He seeks consensus for thoughts on HR redesign if that’s necessary. He also conducts an inventory of his team, reviewing factors such as skills, experience, performance level and consultative ability, which is very important in how HR can influence an organization. He determines how he wants to align HR to the business.
  • The importance of ‘culture’ to an organization. Every company has a culture. The real question is how important is it for an organization to have an identified culture that drives business results and attracts and retains key talent. A strong culture is indispensable in optimizing and sustaining organizational performance. It helps with cohesiveness between employees and departments; increased engagement of employees; improved perception from external markets and stakeholders; and improving the brand, which leads to talent and customer attraction and retention.
  • How important is HR’s imprint on culture? The executive leadership of the company, of whom the HR executive is a member, is responsible for determining what they want the company’s vision, values, and culture to be and taking the actions necessary to communicate that and reinforce that culture every day. Guy takes the same position on diversity, recruiting, and leadership development. Unless the chief executive leads by example and models these behaviors and the executive team buys in, an organization will not have a sustainable culture, no matter how dedicated the HR team is. Another significant piece of company culture is respect for the individual. All companies need to make tough decisions – it’s how these decisions are communicated, carried out, and followed up that determine what kind of company you are and want to be. Employees that are displaced need to be able to maintain their dignity as they leave organizations.
  • Advice to a new HR leader on employee engagement. Engagement and alignment leads to employee loyalty and results in customer loyalty. Employees who clearly know their role in an organization and where they fit in the strategy are empowered to make decisions and are likely to be highly motivated and reflect your brand very positively. Find a way to quantify this concept that is unique to your company and this is really a way to convince the CEO and executive team how important employee engagement is.
  • What is Guy doing now to ensure his growth and development as a leader? Guy focuses on being a better coach, teacher and mentor. He leads by example and doesn’t ask employees to do anything he wouldn’t do or hasn’t done. He delegates as much as he can, tries to find teachable moments for the people in his organization, likes to have fun, encourages his team to have fun, and takes accountability for himself and his team. He likes to market people that work for him. He is very proud of people from his teams who have advanced in their careers and would like to continue to develop talent from his teams. Finally, he tries to communicate openly – he’s learned in life and in business that that is the best way to influence an organization.

‘The HR professional needs to have just as much analytical and decision making ability as any other function – Finance, Marketing, Operations – in order to effectively contribute to the organization’s success.’ - Guy Pedelini

Recommended Reading and References from this Episode

  • The Service Profit Chain by James L. Heskett, W. Earl Sasser, Jr., and Leonard A. Schlesinger
  • Dr. William A. Schiemann of Metrus Group. (See episode 2 for our interview with Bill.)

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Guy Pedelini HR Studio Podcast Notes
Guy Pedelini HR Studio Podcast Notes
Tuesday, November 1, 2016 - 8:00am
Human Resources
Kyle O'Connor
Guy Pedelini
HR Studio Podcast