How Scott Goodman is Helping Change HR

Parmalat's VP of HR lists steps for better serving your business’s needs

The dairy business in Canada is a highly competitive industry, always operating in a changing landscape, and Parmalat Canada plays a critical role within it. The 120-year-old company, which is Canada’s largest dairy producer, generated revenues of €4.5 billion in 2011. Key to its success is effective management of its vast workforce: 14,000 employees staffed in 16 countries. And Scott Goodman, national VP of human resources, is responsible for 3,000 of those employees.

1. Understand the competition

The competitive landscape of any business is constantly changing, says Scott Goodman, national VP of human resources. As an example, he points to the dairy business in Canada. “Right now, it’s supply managed, so companies such as Parmalat can only buy limited quantities of milk at set prices, but that may change in the future—and if it does, it will change how we organize our workforce,” he says. “HR has to think about that on a broad level, before it happens, in order to determine how we need to be staffed.”

2. Understand the business needs

Companies have to ensure that as the business changes, they change. In regard to Parmalat, Goodman says, “As we continue to grow across Canada, we need to constantly look for ways to improve our product delivery method. That’s a business issue supply-chain experts will think about, but HR has think about it as well. Similarly, we compete in some categories primarily on price, but we also have to promote our brands effectively. As more of companies try to get the same products on the same shelves in grocery stores, we have to ask if we need to change our approach and, thus, our expertise. We need to ensure that we have the right number of people with the right expertise in the right place.”

3. Recruit effectively

Getting talent is key to success, says Goodman. At Parmalat, for example, recruiting used to be the responsibility of HR generalists; recently, however, the company hired an in-house recruiter with expertise in sourcing the best candidates. It also decided to use more social media instead of traditional job boards—LinkedIn versus, for example—and ensure that hiring managers are equipped to use consistent interview methods and behavioural interviews in order to help them make better hiring decisions.

4. Manage talent

Once talent is hired, companies have to manage performance consistently. To that end, Goodman’s department is a fairly new user of a software system called Success Factors. “It ensures the entire company uses the same method of talent feedback, which involves three phases: performance planning, performance reviewing, and year-end performance appraisal,” he says. “It then slices and dices the information and compares talent across countries on similar terms, allowing us to make decisions about compensation and careers based on that.”

5. Obtain buy-in

Any programs HR implements have to be accepted by employees. As an example, Goodman points to a recent change in Parmalat’s performance management system. “In addition to going from paper to computer, we used to have four to eight annual objectives, and now we have two to six,” he says. “It wasn’t a big change, but we met some resistance. People said, ‘We’ve done well with the old system; why do we have to try something new?’ Some people just don’t like change. But once you decide you’re going to do something, and you have the support of the executive team, you have to work through that resistance. It helps to explain why you’re making the change. In this case, for example, we explained that the new system would lead to more consistent evaluations.”

6. Support the corporate culture

According to Goodman, it’s not HR’s job to cultivate the corporate culture; management is responsible for creating the overall corporate values. That said, HR does support the corporate culture. “I view it as a HR’s role to be an advisor,” Goodman says. “HR to the company is analogous in my mind to my role with my boss, the CEO; that is, I have to understand what he wants to accomplish, translate those goals into what it means in regard to people, and try to make that happen. In other words, what kind of talent do we have to acquire to make the organization look the way management wants it to look?”