By Katheryn Sillo
The Senior Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer at Cumberland Gulf Group, John McMahon, a past speaker at Argyle Executive Forum’s 2013 Human Capital Leadership Forum (Boston), discusses best practices in aligning with the business and how a recent initiative at Cumberland Gulf Group is evidence of true alignment.
[Argyle Executive Forum] How have your goals working in Human Resources changed over the course of your career?
[McMahon] The HR profession has come a long way from where it was when I began my career back at ITT Corporation. We have raised the bar for ourselves as professionals and have consequently raised expectations from the CEOs and Boards as to the value we bring to the overall success of the businesses we are a part of. No longer are we seen as the administrative function or as the “Deans of Discipline” for wayward employees. We are seeing the role of HR through the lens of the business and we are ensuring that we have the organizational capabilities necessary to compete and win in our respective marketplaces.
The lifeblood of every organization is its people; therefore, making sure we have the right people with the right skills in the right jobs at the right time becomes a critical necessity for long-term success. Ultimately, our effectiveness and our ability to provide the right talent will be measured by our Company business results. Finally, making sure that the people who manage and lead our employees have the necessary tools they need to inspire and motivate their employees. We are making this a focal point here at Cumberland Gulf through management development training and reinforcing the importance of the role of manager to our teams.
What methods work best to align with business priorities, driving business value, and establishing an effective partnership?
Aligning with our business partners begins from day one on the job for the CHRO. This requires a personal commitment to take the time and meet individually with each business leader in the company to establish a common goal approach to winning. This is the chance for the CHRO to establish credibility as a business person who happens to be running the HR team in the company. Preparing well thought out and business relevant questions for discussion is essential in establishing a meaningful business partnership. I spent my first three months at Cumberland Gulf meeting with business leaders and getting out to as many of our company locations as possible to get a better feel for what it was like to be a member of this organization. After I felt I had a fairly good understanding of the workings of the company, I spent the next couple of months building an HR strategy that was closely aligned and fully supportive of the business goals and objectives. Once I completed my strategy, I took it on a road show within the company to ensure I was on the right path. The feedback I received on the plan was both informative and very positive, as my business partners were encouraged and excited and my HR team had a clear road-map towards a true partnership.
The Cumberland Gulf Group has recently received press about its decision to lead the pack in regards to the Affordable Care Act. This decision would move 1,500 part-time employees to full-time employees, therefore allowing them to receive company health benefits. What was the incentive to take the lead on this issue and move employees to full-time status even months before the deadline?
Our decision to take a leadership position on the Affordable Care Act was closely aligned with our “People First” strategy here at Cumberland Gulf. One of the most important things we want people to know is that our companies, Cumberland Farms and Gulf Oil, are great places to work. We believe that our success and what differentiates us from our competition comes from our people first attitude. We didn’t need to sit back and see what other companies were going to do regarding the ACA, but after much discussion among the Executive Committee we concluded that investing in our employees was not just a smart thing to do – it is the right thing to do.
You recently told the New Hampshire Union Leader that this is a great opportunity for your company to put your money where your mouth is and walk the walk about being a people-oriented organization. How will this shift of 1,500 part-time employees to full-time affect the work environment?
We are in the midst of a significant cultural evolution as we continue to focus on our people as the one truly sustainable competitive advantage we have. The decision to take a leadership position on this issue is clear evidence that we are indeed serious and fully committed to our “People First” strategy. The feedback from our workforce has been extremely positive and we are confident that this, along with many other people oriented initiatives that are underway, will continue to increase employee satisfaction and result in a higher level of commitment from our people. The investment we are making in this initiative, along with all the others, is tangibly demonstrating to our people that we are indeed putting our money where our mouths are.
John P. McMahon is the Senior Vice President, HR and Chief Human Resources Officer at Cumberland Gulf Group of Companies in Framingham Massachusetts. He is responsible for development and implementation of the HR strategy for the Company. As a member of the Cumberland Gulf Executive Committee, he ensures that this strategy is fully aligned with the overall goals of the organization. He is responsible for providing functional leadership for the HR organization which provides support for our 7,000 employees, 600 stores and 3,500 branded and private label outlets.
Before joining Cumberland Gulf, John P. McMahon served as the Senior Vice President, Global Human Resources, Arrow Electronics, Inc. As SVP, HR, John’s responsibility for Arrow’s global human resources function, included talent management/succession, executive compensation, benefits, professional development and human resources policy for the company’s nearly 12,000 employees worldwide.
Prior to joining Arrow in March 2007, McMahon served as Senior Vice President and Chief Human Resource Officer at UMass Memorial Health Care System, the largest health care system in Central and Western Massachusetts. He held the position of Senior Vice President, Global Human Resources, at Fisher Scientific, a division of Thermo Fisher Scientific that provides laboratory equipment, chemicals, supplies and services, and at Terra Lycos, S.A., a provider of telecommunications and Internet services worldwide. Earlier in his career, McMahon held leadership roles in human resources at companies that included ITT Corporation, a world leader in engineering and manufacturing, and Raytheon Corporation, an industry leader in defense and aerospace systems.
McMahon holds a Master of Science degree in Human Resource Management from Upsala College and a Bachelor of Science degree from Mercy College.