My name is Rory C. Trotter Jr., and I’m in an HR Management Development Program.
I currently manage the human resources function for my company’s U.S. cocoa operations . I am responsible for talent management, employee and labor relations, communications, benefits administration, and payroll. I have three direct reports charged with executing on day to day HR activities and general administrative functions.
My career focus is in Human Resources because I believe tomorrow’s economy will be driven by those companies that most effectively leverage their human capital in the pursuit of innovative solutions to the 21st century’s unprecedented business and social challenges. To accomplish these aims, the best organizations will successfully use descriptive and prescriptive analytics to recruit top talent, identify and nurture said talent’s strengths, and ensure sustained productivity and innovation through the use of initiatives that both recognize and reward high performance.
1. Most job postings cite “X” years of relevant work experience and specific education criteria as requirements to be considered for the position. With this in mind, what prior work experiences and degrees/certifications/training helped prepare you for your current role?
I lead the HR function at one of my employer’s division headquarters, managing a team of 3 HR and administrative professionals and directly supporting a little over 300 full-time employees and contractors across a wide ranges of functions. I have a direct reporting line to the location’s Operations Director, with a dotted-line reporting relationship to the Commercial Director. Both my M.B.A. and my Master of Human Resources and Industrial/Labor Relations from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have been helpful in preparing me for my current role. The former was helpful because it provided me with a foundation in analytical thinking and financial accounting – both of which are valuable to have at various times in my job. And the latter degree was helpful because of the knowledge it gave me of how to mediate conflicts and labor and employment law. With that said, my work experiences across various roles over the last 30 months have been perhaps more valuable in positioning me for success than any formal education. I’ve worked as Labor Relations Rep, Recruiter, Compensation Analyst, Generalist, Line-Leader, and Projects Manager. In aggregate these roles have given me an in-depth understanding of our HR systems, culture, contracts and handbooks, compensation philosophy, staffing best practices, and awareness of key stakeholders and gatekeepers across the enterprise.
2. What (if any) additional knowledge or skills that you don’t currently have would make you even better at your job?
More knowledge of our day-to-day operations would be helpful as they would allow me to function as more of a strategic business partner on matters related to talent and succession. You can get a lot of this from reading financial statements (10-ks/10-qs/8-ks etc.) and working closely with Line Managers, but a deep understanding of a businesses’ operations can really only being gleamed from being entrenched in them. My role is relatively siloed, however, focusing mostly on HR-specific tasks such as employee and union relations, contract interpretation, payroll, benefits administration, communications, and staffing/succession.
3. Some jobs require the incumbent to be very analytical. Others require one to be a strong communicator, and others still require traits like patience, the ability to multitask, self-directedness, comfort with ambiguity, and exceptional attention to detail. Are there any behaviors and/or attributes that you would say are essential to performing the work that you do?
At any given time there are dozens of tasks that I’m juggling, ranging from the tactical/administrative (such as making sure open-enrollment activities and trainings are progressing as intended) to strategic (e.g. partnering with business leaders to project future staffing needs and build a bench). I have to be organized to keep track of everything, and possess prioritization skills to decide what’s operationally important to complete immediately as opposed to that which can wait for another day. Furthermore, employee relations issues are often unscheduled but yet require my immediate attention. Understanding the positions of all stakeholders involved in any given issue and being able to take action(s) that makes all parties feel as if their voice is heard requires me to have both empathy and strong interpersonal skills.
4. Jobs guru Lou Adler says there are only 4 job types of jobs in the world (producers, improvers, builders, and thinkers). Which type of job are you in?
This role is 25% Producer and 60ish% Improver. There is a small but not negligible (perhaps 15%) part of my job that involves builder work, but these are mostly one-off projects related to the roll out of new corporate initiatives or broader communications efforts. At times I am also asked to help on projects unrelated to my core job duties (M&A work, plant operations etc.).
5. Does your job involve either directly or indirectly supervising or managing people? If so, how many direct (or indirect) reports do you have?
Three direct reports. I have an HR Specialist reporting to me that is responsible for payroll, accounting, and select onboarding activities. I also have a receptionist and a general administrative clerk reporting to me.
6. How does what you do impact the business? Think complexity (different types of impacts) and scale (degree of impact). Put another way: Who and what would be impacted if your job wasn’t being done well, and why would it matter that they were impacted?
If my job wasn’t being done well the immediate impact felt would be that benefits administration, recruiting, employee relations, union relations, compliance training, and perhaps payroll would go unaddressed. These are operationally important activities critical to the function of the business. Performance management might suffer as well, since I play an integral role in partnering with Managers and their direct reports to address issues in this arena. Everything else could probably be handled by others in the short-term.
7. Is your job safe? Rate its safety on a scale of 1-10 with 1 being “seated all day in an air conditioned vault” and 10 being “I’m an astronaut going into space”. If your job isn’t safe, what working conditions (specifically) make it hazardous?
My job is a 2 or 3 on the safety scale. When I go out into the plant/operations I suppose there is a theoretical chance of injury… although we’ve only hand one lost time injury at our site in 3.5 years so even that’s a small chance. Otherwise, this is exclusively a desk job.
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