PEER 150 Executive Interview
20th Century Fox Film Corporation
Q. Can you give an overview of yourself and a background of accomplishments? How did you get to this point in your career?
I have been in the Human Resources field for thirty years. The majority of my career has been in the news and entertainment industry. Prior to coming to Fox, I worked for ABC News, Capitol Hill Hospital and the Washington Hilton & Towers in Washington, DC. While at Cornell, my coursework in labor relations and organizational behavior spawned my interest in the field of human resources.
Q. Can you give an overview of your background at 20th Century Fox Film Corporation?
I started in the Broadcast and Engineering Division in 1995. Due to growth of this division, I was hired to set up and manage the Human Resources Department. I transferred to the Film Division in 1999. I’m currently responsible for approximately 1600 employees to include our legal team, information technology, three food service outlets, stage operations and all union backlot departments. I also support all Los Angeles based 21st Century Fox employees which includes tax, audit, treasury, travel, communications, real estate and LA based STAR TV employees. Myself and my two team members are responsible for providing comprehensive support to our employees including recruitment, compensation, employee relations, and training.
Overall, we have approximately 25 to 30 Human Resources employees to support the Film Division.
Q. What do you believe are your biggest challenges within your role?
My biggest challenge, no different than others in HR, is finding and maintaining talent. Unlike my peers in Film, my competition for talent extends beyond other studios. I need to continually pay attention to the industry at large such as Silicon Valley or the financial industry. The other challenge here at Fox is employee tenure. People come to Fox and stay which, in many cases, limits upward mobility for new employees. This is a definite challenge when we hire millennials who are looking for “What’s next?”. Employees at Fox love what they do and don’t want to leave which is a good and bad problem to have. I’m approaching my 21st anniversary at Fox but there are many here with greater tenure. One of my employees had 50 years of service which is an amazing and rare milestone.
Q. It must be a really great company to work for considering the employees retain their jobs and want to stay. In your opinion, can you explain why?
I think tenure is an industry norm. I often hear of long term employees at other studios. This was also true for employees at ABC News. We have a lean but loyal workforce here at Fox. We are passionate about our work and take pride in the Fox brand.
For me, the one thing that kept me here is the flexibility. My daughter attended private school and I had to be able to navigate the school schedule, be an active mom and manage my workload. My boss was totally flexible regarding my needs. When you allow the flexibility, people give you 110%, and that’s what kept me here. It’s absolutely about trust and loyalty.
During my time at Fox, I have had many employees leave but decide to return to Fox. Ultimately, it’s about the cultural fit and job satisfaction not just the lure of more money.
Q. When you are looking at promoting from within, what kind of strategy do you use to place talent?
That’s a great question. For the most part, succession planning in my groups has not been very successful. In some cases, we have groomed employees for movement that did not materialize for a multitude of reasons. In my experience at Fox, company growth creates opportunities for movement.
Q. Where do you stand with performance reviews?
We conduct reviews on a common review date selected by the division. While I sometimes get push back on the process, it is still a good tool to communicate performance strengths and weaknesses. I find that a good number of my managers struggle with direct feedback especially when it is negative. This process at least forces a conversation so that we can address and hopefully correct employee performance issues.
Q. Do you see a difference of responses regarding the performance reviews between a younger generation such as a millennial and someone who has been there for twenty years? Do you find yourself adapting to the different age groups?
Not necessarily. It is not my experience that millennials respond differently to the review process than some of our long term employees. Each of the business partners here manages their review process to meet the needs of their business units. Some may use a more streamlined version of the performance review form or process. For instance, I have each employee prepare a self-evaluation as a part of the process but this practice is not used across all groups.
Q. What advice would you give to an incoming generation looking for a career in HR?
HR is the business of people. You need to balance the objectives of the company with the needs of the employees. A successful HR person understands the value of trust and the importance of relationships. You are only as effective as your relationships with your employees. If you want to pursue the business partner role, you need to be able to problem solve, be visionary, and collaborative. You also need to be able to have the “direct” conversation. There are various roles in the overall HR function. Explore them all to see what fits your style and approach.