VP of HR at Royal Caribbean, Barbara Kallay, elaborates on how she has adapted to her changing work environment
Editor’s Note: In our Nov/Dec 2012 edition, we spoke with Barbara Kallay about her first six months as VP of Human Resources (HR) at Royal Caribbean. Now that she has been working in the role for more than a year, the Forefront team checked in with Kallay to see how things are going, how her responsibilities have evolved and how she has been adapting.
Forefront: Hi Barbara, it’s great to speak with you again. Can you start by telling me how has your role has changed now that you have been in your position for a little more than a year?
Barbara Kallay: As our company structure has changed over the last year in many areas, my role has changed along with it. I’ve aligned my team structure and team members to best support the organization from a business partnership perspective. In HR, we are tasked with providing human capital solutions to business challenges and opportunities and to be sound strategic partners to our business leaders. Therefore, it is critical that we remain flexible to changes as they occur.
One way in which my role has changed since I started is that I am playing a more hands-on role with our largest brand, Royal Caribbean International, working closely with the Brand President and CEO as well as his leadership team. This has been extremely valuable to me, as it enabled me to accelerate my learning of the industry, the company, the culture, the needs of the business and the leadership talent across the organization, thus enabling me to participate more effectively in delivering our goals and objectives.
Forefront: You mentioned in our last interview that learning a new culture was a challenge faced in the first six months on the job. What did you do to overcome that challenge?
Kallay: Learning a new culture is sometimes the trickiest part of acclimating to a new company. You need to understand how the company makes decisions, team or individual; what type of behaviors are expected of leaders; what are the politics—yes, every company has politics; what is the expectation of HR; where are the landmines; and I can go on and on.
In order to be effective as an HR leader, you need to understand as much of the culture as you can before taking a strong stance on any one issue. That being said, you must do this as quickly as possible, as the expectation will be that you are making a significant impact in your role as soon as possible. To overcome this challenge, I met with as many leaders as possible early on and asked a lot of questions. I tried to learn as much as possible about their areas of the business and how I could help them in achieving their specific goals. In our culture, HR must be both a coach and player. You must be able to partner on high-level strategic initiatives and bring ideas and solutions to the table. In addition, you must demonstrate that you are willing to roll up your sleeves and do what it takes to get the job done.
Forefront: What is the biggest success you have had in your position so far, and what do you think led you to that success?
Kallay: The greatest success I’ve had so far has been building sound business relationships with key leaders, enabling me to work closely with them on key strategic initiatives. Specifically, I’ve helped lead many organizational restructuring efforts ensuring the right people are being placed in the right jobs.
I’ve also partnered with the EVP of Operations in building a culture of accountability across both our shipboard operations and our shoreside operations. The result of this is significant improvement in our KPIs (key productivity indicators). And most recently, I’m very excited about the launch of our employment philosophy of ‘Delivering the Wow,’ which aligns all touch points of the employee life cycle around delivering the wow to our guests and each other every day. One other area I’m proud of is giving HR leaders additional opportunity to grow and develop by placing them in new roles or special projects, thus enabling them to learn new skills and continue to advance as HR professionals.
Be sure to read the story of Kallay’s first six months on the job.