HR Solutions that Work

Sunny Gonzalez-Cepero Executive Features, Human Resources Leave a Comment

Case McGee, Vice President of Human Resources at ADM, crystallizes the gist of HR, and shares some of the solutions that help 33,000 employees work together as a strong team.

Archer Daniels Midland Company (ADM), a leading global agricultural processor, recruited Case McGee at a Millikin University job fair shortly before his graduation 16 years ago. He’s been with the company ever since, moving up the ranks and working in a variety of roles throughout the business. McGee now holds the title of vice president of Talent and Organizational Effectiveness in Human Resources.

ADM originally hired McGee as a commodity trader. When the company later wanted a new HR recruiter for commodity traders, McGee’s firsthand experience made him an excellent choice. “Meeting candidates and convincing them that ADM was a great place to have a career was really something that I enjoyed doing,” he said. Even though he went on to work in several other areas of the business, including running ADM’s investor relations department, McGee found he had a real passion for HR and saw its important role in moving the business forward. “I sensed early on the criticality of the role in order to really build a bench of talent for the company as we grew.”

ADM: Case McGee. March 5, 2015. Photo by Andrew Collings.

ADM: Case McGee. March 5, 2015. Photo by Andrew Collings.

HR’s role at ADM

McGee now wears two main hats at ADM. He oversees talent efforts for the organization, and he also serves as the HR business partner for the corn business unit, one of ADM’s largest divisions. His driving objective centers on “thinking globally to attract and develop and retain a workforce that can drive business results, and ultimately shareholder returns.” This is quite an undertaking considering that ADM is a $90 billion company with 33,000 employees. McGee also works with senior leaders on HR issues such as attracting talent, identifying the next generation of leaders and prioritizing development needs across the organization.

HR has numerous components, but McGee explained that, “it really comes down to finding the right person with the right skills to drive business strategy.” No matter what the actual job HR is handling, be it facilitating talent talks, creating leadership development programs or coaching a manager on how to give constructive feedback, it all comes back to that primary goal of placing people into the roles that suit them best. “Another way to say it is that our job is to make sure we have employees who are engaged, are in the right job, are trained and are being supported.”

Responsibility Creates Opportunity

ADM promotes a culture of on-the-job-learning. They subscribe to the 70/20/10 philosophy: 70 percent of employee’s development stems from work experiences and performing challenging tasks, 20 percent from learning from others, and the final 10 percent from traditional training. They provide substantial duties and challenges early on in workers’ careers as a means to skyrocket development.

“Our strategy,” McGee said, “is we hire young talent off college campuses, we put them through robust training programs, and we give them significant responsibility early on.” He recalls when he completed ADM’s renowned grain merchandising training program and was placed in his first job, ADM put McGee in a position where he was making multi-million dollar buying decisions. “Was I being stretched? You bet. Was I nervous? Definitely. But did I call home to Mom and Dad with enthusiasm because I’d been given all that responsibility? Absolutely.” He confirms that putting this kind of hefty responsibility on young professionals pushes them into growth and readies them for even greater responsibility in the future. “I am a product of that model,” he said.

Performance Management that Works

McGee shared insights from ADM’s interesting performance management journey. Several years ago, the company tried utilizing a three- and then a five-point rating scale for employees. Managers found that the customary, time-consuming model of ranking and rating employees on an arbitrary scale provides limited value. “What we ultimately learned was the traditional performance management model isn’t really effective anymore.” In fact, McGee said that approximately 90 percent of companies say that their performance management process isn’t worth the time they invest into it.

So, ADM tried a different approach. The annual review process continues as a means for feedback, but ADM eliminated the traditional ratings and simplified the process by reducing the number of forms managers needs to use. Below are four key features of their process.

  1. In lieu of giving an employee a ranking, managers focus on strengths.
  2. They separate the performance discussion from the compensation discussion.
  3. The focus is now on fostering a dialog instead of completing several different forms and paperwork.
  4. ADM encourages year-round learning and development, so there’s no cause for extra anxiety at year-end evaluations.

“We feel like we took a complicated process that’s often an uncomfortable and dissatisfying situation, and we made it much simpler and better,” McGee said.

Keep Learning

Continual learning is not just ADM’s philosophy, but McGee’s as well. He shared how he stays on top of his game: “I approach HR everyday as if I know very little and as if I have to drink from a fire hose.” He encourages professionals to resolve to grow every day – intellectually, professionally and technically. Set aside some time each day with no distractions and learn something new about your profession. Soak it in and reflect on it, he said. “It sounds basic,” McGee admitted, “but it takes discipline to do it. Being a lifelong learner is engaging, it’s healthy, and frankly, it can help advance your career.”  As a notable, C-level leader, Case McGee is proof positive. ♦


McGee’s Tips for Success

Take risks early on in your career. You still have ample time to modify, develop, and tweak your vocation. Take calculated risks, branch out, and try new roles. In doing so, you will reap personal and professional satisfaction and success.


The Balance Façade

Like most corporate leaders, McGee leads a busy life with work duties, family responsibilities, travel, philanthropy, and hobbies. How does he balance it all? He doesn’t, he said. “Everybody likes to talk about work-life balance. I don’t believe there is such a thing.” Instead of balance, he believes in simply staying connected with all facets of your life. “You have to find ways to really enjoy what you’re doing and make sure you’re having a rich experience whatever you’re doing, whether it’s work or personal. In the end, it’s all about keeping it fun.”

Sunny Gonzalez-Cepero

Sunny Gonzalez-Cepero

Contributing Writer at Forefront Magazine
Sunny Gonzalez-Cepero, a Key West, Florida native, has been a writing aficionado since she could hold a chunky crayon and scribble across her Granny's walls. Her love of writing fueled her career path, and eventually grew to encompass other arts, including web design and photography.

Professional profiles, photojournalism, and legal writing are Sunny's specialties; her personal, creative, edgy approach makes her stand apart in the industry. Her clientele has included over three dozen law firms around the country; international businesses such as LiveStrong and Howcast; American favorites like Family Fun and Natural News; and regional publications such as Rutherford Woman and Conch Color.
As a mom of six, fitness enthusiast, and self-employed business woman, she stays busy in her island home with her middle school sweetheart and husband Michael, and makes time to travel regularly. If she's not jogging on down the islands, shooting an event, or writing up a storm, you can find her at Sunfire Creatives or on Facebook.
Sunny Gonzalez-Cepero

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