Momentive HR executive Brian Will leads with courage and strategy.
By Stephanie Harris
Implementing change is no easy task. Creating cultural change within a large corporation—that takes courage and strategy. It’s a good thing Brian Will, Global Strategic Human Resources (HR) Partner for Momentive in Columbus, Ohio, has both of these qualities and more.
Will began working six months ago for Momentive, a specialty chemical and materials company formed in 2010 after the merging of two parent holding companies, in a strategic HR role. He has been tasked with assisting in the integration of two distinct corporate cultures, developing global business strategies for the company, and ensuring the right talent is hired and motivated to stay with the organization. These may seem like hefty goals for a new hire, but Will is up to the challenge.
As an accounting major at Indiana University, Will never expected to find himself working in HR. But early in his career a rotational role at R. H. Macy & Co. moved him from finance to HR, and he quickly found his stride.
Will was a young professional, which proved to be helpful when recruiting young talent on college campuses. “When I took the job at Macy’s, it felt like it was what I was called to do,” Will said. “I really connected with people and believed I could inspire them.”
He found his positive energy to be more effective in an HR role than in accounting, and has worked in the HR field ever since. Will has served in a variety of HR roles, each one becoming increasingly strategic. He was brought on with Momentive to influence change, both culturally and strategically.
“When you start working on culture, you start working on strategy,” Will said. “Culture is not easy to change. You have to have the right people involved and you have to be able to deal with rejection and negativity, because people don’t always see a reason to change.”
To be successful, Will knows he needs first to establish credibility, which he is doing by listening carefully to employees to gain an in-depth understanding of their concerns and needs.
“One of my goals is to talk with all of the members of the management team that I work with,” he said.
And in actively listening to employees, Will is quickly developing a clearer understanding of and for the organization.
Building Teams that Work
Much of what Will is accomplishing is done with the help of a team, and there are certain skill sets he looks for when compiling teams and recruiting new talent.
“We all have a responsibility to one another to coach and develop each other, and that requires courage.”
“First of all, I look for courage and people who lead courageously,” he said. “I want people who are willing to work with me, but I also look for people who are different than me. It results in a better outcome. I try to find a good mixture of people from different types of functions. In most cases, people who represent a global, diverse workforce.”
Will recognizes that the success of a team is dependent on accountability as well.
“We all have a responsibility to one another to coach and develop each other, and that requires courage,” he said. “Most people don’t want to have those crucial conversations with a peer or coworker because they’re afraid they’ll be mad.”
Developing Strategically & Sustainably
As part of his role, Will supports Momentive’s core corporate global functions and is involved with “bigger-picture” projects for the groups. For instance, currently he is working closely with the Environment, Health and Safety group, helping to develop a sustainability strategy for the company.
“Typically, you wouldn’t see an HR person working on a global strategic project in sustainability,” Will said. “When it comes to sustainability strategies, a lot of people think ‘green’ and expending green practices, but it’s much bigger than that.”
Will is working closely with a team comprised of employees from around the world, all with different job functions, to develop a definition of sustainability for the company.
“I’ve been acting as a facilitator for the meetings,” he said, “working specifically on our strategy related to engaging our employees, community and customers in our sustainability strategy.”
“I want people who are willing to work with me, but I also look for people who are different than me. It results in a better outcome.”
The next step will be to develop tactics to engage employees so they will want to become part of the strategy and help implement it, Will said. He anticipates that this project may take a few years to accomplish.
In addition to the sustainability project, Will is launching a global mentoring program for Momentive, which is an area of professional growth he feels passionately about.
“Every employee is responsible for their own professional development,” he said. “They should be aware if they have a development gap, and they should be comfortable enough to come to HR or to their supervisor and ask if it would be possible to get a mentor.”
By implementing this program, mentoring opportunities will be readily available to employees worldwide.
Over the next six months, Will plans to continue learning about the company, talking with and listening to employees, and assisting with developing and implementing strategic organizational programs. These programs include the soon-to-launch Responsible Care, which focuses primarily on safety, environment and health.
“Our goal is to train employees in the company on what responsible care is, and to get them engaged and understand that every employee in the company has a responsibility for safety.”
Sounds like change that is worth embracing.
Stephanie Harris is a freelance writer based in Chicago.
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