Cohesion and Connectivity: the Ties That Bind in HR

Stephanie Harris Human Resources, Issue 12 - July/Aug 2014 Leave a Comment

How IPG Mediabrands Chief Talent Officer Judy Jackson Has Grown a Diverse, Unified, and Successful Team

By Stephanie Harris

Strong teams are united by a cohesive thread—an element that pulls each separate entity together to function as a single force. When Judy Jackson joined IPG Mediabrands, one of the world’s largest media advertising networks, in 2012 as Executive Vice President and Chief Talent Officer, the firm lacked that essential connectivity between its brands’ Human Resources (HR) departments.

“Each brand within Mediabrands and their HR groups acted independently,” Jackson said. “There was no synergy and little data reporting.”

Armed with a wealth of HR experience to glean from—including serving as Chief Talent Officer at Digitas Worldwide and in HR leadership roles at Essence Communications, Wunderman Worldwide, BBDO Advertising and Planned Parenthood of New York City—she set out to rebuild the HR function for the organization across all brands.

While it was challenging at first, Jackson has successfully built up the HR Department, which has nearly doubled in staff and is experiencing unprecedented markings in terms of employee satisfaction.


Jackson_Judy_sidebar1Rebuilding an HR Department

When Jackson joined Mediabrands, she found herself in an environment where each media brand under the IPG umbrella operated independently within its respective silo. There was little connectivity among the groups, and that’s exactly what Jackson set out to change.

“The first thing I did was bring all of the brand’s current HR leaders together to develop a mission statement among us and build a sense of cohesiveness among the current leadership,” she said.

Her strategy was simple: Create a dialogue among the groups and look for gaps that existed within HR and its offerings. What Jackson found was that a handful of areas of expertise were either lacking or did not exist, including compensation and data management, learning and development, and a formalized recruiting function. So, she built these functions into the HR group.

“The HR team was set up as a one-stop shop that handled employee relations, benefits, recruiting, all learning and development, and training,” Jackson explained.

She began creating areas of specialty within the HR function.

“The storyline would be providing a sense of cohesive tissue among all the brands, where they are serviced by those functions so they can be of value at the center, and making sure the people within the HR talent brands feel a sense of comradely, belonging and oneness,” Jackson said. “We have been doing this over the last year, and we’ve been very successful.”

The Right Kind of People

During the HR restructuring period, Jackson brought on a lot of new talent, some of whom had worked with her throughout her career to date, growing the group from a staff of 25 to 46. And finding the right talent for the team was crucial.

“It’s easy to have people work for you who are just ‘yes’ people and will do whatever you say, but I believe in diversity of thought,” Jackson said. “I need to have people around me who will push me, who will make me think out of the box and make me question my point of view so I can be better.”


Getting Past Fear

The same goes for leadership, according to Jackson. As a leader, it is important to have a point of view so you can make crucial decisions. But most importantly, whether you are a leader, you cannot be afraid to challenge status quo.

“I often ask myself and my team,” Jackson said, “‘What would you do if you weren’t afraid? What decisions would you make if you weren’t afraid?’”

These are questions she encourages professionals to pose to themselves on a regular basis because possibilities become endless when you are no longer afraid.

“Change always happens in life; welcome it, and don’t be afraid of it,” Jackson advised. “I’m very lucky that at this point in my life there is very little I’m afraid of anymore. I’m comfortable taking the risk and asking the difficult questions.”

Stephanie Harris is a freelance writer based in Chicago, Illinois.


Judy's Key Partners:
The Ayers Group (Career Transition Services) | Pondera Advisors (Leadership Consulting) | Solomon Page Group (HR executive search)

Stephanie Harris

Stephanie Harris is a freelance writer based in Chicago, Illinois.

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