Thoughts on leadership: An interview with Tracy Greenfield

April 19, 2018

This article was first published in theHRDIRECTOR, April, 2018 issue. It is reproduced here with permission.


Leidos UK & Europe is a dynamic force in the digital world, where artificial intelligence is posing as many challenges and dangers as it is opportunities and advantages. From leading the MOD logistics programme to protecting the increasingly sophisticated but ever-vulnerable public and private sectors, this is an evolving, mission-focused organisation, where staying ahead of the curve is critical to operational success.

Tracy Greenfield is Vice President of Human Resources for Leidos UK & Europe. She was interviewed by Jason Spiller and photographed by Stuart Thomas for this piece.

Tracy tell us about your early life and why you decided on a career in HR? 

I started my career on a graduate trainee programme, working for Federal Mogul, a US Engineering Manufacturing Business. I joined their two year Graduate training programme working across, manufacturing, technical, marketing, sales and human resources. After my first 12 months, I became a Business Operations Coordinator, working on change projects and improving business. It was such a great opportunity and a great way to start my career. The General Manager I worked with for the first two years was then offered a new opportunity and role to run a different division within the group and he asked me to join him as his new HR and Change Manager, which was an incredible opportunity and so my career and journey in HR began. My first year as a HR Manager was a very steep learning curve and very stressful as I had no employment law experience or training in HR. I had never dealt with Unions and I needed support, mentoring and external help. At the age of 25 it was very challenging but also rewarding. The working environment was very tough, a unionised, manufacturing, male dominated, engineering business - not for the faint hearted.

I soon became more involved in change programmes with a focus on improving efficiencies, which is something that has stayed with me for my whole career in HR. After four years with Federal Mogul, I had learnt so much and I was ready for a new opportunity. So I left and joined Inchcape UK, an Automotive Retailer. I reported to the HR Director working with him to support 30 dealerships, 3,000 employees, 500 line managers - I had to hit the board running as my first project was to develop a new graduate and leadership development programme, whilst managing assessment centres, delivering customer leadership and employment law training. I must have had plenty of energy, as I even won an external recognised award. I remember too some tricky employment law cases, and whilst it really was hard work, I was really expanding my HR experience through divestments and acquisitions. Then after Inchcape, I joined Sony Ericsson’s HQ in London, newly merged and worked through the integration of the UK, Japanese and Swedish cultures, whilst supporting the set-up of a new HR function. So far so good on the career front and a good deal of experience gained.

This must have been a significant step change for you, the physical size of the organisation, plus these were very different cultures coming together.

Indeed it was, and this was my first corporate HR role and very different from my previous roles in HR, dealing with a whole new set of cultures, plus a colossal amount of integration. Again, there was very little time to take stock and I was immediately set to introduce new HR systems, performance management and leadership development programmes. I can honestly say this was my greatest learning so far, and I felt that it really developed and prepared me for my next move, which was to Lockheed Martin UK, where I have since spent the majority of my career. On joining, I led the UK and Europe Information Systems and Global Solutions [IS&GS] Organisation with 2,000 employees and 12 sites across the UK, and I was involved with such great change in terms of working on TUPE, and a myriad of bids to win new large Government contracts, demand for large resourcing campaigns, strategic growth through acquisitions, a divestment of the whole IS&GS business and then finally a merger with Leidos.

I can't emphasise enough, this was a business in transition and we were undertaking change programmes on a massive scale. In July 2015, we were notified that our organisation IS&GS was separating from Lockheed Martin, divesting about 15,000 employees and merging with Leidos, with the objective of creating a completely new business with over 30,000 employees worldwide. So, as you can imagine, the last two years have been extremely busy, focused on separating from Lockheed Martin, undergoing transformational change, and creating new systems for benefits, HR and pensions. We've also been embroiled in harmonising payroll, benefits and compensation programmes and fully integrating all of this into this new business entity. Currently, we have 12 sites, 1,200 employees and a HR team of 25. And despite all of the work and disruption, I'm really proud that we won an achievement award for the UK HR team delivering ‘HR Excellence in Collaboration’ a well-deserved recognition for all the great work we have delivered over the last 12 months. And all that takes us right up-to-date.

Leidos Chairman and CEO Roger Krone presents Tracy Greenfield with the Excellence in Collaboration Award during the company's annual corporate Achievement Awards (Photo by Jay Townsend, Leidos).

You seem to relish disruption and change, what's the appeal?

It's been pretty unavoidable in my career, but the challenge of finding new ways of working and synergies is what I find most engaging. There's constant change, and we all have to deal with that, so you need to be very responsive, resilient and lead from the front. I guess my approach in change is to stay focussed on the end results, whatever we're trying to do, improving business performance is the objective, and I'm a very business model orientated practitioner and so I have no trouble when my board colleagues focus on the business bottom line - for me, that ensures that whatever we propose from HR, we're crystal clear on its business value. It's then about being determined, consistent, understanding that you need to take the people with you, building good teams and ensuring professional delivery. It might sound like a colossal amount of work, to essentially start from scratch, but in the past I've seen the struggle against legacy, and the obstacles that brings, so the Leidos journey has been a real opportunity for a fresh clean start, to do things differently, to be innovative and agile. I've had the luxury of being able to review the whole business and define the strategic direction and operating model, to make both fit for the future. For me, truly aligning and delivering the needs of both the business and the employees is a brilliant goal to go for. But the real challenge lies ahead, and that is attracting and retaining the skills and talent that is essential to our business objectives – your readers will be saying "no kidding, join the club"? So, we need to be at the forefront of, not just the nuts and bolts of employment policy and practice, but also innovation, if we are serious about attracting talent, helping people fulfil their potential, and making our business competitive. My HR team has been busily introducing a best-practice technology system, updating new on-line benefits and pension’s platforms and we've been investing in new training programmes for our employees, all part of a huge transformational change programme that maps our future endeavours for some time to come, and I have to take my hat off to the whole HR team for their incredible achievements so far and a "can do" attitude that has made the journey so far exciting and, so far, successful.

With the HR stall set up, what was the business plan?

Next on the agenda is the merger to create what we're calling, a new ‘one company - one team’ approach, as we focus on the business objectives and forge relationships with customers, existing and new, across the Defence, Civil and Health markets. As you can imagine, these are very competitive sectors, and anything short of cutting-edge, anything other than totally mission focused simply will not cut it. Meanwhile the nature of the business is about equipping and skilling to tackle constantly changing and increasingly complex challenges across the digital sphere, and businesses in all sectors, both private and public, are looking for solutions and security, so that they can operate in a secure environment. To give you some idea of the type of work we're currently involved in - in the UK, we are leading the MOD logistics programme, supporting a supply chain across the globe. We also deliver IT solutions to a number of Government clients, supporting them with the increasing need to tap into external experts in systems integration and outsourcing. And in terms of the future business plan my role as HR Director is to meet resourcing needs to enable growth, so that we can strike whilst the iron is hot and winning more programmes in the Civil, Defence and Health markets. And that is my latest focus, building our UK brand, both externally and internally.

So what are the components that you are putting in place to put the business on the talent map?

In the past year, we've been laying the foundations for how the new organisation will operate, focusing on the infrastructure for the business and building a robust framework to grow and expand across UK and Europe. And this year, we'll be focusing on three key strategies. My priorities are; cultural integration and employee engagement, and to create a single UK business with a single and unique culture, and to bring our values to life, which is all part of creating a great place to work. Another key focus for my team is development right across the business and at all levels - there's little point bringing through employees with leading edge capability if the leadership doesn't understand what they're working on, so leadership L&D is every bit as comprehensive. Also, our leaders have a clear set of leadership competencies and behaviours, setting clear development and succession plans to create a ‘promote from within’ environment, to enable career opportunities for everyone with the will and ambition to go as high as they want to within Leidos. That's not to say that talent acquisition and development is not in the frame, it most certainly is - the only way we're going to be able to support our ambitious growth plans is to have all bases covered, so a clear line system to promote from within, and a strategic hiring campaign to strengthen the skills needed for future growth. This really will be a continuous effort, because of our rate of growth plans, so we are continually assessing the type of skills we need now and also in the future. A really good example of where this is important is in having the talent to create our own capacity in; software development, in data science, engineering, enterprise IT modernisation and operations. And meantime, we're becoming more adept at identifying the gaps before they occur and improving our speed to hire, train and make people capable and prepared for the business expansion ahead of us.

I keep going back to the employer brand, because I see that as being so key to our plans. It's a well-worn cliché, but it's a fact that there is no such as thing as a job for life, people want to be mobile, and what's driving that is the ambition for gaining new experiences and using technology that inspires them. With that fixed in my mind, we need to respond to these changes, offer competitive flexible working arrangements in the best environments possible - and this is not a wish list, it is a "must have" and it needs to be consistent, agile and authentic. Right now, we're channelling a substantial investment in our early careers programme for graduates, interns and apprentices which will support how we attract and retain the next generation of leaders. We offer mentoring and coaching through our ‘Career Ready’ programme and STEM activities, partnering with key UK Universities and schools. We're also members of The 5% Club, which has provided us with the focus to exceed the five percent target within just one year of participating in the programme. Our goal is not to be just an "also-ran", we're making great strides in making Leidos a technology business that talent is talking about, is excited about and wants to be a part of our growing business. We're a UK business and we're striving to be an example of a great British business.

You've spoken about leadership engagement and development this is an even more critical component today than it ever has been before.

I can't disagree with that sentiment and we are re-defining what ‘great leadership’ looks like, and asking, what are the future competencies and behaviours that we will need? A part of unlocking that potential will be our 360 degree assessments and a new leadership development programme. Also, our drive is to create a more inclusive and diverse working environment, and to really empower our leaders and teams to make decisions, to have the confidence of true responsibility. That is a definite move away from the hierarchical leadership framework, and what seems to be driving this is the support of true innovation from everyone, and building a real and authentic culture for collaboration, all aligned with our five corporate values: Integrity, Innovation, Agility, Collaboration and Commitment. There is still a great deal to do, but we're on the right path so far, and we have a clear plan ahead.

You have described the challenges of the skills deficit, which seem to be holding businesses to ransom. Do you believe you will be able to mitigate against this potentially damaging prospect?

We're putting a lot of emphasis on our early careers programme, on diversity and inclusion, attracting females into the business for example, and we're committed to having a presence at STEM events and targeting schools and universities, and our Career Ready programme is really beginning to support the talent pipeline, although there is more to do. Meanwhile, internally, we've also introduced a new Core Capability Framework to improve; technical skills, engineering training, programme management capability and leadership development. Feedback from employees to deliver the best programmes has been crucial, and we have benchmarked our competitors to create a ‘best in class’ solution.

From your perspective in the digital space, do you think apprenticeships are now providing a viable alternative to University and graduate placements?

It's a widely-debated issue, isn't it. Clearly there are benefits in a University education, but there is no doubt that more people are taking up apprenticeships to avoid the university costs. Let's face it, it is an attractive proposition to join a business, be trained and paid. From our perspective, the value of degree versus apprenticeships hiring is still in its early days. What we can say is we want to attract and cultivate talent and that means at all levels and stages of careers. We have an apprenticeship scheme and are continuing to grow this, but I still think there is more than can be achieved working with schools and higher education, to give a much clearer picture to students and parents about what is needed from future employees. Talent in the tech market can earn very good salaries, very quickly and they become highly sought-after. We cannot just set some robust parameters and sit back, we have to constantly review the business and our reward, development and retention strategies". We have really benefited from a drive for greater mentoring and coaching over the past year, which has proved to be a real positive for both our leaders and new recruits alike and it is something I would really encourage other employers to support. We call them disruptors, but they are the future and they will be the ones dictating the pace of change, as they bring their ideas and fresh perspectives into the business. This plays into our essential drive to provide a talent and succession pipeline to enable and deliver the business strategy and growth. As with all businesses, and especially STEM sectors, the future talent pipeline from schools and universities into the business has to be a partnered and collaboration approach, and we're determined to achieve this.

You have touched on the importance of a forward-capable leadership. What do you think the leadership of tomorrow will really look like?

The traditional hierarchical route to leadership is still in existence, but I am seeing a shift in leadership styles needed for the future. It is still essential for leaders to have the technical capability, however leading through coaching and mentoring are the future, along with empathy, collaboration and managing diverse teams, to provide support and guidance - these are key skills for our people, above and beyond technical capabilities. Therefore, as we look at succession planning and promoting from within we need to develop skills in coaching and mentoring, on the basis that you are more of an equal partner with the people you are leading. It is a different skillset, but it really ties back to our core values. But there is still a gap and lack of women in senior positions. In the UK, the business has a 70-30 male-female split, across the business and this is a key agenda item to address during 2018 and going forward. I believe an opportunity exists to encourage more females into the sector. We want to demonstrate a strong female image and our mentoring programmes discussed earlier are being developed with female senior leaders who will run the programmes, supporting women and attracting more females into STEM.

There is a huge cultural and societal perception that women take a career break to have a family, and seems to an immovable obstacle whatever measures are installed.

This is not about women fitting into male worlds, nor about giving women advantages over men. This is about celebrating and nurturing all of our differences. As a senior woman in a technology business, I have never expected special treatment. But I recognise I bring a different perspective to the UK Board. So, while International Women’s Day reminds us to celebrate the inspiring women all over the world, we need to keep the focus and conversations going to bring diversity to our business, to ensure that we continue to embody our values and that integrity and fairness for all, is at the heart of what we do.

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