'Don't over-engineer programs': Global HRVP on talent management

Mentorship, flat benefit premiums key to Lori Thompson's success at Universal Alloy Corporation

'Don't over-engineer programs': Global HRVP on talent management

For Lori Thompson, Vice President, Human Resources at multinational Universal Alloy Corporation (UAC), it all started when she watched an HR video in a business college class. Prior to that, she hadn’t even heard of human resources.

“What's so interesting is that it was actually a video of an airline company, and now I'm in aerospace,” said Thompson. “I thought, ‘What a cool job.’ Little did I know all the other nooks and crannies that go into human resources, but ultimately that has been where I have really had an affinity – that employee experience and talent development.

“I think HR has such a cool seat within an organization, to really get to shape what that culture looks and feels like, with influencing leaders and employees.”

Meaningful change in people’s lives has been the focus of Thompson’s work with UAC, which expanded globally after she assumed the role.

Talent development through mentorship

Thompson was brought on as HRVP for UAC US in 2019, and when the company went public to expand multi-nationally, she was promoted to head up employee experience and talent development at the group level.

Her proudest achievement so far is the mentorship program that she designed for UAC US, which was brought to the international level by implementing it company-wide. Considering the cultural differences over many diverse locations, Thompson was expecting notes, but was pleasantly surprised with the response.

“We've launched a lot of cool employee experience talent development programs over the last year, but my all-time favorite one is the mentorship program,” she said. “I introduced it to the HR leaders within the other companies, and everybody was onboard, but I also thought, ‘Is this going to be… too American?’”

A year after its company-wide implementation, the program has been a huge success, even at the global C-suite level, Thompson says. It is now going into its third cohort.

Core talent development, C-suite buy-in

With what she calls her core HR team, Thompson has also developed a special talent program that sees CEOs select two to three top talent from their companies to participate in an eight-month talent development program. This culminates in 20-minute pitch presentations to their group management board.  

This presentation is a key aspect of the program, she says, explaining that without the right exposure, potential leaders in an organization can go unnoticed. She learned this principle from her own mentor, Tim Goodly, senior vice president and CHRO at AMB Group.

“We all know there's fantastic people,” Thompson said. “But if the right people don't know they exist, and if they aren’t able to get in front of the right people, then they're that person who probably is going to leave your organization, because they are a rock star, but they're not getting that exposure and that light that they need to really shine.”

Keeping employee premiums flat

Thompson also takes pride in implementing an unbundled, self-funded healthcare plan featuring “zero copay voluntary benefits.”

The main outcome of the program has been keeping employee premiums flat, which she says is usually one of the biggest employee asks, as well as scoring the company high points on exit interviews and attracting talent.

Since the global expansion, Thompson has been HRVP of UAC North America and the global group concurrently. With this challenging dynamic in mind, the main takeaway she shared with HRD is to keep it simple, particularly with mentorships.

“Don't over-engineer programs,” she said. “The feedback we've gotten is phenomenal, and one of the coolest things is, so many people think you have to spend a lot of money to really make an impact. Outside of my time and experience, which I came here with, the only thing that it costs is an hour a month of the mentors’ and the mentees’ time.”

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