5 minutes with…Stephen Cerrone, Hudson’s Bay Company executive vice president

Learn the secrets of success from one of North America's highest-paid HR executives, Stephen Cerrone, who has served as executive vice president at international companies including Burger King, Sara Lee, JP Morgan, and now Hudson's Bay Company.

After 30 years in the industry, Stephen Cerrone, 52, has this month taken the HR helm at Hudson’s Bay Company in Toronto. Before this year, he has worked in HR at Sara Lee Corporation, where his salary was estimated to be above $2.6million, as well as JP Morgan/Bank One Corporation, Interim, General Foods Worldwide, and Burger King.

What influenced you to choose HR?
In the process of getting my Ph.D., I got excited about using the Industrial/Organizational Psychology principles to have an impact on the HR issues in the organization I was working with, like using analytics, psychometrics, and assessments to drive talent decisions.

What attracted you to HBC?
The focus on growth, the pace & energy of the organization, and how HR can make a significant impact on that growth through development of the culture and a focus on top talent.

What advice would you give to your younger self about your career?
Take risks and be open to new roles, industries, geographies, and people.  Hire people who are bright, work hard, and who embody the values you cherish.

How would you change the HR industry? 
Train and develop the next generation of HR leaders to be more analytical and data-driven in their approach.

What’s the worst faux pas you’ve made on the job?
No major faux pas to this point!  Biggest learning has been to move fast once you are certain on people decisions.  Early in my career I waited too long and the function suffered as a result.

Complete this sentence: if I wasn’t in HR, I would be…
working as a leader in the sports industry  -- like coaching a university or professional team.

Would you rather fire a high-performing employee with whom nobody gets along, or an average employee that is a tight-knit part of staff culture and an important contributor to the morale of colleagues?
Everyone on the team must embody and demonstrate the values and behaviors that are important to you and the organization.  If someone is not living up to those values, it doesn’t matter how they perform; they have to move on.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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