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CareerBuilder Leadership Series: Spotlight on LeighAnne Baker – CHRO of The Hertz Corporation

“We believe in a concept called ‘shadow of the leader.’ We have huge amounts of transparency and communication with employees, and it starts at the top of the organization. ” – LeighAnne Baker

In the following interview, The Hertz Corporation Senior Vice President, Chief Human Resources Officer LeighAnne Baker discusses the Hertz concept of transparent communication and how the organization reinforces its employment brand to attract ‘best in class’ talent.

What is your philosophy as it relates to people and their impact on your daily business?
At Hertz we believe that the only long-term, sustainable, competitive advantage that a company can have is its people. This also includes the processes of how you get the work done in organizations. Competitive advantages like technology and supply can all be copied; you can’t copy the people side. At a company like Hertz that has 75,000 transactions a day, that equals 75,000 touch points to customers. That’s where the brand promise is delivered.

How do you engage and relate to your employees, and how do you spread that culture throughout the organization?
We believe in a concept called “shadow of the leader.” We have huge amounts of transparency and communication with employees, and it starts at the top of the organization. Site visits are also very much a part of the culture, where we do skip level meetings to understand what the issues are, what’s going well and what’s not going well. They’re actually part of the CEO’s personal objectives with the board, so there is close follow-up to understand exactly what the employees are telling us. We also have a communication tool kit that all managers receive in order to get a consistent message out to all employees. Finally, we use a third party to facilitate an internal survey to better understand our employees. The survey focuses on three platforms (asset management, customer satisfaction and employee satisfaction), and helps us keep a pulse on where employees are on the satisfaction scale.

How would you define the Hertz culture and personally communicate that within your group?
Loyalty, integrity and service are what made Hertz a “best in class” company. When you’re at Hertz, you feel that sense of being a family, and we want to make sure that we continue to build on that. We also want to make sure we reward performance properly by encouraging continuous improvement through transparent communication. We constantly look at ways to improve our operations, especially through the eyes of the customer. Finally, personal accountability is important to Hertz, going back to linking pay and performance and holding people accountable for what they say they’re going to do.

What do you do to reinforce your employment brand? How do you drive that through the organization and make sure it’s consistent?
Every quarter we have a company wide employee webcast with the CEO. It’s not just about what’s going on from the financial viewpoint for the last quarter; there is also a lot of time spent talking about customers and employees. We’re continuing to show people we are serious about all three of those building blocks: assets, customers and employees.

If you had to pick one, what’s the most fundamental skill or attribute in hiring someone to be a good fit at Hertz?
I can’t pick one word, but certainly self-awareness to understand Hertz’s mission and your role in trying to push the company forward. All of us – the 23,000 full-time employees and the 8,000 part-time – own the Hertz brand and the image that we have. We can never lose sight of it, and our employees need to be willing to step up and take accountability for whatever’s going on and whatever is in their part of the business.

What advice would you give to your executive peers – whether it relates to leadership or life in general?
If I were going to use two words, they would be “lead boldly.” Especially where the global economy is at this time, leaders have to be bold. From an HR perspective, you have to understand the business talk, have the financial acumen and understand the business strategy. Together, these concepts make you truly understand the people side of the business. I spent a lot of time my first few years on leadership issues, but now I’m focused more on the first-line manager. My goal is that, two years down road, we’ll have this reputation of being a management powerhouse.

ABOUT LEIGHANN BAKER: As Senior Vice President, Chief Human Resources Officer for The Hertz Corporation, LeighAnne Baker is responsible for the development and administration of personnel programs affecting Hertz employees worldwide. She also oversees the development and implementation of talent identification and management programs as well as employee development and satisfaction initiatives. Before joining Hertz, Ms. Baker served as Senior Vice President – Global Human Resources, and a Member of the Executive Committee of The Reynolds & Reynolds Company, a leading provider of information technology, software solutions and professional services to the automotive retailing market. Ms. Baker earned a master’s degree in management from Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business, a master’s in business administration from Ashlan University and a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Capital University.

ABOUT HERTZ.: Hertz is the world’s largest general use airport car rental brand, operating from approximately 8,500 locations in 146 countries worldwide. Hertz is the number one airport car rental brand in the U.S. and at 83 major airports in Europe, operating both corporate and licensee locations in cities and airports in North America, Europe, Latin America, Asia, Australia, New Zealand, Africa and the Middle East. Hertz also operates Connect by Hertz global car sharing club, Advantage Rent A Car in the U.S., and Hertz Equipment Rental Corporation, one of the world’s largest equipment rental businesses.

Stephanie Gaspary

About Stephanie Gaspary

Stephanie is the managing director of content strategy at CareerBuilder, tasked with creating opportunities to share the CareerBuilder story across job seeker and employer channels. Stephanie, a lifelong learner, holds a Master's in Business Administration and a Master's in Management - both from North Park University and a Bachelor's degree in Art from Bethel University. A Minnesotan at heart, Stephanie has lived in Chicago for nearly 20 years, is the doting mother to two wacky german shorthaired pointer pups, looks forward to her morning run *almost* as much as that first cup of coffee and vows to one day live in the mountains. Follow @sgaspary. Follow @cbforemployers.
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