Mr. 'Get-It-Done'

Mark Fogel's responsibilities encompass far more than just HR -- and he's fine with that.

By Andrew R. McIlvaine

Mark Fogel is a "Long Island boy -- born and bred," so it's with no small measure of pride that he points to a project that he played a key role in bringing to fruition: his employer's brand new, state-of-the-art headquarters, which was the largest construction project in Long Island's Suffolk County last year and the winner of accolades from the local media for its environmentally friendly design.

The building, which is actually a $24-million reconstruction of a five-story existing structure, features a glass-sheathed exterior with an interior comprising a massive, light-filled atrium, ergonomically friendly office space and a bright, modern employee cafeteria that hosts a sushi chef several days a week. 

"Our employees love it here," says Fogel, vice president of human resources and administration at Leviton Manufacturing Co. and one of this year's HR Honor Roll inductees. "We've had representatives from other big companies on Long Island come visit to see what we've done."

When an unexpected change in management left a key vacancy unfilled, Fogel was asked to step in and oversee the project's completion, which included managing the relocation of about 400 headquarters employees to the new facility in Melville, N.Y. -- 17 miles east up the Long Island Expressway from the old location in Little Neck. In the meantime, he continued to hold down his regular duties of overseeing the company's HR, safety, public affairs and facilities-management functions.

It was a mission he approached with a combination of zest and humility.

"The key to attempting something like this is to know what you don't know and ask lots of questions of the people who do," says Fogel.

Naturally, shouldering this project -- along with his regular duties -- entailed lots of extra work, but Fogel was OK with that, too.

As Leviton -- a 100-plus-year-old firm -- transformed itself in recent years from a North America-focused manufacturer of electrical components and systems to a global organization with facilities in China, the Middle East, India and South America, Fogel -- who also spent several years overseeing the company's supply-chain operations -- has been at the forefront, ensuring the firm's HR function was fully capable of supporting a workforce that now totals 6,500 employees. It's meant big adjustments to his work schedule, among other things.

"When you're a global company, the biggest challenge -- aside from cultural differences -- is managing the time differences," he says. "Dubai works Sunday through Thursday -- they start coming online midnight on Saturday night. China comes online at 8:30 Sunday night. So now you're working six or seven days a week. I spend a lot of time on my BlackBerry attending conference calls."

Much of those calls are spent helping Fogel's far-flung HR team solve the people-related dimensions of local business issues. It's a departure from what was previously a transaction-focused HR function that provided only basic assistance to the company's overseas operations.

"We were doing minor support work, like getting employees visas," he says.

But before Fogel could lead the HR department to a bigger international role, he had to first prepare himself. So, in 2007, he took a series of seminars offered by the Society for Human Resource Management that led to his GPHR certification.

"The GPHR was my foundation, and I've been continuing my global education ever since," he says.

Fogel concentrates on the HR staff's development as well. Each year, the company plays host to its senior HR staff from around the world for meetings designed to foster team awareness as part of his "One World" HR initiative -- and to give staff members the opportunity to learn from each other. 

"The best expert you can find is often right down the hall from you, and I think sometimes, companies tend to forget that."

Despite the time-consuming nature of his job, Fogel is able to help coach two local soccer teams, volunteer with a nonprofit organization that helps displaced executives find jobs and attend his school-age daughter's sporting events.

It's all about "keeping your batteries charged," he says.

"You can't come to work if you don't do this," says Fogel, adding that he encourages his direct reports to take time off to avoid being over-stressed. "Otherwise, by the middle of the day, when you've run out of juice, you're no good to yourself or the company."

Fogel helps lead the company's efforts to encourage employees to keep their batteries charged by getting involved with their communities. Leviton employees recently helped refurbish the recreation room for patients at a local Veterans Administration facility, for example.

Employees' minds also receive attention at Leviton. Fogel oversaw a revamping of the company's performance-assessment system, using a homegrown application rather than devoting significant sums to one from an outside vendor. The application, "CareerOne," is based on nonproprietary tools and is designed to assess employees' capabilities for assuming greater leadership roles within the company.

"We looked at the offerings from several vendors and, I tell you what, the cost of their programs ran well into the six figures, not including consulting and implementation expenses," he says. "Our program costs about $200 a year."

Fogel's work at Leviton hasn't escaped his boss's notice.

"Mark is our 'Get-it-done' guy, whether it be his core responsibilities or a major project -- we count on him to get us to the finish line," says Leviton CEO and President Don Hendler.

For his part, Fogel -- who came to Leviton expecting to stay for no more than three years -- says he's in it for the long-term.

"I never expected to be here this long, but I ended up staying for 11 years and have no intention of leaving -- I'm having too much fun."

Oct 2, 2010
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