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Increasing Strength

Over more than three decades, Terry Faulk has grown into a leadership role at Kraft Foods, a corporation that has grown as well.

Thursday, October 2, 2003
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Terry Faulk has essentially worked for the same company for more than three decades. It just hasn't always had the same name.

Kraft Foods Inc. is the name of the company Faulk works for now, as senior vice president of human resources. Based in Northfield, Ill., the massive conglomerate is the result of a series of mergers and consolidations. Battle Creek, Mich.-based Post Cereals, where Faulk began his career, was acquired by General Foods, which later merged with Kraft -- which, most recently, completed a $15 billion merger with Nabisco to become North America's largest food company.

According to Kraft officials, Faulk has been a key player in the company's growth and change along the way. With each new merger, he has worked to streamline operations and eliminate redundancies while shepherding employees through the turmoil with a minimum of stress. It's for these reasons and more that Human Resource Executive has chosen to name him one of this year's HR Honor Roll recipients.

At the Plant Level

Faulk's first supervisory position was as a first lieutenant in the U.S. Marines -- a stint that included a tour of duty in Vietnam. It's hard to find a veteran of the U.S. Marines who does not value and treasure the experience, and Faulk is no exception.

"The whole Marine Corps experience helped me immensely," he says. "It teaches you things like delegation and decisiveness. It also taught me a lot about organizational structure and how work gets done."

Similarly, his early experience at Post, when he was a personnel specialist and then a labor relations manager, was very valuable. "There's no substitute to learning HR at the plant level, and that's what I got in Battle Creek."

It was during the 1989 merger of Kraft USA and General Foods USA that Faulk made his reputation -- with both companies. At first, the combined operation consisted primarily of two independent food companies, reporting into a corporate structure with much redundancy. Each company had separate functions for human resources, finance and information systems, as well as nine distinct sales forces.

Together with the new CEO and COO, Faulk set about redesigning the organizational structure at Kraft, following his mantra of "one company." Those nine sales forces were consolidated into one, the human resource function was consolidated and streamlined, and the General Foods, Oscar Mayer and Kraft operations were consolidated from three different facilities into one, as benefits, compensation, facilities management, job titles and grade levels were harmonized.

It was that success that allowed Kraft to pull off the more recent acquisition of Nabisco. Faulk's team was able to retain the acquired company's key talent and meet all the deadlines set for various phases of the merger.

"There's no question that the General Foods merger showed us how to do it, and how not to do it," he says. "We learned a lot and things went much more smoothly in 2000."

He's not the only one who thinks so: In employee survey data, Nabisco employees expressed their satisfaction with Kraft's handling of the merger.

Today, Faulk must consider the work/life needs of more than 60,000 employees in North America and approximately 109,000 employees worldwide, and direct an HR staff of about 900, including clerical workers.

Faulk has also taken his company to the forefront of the technological revolution. In 1994, when most companies were wondering if this "Internet thing" was just a fad, Faulk was spearheading efforts to establish what eventually became the company's extensive intranet system, Kraft Foods Shared Services Center.

"It began in a very basic form and slowly grew in effectiveness," Faulk says. Today, it not only permits extensive employee self-service, but has become an important conduit for employee input. "I'm very proud of it, and I believe in it," he adds. "It's a wonderful communication device. It isn't just about being able to look up pay stubs, or see your current 401(k) balance. It's about being able to instantly communicate on every policy."

Confabs and Councils

Although Faulk focuses much of his attention on the employee base as a whole, he pays special attention to those within Kraft's HR function. He communicates regularly to them about issues of importance -- such as performance appraisals, succession planning and diversity -- through his personal intranet communication called "HR Confab."

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Faulk, an incurable baseball fan, says he got the term from veteran Detroit Tigers announcer Ernie Harwell. "When the manager would go out to the pitcher's mound to have a conference, Ernie would say, 'They're having a confab.' I always liked that term."

One of five core business strategies at Kraft is to build employee and organizational excellence, or EOE, as it's called at the company. The goal is to make Kraft an employer of choice. Specifically, employees are encouraged to:

* Build the leadership pipeline;

* Optimize processes and practices;

* Lead organization change to enable growth;

* Develop employee capabilities;

* Ensure a winning work climate; and

* Reinforce desired standards of performance.

Faulk says his job has been to make sure these activities are embedded in every part of the organization and the successful executive of each is viewed as every manager's responsibility. The results of his efforts: Every business division and corporate function, along with every one of Kraft's manufacturing facilities, have site-specific EOE plans.

Diversity is also one of Faulk's passions, one that was reflected in the creation, a decade ago, of employee councils, which allow minority employees a voice in the direction of the company. Kraft now has nine employee councils (African-American, Hispanic, Asian, Women in Operations, Women in Sales, Black Sales Council, Asian-Hispanic Sales Council, Professional Support Council and the Rainbow Council).

Now, a decade later, 34 percent of all management positions at Kraft are held by women and 18 percent of all management positions are held by people of color.

Faulk also participates in Kraft's Diversity Steering Committee, which monitors the company's progress toward its diversity goals and develops strategies to advance women and people of color.

"There are now councils around every major group, and these councils help both recruit and retain the people in these groups by understanding them better," he says. "We're used to thinking that employees should support their company, but I like to describe these councils as an example of a company supporting its employees."

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