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[ENTRETIEN] AVEC Karen Summers

Karen Summers

Director, Compensation Group
Michelin

 

What are your key responsibilities for Michelin?

Designing and delivering our compensation strategy globally, Group methods and policies, managing our employee average cost evolution, projects like new variable pay systems, acquisition integration, HR Offers for various new company segments, and managing our C&B network including training. I lead a community of 25 C&Bs around the world. I like the many challenges of my work, especially the diversity in people and activities.
 

How did you reach this position?

I have more than 30 years of experience in HR (50% C&B and 50% Generalist) in Telecommunications (BellSouth now a part of AT&T), in Entertainment (AOL Time Warner now AT&T), and now in Manufacturing (Michelin). Early on, I had a great boss and mentor who told me to get to the ‘table’, you must know business (get your MBA) and be credentialed in your expertise (hold CCP, CBP, GRP, CEBS, SPHR). So, I followed his recommendations. My first manager was responsible for C&B, Mobility, Acquisitions – I started helping him with integrations of newly acquired companies, he then created a position for me in benefits, which in the US is a very difficult area of integration. He continued to support my growth by paying for my MBA. I find Compensation & Benefits is one of the most complex areas of HR, so I felt like I needed a good foundation in C&B; however, I really like the variety of generalist HR positions. All in all, I think it is more than useful to get a solid background in business as well as an experience in various HR roles to get the global rewards picture right.
 

Would you please tell us about your successes in the last two years, and about your ongoing strategic projects?

We have obtained a better efficiency in our management of Total Personnel Cost, which is critical in Manufacturing, and developed a better connection with Finance. We have also improved our employee satisfaction globally thanks to our pay transparency program. More transparency gives employees a better understanding of their reward programs. Given the feedback received so far, we believe that it will impact their appreciation in the long term. We are now focusing on HR Offers for future acquisitions, Sustainable Remuneration (Living Wage, Male/Female salary gap, internal and external median alignment of Total Cash) with expected results such as better integration, more welcoming business offer, long term management of personnel cost and better appreciation by employees.
 

About human diversity, what did you find out as an international HR leader?

Working in the US, I generally focused on two maybe three countries.  Although managing the largest total personnel cost budget for the Group, I had a limited scope on geography.  I did not experience as much diversity as I do from a Group role. My biggest challenge is language. Although I write and speak French, I have not yet mastered the ability to express myself as well as I can in English.   The pace of work in most companies is fast so you lose time trying to do your job in your non-native language.  Although it’s a great experience as it is the experience that many of our C&B network members experience every time they interact with group - the ‘walk in their shoes’ moment.   In general, I am very focused on results.  My whole life orientation has been focused on results.  When working in France, there is a much more reflective approach to work.  I was never good at reflection as it took too much time. I have been able to challenge myself to think more and act less. It is nice to have a balance. Certainly, when you are working on strategy topics, you need to reflect more. I am curious to know what my American colleagues will say when I return…
 

How useful is it for you to be a member of Cercle Magellan’s International Comp & Ben Club?

I try to participate in as many C&B Club meetings as possible. At the end of the session, I note what did I learn new today. Some sessions I learn more than others, but I always learn something. I appreciate the openness of the Club as well whether it is through benchmarking or through surveys like the annual salary survey.
 

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