HR Trendsetter: LeighAnne Baker, Chief HR Officer and Corporate Vice President, Cargill

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Audio: LeighAnne Baker on the one skill that every HR professional needs to remain competitive in today’s HR environment.

In late 2014, LeighAnne Baker accepted a prestigious Human Resource Management Impact Award on behalf of her employer, Cargill. This international honor given by the Society for Human Resource Management and the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology recognized the work of Baker’s team in transforming performance management from a once-a-year event to an everyday conversation.

There are certainly plenty of Cargill employees to manage: The agricultural giant based in Minneapolis/St. Paul employs 145,000 people in 67 countries. After conducting extensive research, Cargill’s HR team launched its Everyday Performance Management system in 2012. “We have been focused on continuous improvement ever since,” Baker says.

Last year, the team worked to ensure that managers were engaging in daily discussions with their employees focused on feedback and development. —Christina Folz

Everyday Performance Management

We shifted the focus from a cumbersome annual process to ongoing discussions focused on feedback, development, coaching and trust. The system is built on the notion that day-to-day conversations can predict performance better than forms and scales. That’s why we took the groundbreaking step of eliminating ratings.

Her Advice

Build a compelling business case clearly linked to your needs and priorities. Integrate external research and insights about your company’s values and culture. What worked for Cargill might not work for you.

How She’s Making a Difference

We have been gathering employee and practice effectiveness data for three years. We found an 8 percent increase in respondents who said they received useful development feedback, a 9 percent rise in those who felt valued and a 10 percent increase in engagement.

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