HR Trendsetter: Mary Hough, Vice President, Talent & Development, SAIC

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

The past few years have been ones of change for Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC) in Washington, D.C.. In September 2013, SAIC separated from its parent company, renamed Leidos Holdings Inc. Mary Hough coached the HR community at SAIC as it adopted a new way of working—a matrix model.

In this structure, an employee may be "home-roomed" in one functional area but deployed on projects elsewhere. "A matrix allows an organization to more efficiently allocate scarce or expensive talent by shifting resources to meet changing business needs," Hough says.

To equip her HR business partners for the new environment, she participated in SAIC's mentor-protégé program, which includes goal setting as well as one-on-one coaching and group sessions, and encouraged her colleagues to mentor early-career students at George Mason University's business school in Fairfax, Va.

"In 2015, SAIC is planning to build competencies in coaching within our HR team," Hough says. Her personal resolution? "Master the waltz!" —Christina Folz

Critical Competencies

With SAIC's shift to a matrix model, building the depth and breadth of our core competencies is essential. For a competency such as program management, we have defined career levels—from entry to mastery—and we mapped the training, experiences, certifications and leadership attributes for each level.

Her Advice

Learn all you can about the business you support. Understanding business drivers, constraints and market challenges will make you a credible business partner.

How She's Making a Difference

In HR, we feel we've made a difference when our internal customers seek us out as thought leaders and business partners. I feel validated when I see leaders having meaningful development discussions or taking ownership of engagement scores.

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