Kathy Madaleno is the Senior Vice President and Director of Human Resources at Alion Science and Technology. We had the opportunity to discuss with her some of her top priorities, what she sees in the future of HR, and what field she would be in if she was not an HR executive. Madaleno also shared with us what she believes makes up a successful HR department and what she enjoys doing in her free time.
GovCon Executive: Explain your role and some of your main priorities right now.
Madaleno: I am the senior vice president of human resources. I have the responsibility for all of the functions of human resources, plus payroll, benefits and retirement plans.
“In our current fast moving open society and business world HR people have to stay on top of our profession, understand our profession and relentlessly train so we can be passionate about the care and development of the workforce.” – Kathy Madaleno
GovCon Executive: What are some of your main priorities right now?
Madaleno: As senior vice president I look strategically and operationally at functions of HR. One area is the sourcing of new employees while we all say that we want to hire best and the brightest, what we need to do is find the right people that understand Alion’s culture, the organization, mission and values. So it’s sourcing candidates that will have the right knowledge and skill sets that will match the culture. The next area is engagement. Once on-boarding and orientation is accomplished we need to focus on engagement. How to engage people into the culture, into the mission, into the values of the company. Engagement is a real challenge these days because we have 4 different generations at work and the internal or hot-buttons for engagement are different for the generations. The other area is “talent management”. What I focus on right now is truly career development. We’ve just built all new career ladders for our employees; we have an eLearning online tool, Alion University. We understand the need that our employees have to want to constantly train and develop their knowledge and skills. Certainly generation-x and -y, if you are not working to coach, counsel, and guide and develop them, they are going to walk out the door real quickly.
Another piece in the federal contracting area is always compliance issues. We are held to a higher level than the private commercial world. We have stay abreast with compliance issues, whether it’s DCAA, Department of Labor, EEOC, and develop strategic and operational policies and procedures that will meet all compliance requirements. And the final area is the healthcare and benefits programs. Up to now benefits plans became stable and we worried about the rising costs. But the new Health Care Reform law signed on March 23rd changes everything. I just spent two days last week in a seminar and it represents major change in how we develop and offer benefits. By 2014, benefits like we know today will be totally different.
GovCon Executive: What do you see is the future of HR?
Madaleno: The social media is interesting. We’ve certainly have made a lot of advances in using media for online recruiting. I think we have gone through the first phase and social media has proven to be a way for people to communicate but pass that how will we use it as a business tool? There are a lot of issues today about the social media and privacy issues that will have to be worked out.
GovCon Executive: Are you currently facing any challenges or changes?
Madaleno: I think that we all are in the federal contracting area for a couple of various reasons. With the Obama administration there has been a definite change from outsourcing to in- sourcing. In- sourcing is a major concern and issue for federal contractors. The agencies are taking our people. In one way, it is almost like we are recruiters for the federal government right now. So in sourcing and how the government is going to continue to use that tool is a major concern. The second area is compliance. The current administration is focusing on labor issues, equal opportunity, affirmative action, equal pay, there is going more of a visibility on compliance and we’re going to have to see to it that all of our plans and policies are in alignment to meet the challenges.
GovCon Executive: What makes up a successful HR department?
Madaleno: A successful HR department is made up of generalists and specialists. You have to have engaged passionate HR people. They have to love what they are doing. They have to love the challenges that people bring to us. In our current fast moving open society and business world HR people have to stay on top of our profession, understand our profession and relentlessly train so we can be passionate about the care and development of the workforce.
GovCon Executive: If you weren’t working in HR, what field would you be in?
Madaleno: I have often thought about that. But given that I think HR people are part lawyers, part ministers and part psychiatrist. I could pick any one of those professions. At times I feel I am a lawyer, a psychiatrist at times and a minister. So I would pick the law profession.
GovCon Executive: What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
Madaleno: I love boating. I am a person that absolutely adores the water. My husband and I have a power boat that we keep in Annapolis and we spend a lot of time on the water. The other thing is I am a die-hard Redskins fan. I don’t miss a Redskins game. I’ve had season tickets for 35 years, so I’m always at the football games.