Mary Good began her professional background after earning an MBA with a concentration in human resources management. She went to work American Management Systems, which at the time had roughly 1,500 employees. During the 13 years she spent AMS, the company grew to have 10,000 employees and revenues of $1 billion. Moving onto her next adventure, Good landed at the much smaller Blackboard, where she helped the company with its initial public offering. She spent the next 3.5 years creating a strategic HR function as the company was maturing and developing an international presence. Following Blackboard, she joined SRA International and today serves as senior vice president of human resources.
ExecutiveBiz: How has the HR landscape changed in the past year or two and what has accounted for these changes?
Mary Good: The biggest challenge facing most organizations right now is the ripple effect of economic uncertainty. Many companies have had to contend with budget freezes and layoffs. Those actions can have a real and lasting impact on employee loyalty. There is significant pent up demand to move roles and companies. I think we will start to see more job movement in the next few years as the economy (hopefully) improves. Additionally, shrinking pensions and 401k’s have led to people at the later stages in their careers postponing retirement. This has resulted in the next generation of leaders looking at opportunities and seeing their upward mobility stalled. Companies will have to figure out how to create opportunities for these leaders in order to not lose the most talented ones. A second change in the landscape is the increasingly regulated environment in which we operate both in terms of adapting to new legislation such as health care reform as well as dealing with increasing government oversight. These challenges reinforce the need for outstanding compliance functions within HR as well as a need for creative, financially savvy HR leaders to manage benefits and programs. A third trend that has impacted all of us is the incredible force of social networking tools. These tools have tremendous potential to increase communication and engagement with recruits and employees but there are downsides as well. Companies are experimenting with getting the balance right in terms of how much openness is appropriate and where to draw the line. It will be interesting to see the impact this media has five years from now. I suspect it may make some types of service offerings virtually obsolete.
ExecutiveBiz: What does promoting SRA's core values exactly mean and entail for the HR department?
Good: SRA was founded 32 years ago under the guiding ethic of Honesty and Service®. This guiding principal is very much alive and well today, and comes first at SRA. When we talk about Honesty and Service, we really mean integrity and service to three groups of stakeholders: our clients, our employees and our communities. This focus on core values is the main reason I joined the company and I think it's one of the things that draws people to the organization and keeps people here. It's one of the reasons our turnover is generally lower than our peer companies. The values of the company are the foundation for everything we do, and it's within that filter that we evaluate new and existing programs, our employees, our business strategy ““ everything gets filtered through the core values of the organization. SRA is a very collaborative culture. It's a culture where we emphasize respecting all employees across the board. We have this belief that the ‘best idea wins,’ which is about making sure that all employees regardless of their role, tenure, title or experience have a voice. Everybody goes through periodic core values training including a facilitated discussion in small groups led by executives around how we practice our core values every day. We put people through scenarios that really test these core values and we have broad ranging discussions about what it means to live our values and how to deal with the ethical challenges that we face. I think our values are one of the things that really set us apart ““ they are essential to who we are and what we do.
“People want to be associated with feeling like they are making the world a better place.” Mary Good, SRA International
ExecutiveBiz: How do you get both your current employees and new recruits excited about working at SRA?
Good: I think SRA's reputation on our ethics and collaborative work environment really comes through when you interview at SRA. The people we recruit are fantastic and while all of our work is vital, there are a number of work areas that are particularly exciting ““ supporting the national, environmental and global interests. Another selling point for us is our passion for giving back to the communities in which we live and work. We have a community service and volunteer organization called SRA CARES. It's an opportunity for employees across the company to get involved in volunteer activities and to help decide where to contribute SRA funds in our local and global communities. In a company that is growing like we are — both in terms of the general scale and the kind of word we do ““ it can provide both tremendous challenge and opportunity for employees. People want to work for purpose driven organizations where they can be engaged in missions that matter. Our employees get to work on programs that really do improve people's lives, help our military services, support global health areas, and support civilian agencies. People want to be associated with feeling like they are making the world a better place.
ExecutiveBiz: Your involvement in the Penn State Women's Leadership, that's more of a personal involvement?
Good: That's correct. I am an alumnus of Penn State. While it's a personal involvement, I believe there are great benefits to the company derived from my involvement. About six or seven years ago, within Penn State's College of Health and Human Development, we heard from campus recruiters that young women from our college were not prepared in the way they needed to be in terms of their leadership skills. They noticed a clear disparity between women and men in terms of their level of capability. Five women executives from different companies decided that we would fund an initial pilot to help young women develop leadership skills in their junior year of college. That course has evolved into a two semester leadership experience. There are many different components to it including mentoring, personality assessments, experiential learning, guest speakers and panel discussions. We believe we've significantly impacted these women who are now better prepared to go out into the work world. The program is in its seventh year, and still going strong.
ExecutiveBiz: What is something that you like to do in your free time?
Good: I'm on the board of a nonprofit long-term-care institution. I think that caring for people in the later stages of life is really important. My grandmother lived to be 100 years old and lived in a wonderful place that really helped her to have a fulfilling life as she aged. I was asked to join the board there to bring my human resources expertise to bear because — as you can imagine at long term care institutions ““ one of their greatest challenges is recruiting in a very tight labor market for nurses and healthcare professionals. That's been a fulfilling way for me to give back HR expertise at a level that would be hard for them to access otherwise.
ExecutiveBiz: What is your favorite vacation spot?
Good: That's a tough one. There are so many places across the U.S. that I enjoy, including one of our closest beach towns — Rehoboth, Delaware. Two places I love internationally are Kyoto, Japan and the Basque region of Spain. The food, culture, history and architecture in both places are wonderful contrasts to the rural farm area where I grew up in southeastern PA.