Keeping Your Balance in an Ever-Shifting Marketplace: An Interview with Eileen Brown
This article originally appeared in Lēad Magazine, Issue 14: The Search for Balance.
As a multinational electronics manufacturing services (EMS) company, Celestica is on the cutting edge of technology in industries such as aerospace and defense, healthcare, alternative energy, industry, and many more. In such a constantly evolving market, it takes more than state-of-the-art machines to find balance.
As Vice President of Global Human Resources for Celestica, Eileen Brown is responsible for overseeing HR operations at every company site worldwide. Leading a global team of HR professionals whose day-to-day activities include employee relations, recruitment, performance, talent management, and a variety of HR programs from compensation to recognition to learning, Eileen understands that finding balance also means finding the right mix of talent that only good strategies and values can provide.
Businesses are constantly shifting their focus in order to respond to evolving demands within the market. What are some of the notable changes that your organization has gone through in the past five years to meet market demands? Have you made changes to lead the market in a new direction?
Over the last several years, Celestica’s strategy has focused on driving growth through higher-value customer opportunities and investing in new markets and with new customers.
As an example, to support new markets, including Semiconductor equipment, Aerospace and Defense, Healthcare, Green Technology, and Industrial, we expanded our complex and electro-mechanical capabilities through two strategic acquisitions. The acquisition of D&H Manufacturing gives us new capability for our customers in the area of precision machining, and the acquisition of Brooks Automation strengthened our capability to provide higher value-added services, specifically in the area of complex mechanical assembly.
We have also deepened partnerships with customers who want to leverage our expertise in joint design and manufacturing, engineering, supply chain collaboration, and after-market services.
What factors (internal and external) have influenced Celestica’s growth and evolution?
The permeation of electronics beyond traditional consumer products into global infrastructure, transportation, energy and utilities, healthcare, and nearly every aspect of our world, has driven the need for electronics to be integrated into highly complex mechanical applications, providing new market opportunities for Celestica.
Customers are also leveraging our experience and expertise in design, supply chain, and after-market services that we have honed for the electronics industry. Celestica is applying these well-proven capabilities more broadly in our diversified markets to deliver value to new customers.
What types of skills are in demand now versus five years ago and do they vary by geographic market?
Supporting diversified markets with products and service offerings has driven a need for additional skill sets related to more complex, lower-volume electro-mechanical products and applications. This need is consistent across geographies as these capabilities are required in all of our regions. The requirement for customer-facing and consultative skills is also increasing as the demand for our service offerings grow.
Given the variety of skills required now versus then, what does balance look like in your talent mix?
Electronics skills continue to comprise the majority of our workforce, and we will always have a need for core electronics skills. At the same time, we are also seeing an increasing percentage of employees with complex, electro-mechanical capabilities, as well as design engineers and consulting professionals to support our growing services business.
How has your organization addressed the challenge of balancing your talent mix in order to emerge into new markets and areas of specialization?
We continue to re-deploy skills to support new markets where feasible. We have added new capabilities both organically and through company acquisitions to satisfy both current and future customer requirements. We continue to rely on Adecco as a valued, long-term partner to play a key role in facilitating this shift in our skills profile on a global basis and to assist us in satisfying our immediate and growing need for certain specialized skills.
How has HR had to respond to and/or lead the organization to get the talent balance right and to strategically align themselves with the changes that have occurred?
HR aligns to strategic business changes through our talent management process in order to understand the emerging capabilities required and to ensure the timely calibration of our talent. The creation of opportunities for individual development in support of skills re-alignment is an important part of our efforts to re-equip the workforce where required. We recruit the highly specialized skills that we cannot develop in-house.
We know that Celestica has expanded into Asia and other global markets in order to remain competitive. When expanding into new countries, how have you been able to maintain the core culture and values of your organization?
As we expand, we replicate technologies, processes, and capabilities that have been optimized by experience to build a foundation for agile and flexible operations that will yield predictable and high-quality results.
Celestica’s brand and values help to ensure that we maintain the core culture of our company as we expand into new countries. Using our values as a set of principles that guide how we operate as an organization, the local leadership team is able to build a highly engaged and performing team with high morale, all while respecting local cultures and customs. Celestica’s brand attributes, which guide how we act and behave with each other and our customers, also help to maintain our culture at our sites around the globe.
Celestica’s corporate social responsibility strategy is core to our company’s culture, and all of our sites around the globe are engaged in giving back to their communities where the need is greatest. Our commitment to corporate social responsibility has helped to develop a global team that works together with integrity and respect – enabling the success of our customers, the end customer, and our communities.
This approach creates reliable and consistent performance for our customers and helps to build our brand locally to attract and retain the best and brightest talent.
What advice would you give to a company that is currently in a state of evolution and is looking to balance their core legacy and competencies with new competencies being developed?
Workforce flexibility is a critical element of both our transition and steady-state strategies. The ability to engage the right skills at the right time is paramount in managing the short-term volatilities that are inherent in our operations, whether in transition or in a steady state. Predictability is difficult to achieve in most industries given the constantly accelerating pace of our world, so learning to embrace and thrive on the volatility is imperative. We rely on partners like Adecco to help us achieve that result on a global basis.
About Eileen Brown
Part of the founding team at Celestica, Eileen Brown has held various positions over the years within the organization, including VP of Global Business Solutions (IT), VP of Global SCM Processes and Applications (Supply Chain), Director of Mergers and Acquisitions, Director of Operations, and Director of Compensation, Pension and Benefits. Eileen is also a veteran of IBM, having provided thought leadership to clients on business strategies, supply chain management, HR, and enterprise resource planning as part of the company’s global consulting organization.
Since its first issue in 2007, Adecco Canada’s Lēad Magazine has been keeping employers on the cutting-edge of developments, trends, and breakthroughs in workforce management. Featuring articles from some of Canada’s foremost economic, legal, diversity, political, and HR experts, Lēad is an invaluable guide through the dynamic and ever-changing world of employment affairs. To view past issues, please visit our Lēad archive.