Cambridge Systematics, a transportation logistics firm headquartered in Massachusetts, has been in business for over 40 years. The firm provides consulting services for a wide variety of clients ranging from federal agencies, national associations and not-for-profit organizations, state departments of transportations, transit agencies, as well as private industry and international clients.
Putting People First at Cambridge Systematics
With 12 offices located across the US, Cambridge Systematics has taken forward-thinking approach to its people. We recently spoke with Linda Cataldo, the HR Director at Cambridge Systematics, to get her views on leadership, working in HR, and how being a business person first has helped shape her career.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Linda: Sure, I have a Master’s degree in Human Resources and Organizational Development. I started
my career working in retail. I was working at the store level, managing groups of stores, and then began taking on
more responsibility with staff development, training, and learning and development. That’s really what prompted me
to go back to school and focus my work on HR and organizational development. So, I really view
myself as a business person who happens to do HR, and see that as my contribution to impacting business
It’s really interesting to hear you say that you view yourself as a business person who happens to
do HR. Can you expand on that?
Linda: It stems from my background of where I grew up. I worked in organizations where the
company’s bottom line was directly influenced by my work. I think that’s important for any role – you have to
understand your market. You have to understand your competition. I also have a strong belief in the value of
partnerships and building great
relationships with people, and really understanding how human capital impacts business success.
It sounds like the way you think about people and business is in your DNA.
Linda: It really is! I often ask questions about how a decision will impact the bottom
line. My way of thinking has definitely helped shape the way I develop my team. We have really become part of
the business. We’re able to speak the language that the people that are earning the revenue speak.
Speaking of your team, what’s your approach to leadership?
Linda: One of the most important things that I can do is to develop great people. I measure my success on how successful my people are. I think part of HR’s responsibility is to make it about people. We need to understand what motivates people and understand that everybody is motivated differently. Leaders need to know people on an individual level.
What are you doing at Cambridge Systematics to understand what motivates people?
Linda: It’s a cultural shift. It takes a commitment from everyone in our company to really understand what motivates people, where they want to go in their career, where they can perform at their best, and how we can help them get there. By introducing stay interviews, as a midyear check in, it’s helping our people become more comfortable having conversations about performance and aspirations and development throughout the year, so that’s a big shift.
We also look at how we support our
leaders to become great coaches. Part of the role of HR is to help our leaders look at people more individually.
Most of our consultants come from an engineering background. So, they think like engineers, they’re very data
driven. We’ve helped our managers understand how to better communicate with employees so their message resonates.
This type of understanding opens the door to make it easier to have conversations with people.
Talk about your use of Halogen. What does it do for employees and what does it do for leadership?
Linda: I think that the most important thing Halogen provides
is the place where people can go for information about their career. It’s a place where we expect people to be
going on a regular basis to look at their goals and to see the kind of feedback they are getting from their managers
or peers. We also ask employees put agenda items into one-on-one meetings with their managers so they have an
overview of what they want to go over ahead of time.
We’re working to make the use of Halogen part of our everyday workflow, but we already see a difference in terms of people’s level of understanding about roles and responsibilities about engaging around performance, the importance of timeliness in delivering feedback, greater clarity around goal setting and how feedback can really help make a difference in people’s experience of work. When something positive happens, rather than thinking that was positive or passing somebody in the hallway and saying “Great work!”, people now think, “I am going to put that in Halogen.”
Can you share an example of how employees are sharing feedback?
Linda: We use the Microsoft Office® Outlook® Plug-in for Halogen Feedback Central and it’s helped capture feedback right away. So, when managers are having conversations with employees, they are able to access information about customer feedback or accomplishments making the conversations more meaningful. The information is right there and has started to shift the culture around feedback and how people interact.
Make sure people are getting what they need
As you can see, Linda’s views on business, HR, and people are at the core of what she stands for. We all know people want work to mean something. And we know it’s not always easy to make that possible. It’s like Linda said, it takes a commitment from everyone in an organization to help create an environment for people to be their best.
Organizations and leaders that take charge of opportunities to help people and teams be their best can unlock the potential that exists. But, more importantly, the whole work experience changes. People can really bring their best to what they do and to the people they work with.
Your turn: What are some of the ways you’re helping people be their best at work? Let us know in the comments below.