Whether her workforces are doing finance, tech, or consumer goods, Jackie Kane has their number.
By Dirk Olin
Jacqueline (“Jackie”) Kane has been a senior vice president of human resources at Clorox Company since April 2004 and its senior vice president of corporate affairs since January 2005. Kane oversees all aspects of HR for Clorox worldwide.
She brings deep experience. She served as vice president of executive leadership and human resources for corporate functions at Hewlett-Packard (HP) from 2000 to 2004, where she was responsible for assessing and developing its most senior leaders and delivering HR services and support to its corporate functions. She also led the organization design and strategic change management for the HP-Compaq integration.
Before HP, Kane served for 22 years in HR within the financial services industry. She began her career in Chicago at Continental Bank in 1978, which was later acquired by Bank of America. There, she served as senior vice president of human resources for the global capital raising and global capital markets group from 1998 to 2000.
Kane has been a director at Comerica Incorporated of Comerica Bank since September 2008, and she serves as a member of the Oakland Museum Board. She has been named one of the “Most Influential Women” in San Francisco Bay Area business for both 2007 and 2008 by the San Francisco Business Times, as well as one of the 25 “Most Powerful Women in HR” by Human Resource Executive magazine. She completed the executive program at the University of Michigan and holds a bachelor of science degree in management from Chicago’s DePaul University.
Clorox is renowned for its cleaning products, but it also produces everything from charcoal to salad dressings, plastic bags, and kitty litter. Kane recently reflected on her experiences and philosophy as a major figure leading such a variegated workforce.
Can you start by giving a general picture of HR at Clorox?
Well, for starters, HR here has a significant strategic role up and down the value chain, not just at the configuration level. We have established an enterprise strategy that is driving competitive growth. Part of what that means is that we have a go-to-market model, supported by end-to-end processes. Which makes agility very important. To have that, we keep the governance structure simple, with clear roles of responsibility. So with agility comes efficiency.
But the goal presumably transcends the pursuit of greater efficiencies?
Oh absolutely. On productivity, we really work hard to attract and retain talent—not just for current needs, but for future capabilities. In parallel, it’s important for us to understand the evolving demographies that we work in and compete in for products. This is not just about hiring FTEs like many years ago. It requires thinking through capabilities, whether borrowing, making, or buying those capabilities. Beyond attracting and retaining the right workforce, we need to align the whole operation with the megatrends that are most important to Clorox. So that includes health and wellness, sustainability, a multicultural population, and issues of affordability. And if that weren’t complicated enough, there’s been an explosion in the way in which consumers access our products—and here I’m thinking ecommerce.
Sounds like a pretty tall order. What are the organizational structures and incentives supporting that?
Well, aligning your entire enterprise to a common set of goals obviously starts at the top. We use a corporate scorecard, and the entire executive committee is held accountable by that. We’re paid as a group, which ensures interconnectivity and requires that we operate at a more strategic level and not vertically within our own silos.
We also have a deep career and succession management program. And there’s a lot of time spent on that, both within HR and with the board. It’s designed to be an environment where people can bring their whole self to work. It’s a promise—not just to employees but to shareholders and customers—that employees will feel deeply part of our operations, that they’ll feel the possibility of growth, a pride of difference and innovation and contribution to their communities. The idea is that if we help them create the best experience of their careers, the entire company is the ultimate beneficiary.
That’s easier said than done.
Sure. That’s why the focus is to continuously build a world-class culture and agility. You need management that gets upward feedback and promotes teamwork culture. Operationally, we’re also globalizing our functions to ensure more seamless processes.
At the workforce level, we hold an Innovent competition each year, and all employees around globe from all levels are encouraged to submit new product ideas. Last year, we had more than 400 submitted. We narrow that to just a few. Then we assign senior business leaders to coach and work with them on an overall template—building the idea, the business case, the marketing strategy, the R&D [research and deveopment] process, and, finally, a calculation of the return on investment. That keeps funneling down over two to three months, and then the 10 final idea teams present to a 13-member executive committee.
What about HR at the tactical level?
Well, we recently completed a transformation of our rewards program, combining salary spend and all rewards in a rebalanced portfolio. We explored what was most value to employees and families over two-year period. We’ve extended the annual incentive program to all employees. We also reduced healthcare premiums significantly and built a new wellness program. It’s received awards, and it’s been patented. So it’s unique.
And you’re in the Bay Area, where there’s an unusually high primacy placed on the issue of diversity, right?
Clearly. For us, diversity and inclusion is not just a business imperative—it also supports our corporate responsibility initiatives. It really drives a lot. The Bay Area certainly helps in attracting talent—and not necessarily just against other CPG [consumer packaged goods] companies. In our case, it’s really important that our workforce mirrors our consumer base.
We established employee resource groups. Our Asian resource group, for example, added Asian sauces and marinades, and we then acquired Soy Vay [Enterprises, Inc.]. So that’s exactly how we’re blending consumers with attracting, engaging, retaining talent, and incorporating it all into development. Also through our supply chain. We have four percent of spend to women and minority-owned businesses, and we have a strict process for certification for the ownership of those suppliers.
Can you talk some more about employee engagement and how you go about measuring that?
We have an inverted pyramid for engagement—in rational and emotional terms. We believe that the extent of commitment to something or someone in the organization drives how hard they work and how long they plan to stay with the company. We have a head-and-heart survey every year, administered by a third party with lots of other company data, and we have been exceeding global benchmarks for years.
And what about you personally? You’re not from the Bay Area originally? How did you get into HR to begin with?
I was raised in Tinley Park, Illinois—a very small town. I went to DePaul at night, because my parents couldn’t afford it, so I had to put myself through. I worked at a local savings and loan, then got recruited to Continental Bank. I was assigned to the CEO to develop a relationship with the city and state, and I continued with that in HR. Bank of America, which was then in San Francisco acquired Continental, which is how I ended up out here. Next I was recruited to HP.
That sounds like quite a leap.
It was seamless, actually. The culture was definitely different, but if you look at core, but all three companies are founder-led with deep set of values, with commitment to communities and employees. Besides having different business models, in that sense the companies were more similar than different. Their approaches to innovation, creativity, and collaboration are all very similar. The bank might have been a bit more different. But if you look at the last two, the products are different, of course—CPG versus high tech—but at end of the day both value the same attributes in employees and deliver shareholder value through consumers.
Which leaves you and your company exactly where at this point?
We’re very clear. We have the number one product in most of our categories. We uniquely are able to build big share brands in mid-size categories. We don’t lose that focus. Shipping truckloads of bleach to hurricane victims in Puerto Rico or sanitized water to people after storms in the Midwest—because we’re known as the natural products producer in that—creates a lot of pride and passion. And at a level that I’ve never seen like here.
Last question. In terms of HR services, what do you make and what do you buy?
We outsource administration of benefits and some portions of payroll. We’re now looking at some portions of our recruiting—identifying candidate pools. We don’t outsource the areas of engagement and diversity. We keep the strategic inside.