Tracy Layney is Senior Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer at Levi Strauss & Co (LS&Co). Tracy is responsible for LS&Co.’s people strategy on a global scale, including recruiting, employee engagement, talent management, compensation and benefits, HR technology, and HR communications.
Here is what Tracy had to say when we asked her about the power of people:
At Levi Strauss & Co., you are responsible for people strategy on a global scale. How do you get individuals to work toward a common goal?
Say (out loud) what the goal is, or what the team is driving toward. For instance, when I was in college, I was in a dance group. The clear and articulated goal for us was to be the best for the final performance. A lot of times at a company the goal gets lost and people have no idea how they fit into the achievement of a goal. Be clear about what your goal is and exactly how people play a part in it, and what metrics will be used to track achievement. Once the goal is set in stone, the continuation of checking progress is extremely important. Holding people accountable will ensure that everyone is constantly working and utilizing their specialized skillsets. I believe this is what genuinely drives success.
What are three steps individuals can take to make a good first impression at an internship or job interview?
One, be super prepared. I overprepare for interviews. I conduct my research about the role I am applying for, review my resume about 100 times, and arrive to my interview early. Two, have your message. What makes you, you? What have been your experiences and accomplishments? How have your strengths, passions, and skills helped you navigate your career path thus far? When you are in an interview, you are sort of like a politician. You cannot control what people ask you during an interview, and you will have good and bad interviewers. All that you have control over is your message, so make sure you get across and convey what you need to. Three, whenever I am conducting interviews, I tend to ask people what they are most proud of. I think if you can reflect and determine what you are most proud of in your life, and weave it into your interview, you will set yourself apart from other candidates.
As Chief Human Resources Officer at Levi Strauss & Co., how do you maintain its culture and most effectively engage employees?
Culture is competitive advantage. In Silicon Valley, it is a highly competitive marketplace, so finding and retaining the best talent is key. This is where I come in. My customer is the employee—I can offer culture to people. At Levi Strauss & Co., a 167-year-old company that is changing the scope of fashion, we focus on values. Everything we do is values-driven and I ensure that this underlies everything. We talk about principles not profits, social justice, and philanthropy. I think what is most important is that even during tough times, we promote our values. We also have difficult discussions and talk about the issues. By always honoring the company’s character and addressing matters head-on, I show my employees that leadership is transparent, which they genuinely appreciate.
In a world that is constantly changing, what is one soft skill that individuals should possess that will allow them to excel in any organization or environment?
Curiosity. Always be learning. I have had a 25-year career, and I learn something new every day. I love to learn because it makes me better. A better leader, team member, and person overall. Have a growth mindset and be a lifelong learner.
When individuals begin working at a new company, how should they begin to build their network?
Relationships are integrated in the work. Through projects, team meetings, and sending emails, you interact with people. You learn more about people and form more meaningful relationships with them the longer you work at a company. Being a good thought partner to anyone you work with and being reliable does make it easier for you to network because it shows others that they can count on.
What can young women in high school and college do to prepare for a career in human resources?
Human resources deals with the people part of business—figure out if you like this! Continue to leverage your leadership roles, such as with sports and clubs. Take online classes, college classes, and join professional organizations to explore your interests. Human resource is broad and there are specialties ranging from recruitment to talent management to benefits, so find what you are most passionate about. You can change your focus during your career, but it is better, early on, to cast a broad net than a narrow one.
Tracy Layney is Senior Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer at Levi Strauss & Co. Tracy is responsible for LS&Co.’s people strategy on a global scale, including recruiting, employee engagement, talent management, compensation and benefits, HR technology and HR communications. Tracy brings more than 20 years of experience in human resources and organization strategy to her role. Prior to joining LS&Co., she served as senior vice president and chief human resources officer for Shutterfly, Inc., the leading retailer of personalized photo-based products. Before Shutterfly, Tracy spent 10 years at Gap Inc., where she held numerous senior leadership roles in HR, most recently serving as the senior vice president of Global Human Resources and Communications for Old Navy. Prior to Gap Inc., Tracy held positions at LS&Co. and PricewaterhouseCoopers/IBM Business Consulting Services where she worked with Fortune 500 clients in the high tech, financial services, retail and healthcare industries on projects ranging from organization design and development to strategic change management. Tracy holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of Pennsylvania where she graduated magna cum laude. She is active in the HR thought leader community and serves on the Board of HR People & Strategy, the executive network of the Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM). In her free time, Tracy loves to cook and share great food and wine with family and friends. She has a life-long love of dance, theater and art, and is passionate about travel, visiting destinations near and far with her husband and son.