How Schnuck’s chief people officer leads with compassion

  • December 15, 2017
  • By WashU Olin Business School
  • 2 minute read

Kennedy Kelly-Hooks, BSBA ’19, wrote the following for the Olin Blog.

Life as a senior executive and single mom of five young children—for many, this may be seen as impossible. But for Laura Freeman, it’s a reality she did not let hinder her career success.

Laura recently shared her story, strong work ethic, and her people-centered career with our Women and Leadership course. As the chief people officer for St. Louis-based Schnucks, she has a lot of experience working in manufacturing and service-based industries related to food and customer service.

Throughout her career, Laura has also maintained her personal values and thirst for learning. Laura passionately spoke to our class for nearly two hours and left us with a few key takeaways:

Listen more than you talk

As a business school student, it is easy to believe we can have a greater impact in contributing to a discussion rather than listening to what others have to say. Laura debunked this misconception and emphasized the importance of listening.

She has been in high-level positions at various companies with a high turnover rate. She applied her listening skills to find out what was important to employees in order to retain them. She believes that regardless of a person’s background, their input has value, and if she did not listen, she would be out of touch with how to improve the retention rate—which has a direct effect on the brand’s success.

When she was a vice president at Wendy’s, an employee told her she did not feel included in the company image. The remark made Laura look closer into making all employees feel part of the image. If Laura had not been open to listening, Wendy’s may not have focused as much on creating an inclusive environment.

Enact servant leadership

Laura said serving others is one of the most valuable traits to employ on the job. It helps those around you and creates a better work environment. She is invested in other people’s success and loves to see them succeed.

This is a clear part of her “brand statement” and it has helped her to create jobs that people enjoy. She does not focus on just helping employees extrinsically through wages or benefits, but also intrinsically.

Laura makes each employee realize the importance of their job. When speaking on this, Laura revealed how she tells store managers the great responsibility they have and the many lives they impact.

Pick a company with values matching your own

Laura has always looked at a company’s culture and values when deciding to make a transition in her career. Schnucks drew her in with its values and Wendy’s was founded on the phrase, “do the right thing.”

These aspects fit with Laura’s emphasis on serving others while also being challenged in her position to not pick the easy route, but the one that is right.

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Washington University in Saint Louis

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