Workplace MVP LIVE from SHRM 2021: Beth King, Motif FoodWorks
Beth King, VP of People and Culture at Motif FoodWorks, shared her journey to HR, from a focused role to a generalist, which is her passion. She and host Jamie Gassmann discussed the difference between HR in small and large organizations, her advice to those just starting, her company’s experience during Covid, and much more. Workplace MVP is underwritten and presented by R3 Continuum and produced by the Minneapolis-St.Paul Studio of Business RadioX®.
This show was originally broadcast live from the 2021 SHRM Annual Conference held at the Las Vegas Convention Center in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Beth King, Vice President, People & Culture at Motif FoodWorks, Inc.
Elizabeth King is a seasoned Human Resources professional with 12+ years experience growing and cultivating dynamic organizations.
She is well respected as a business partner and thought leader who in her career has taken small companies through the Initial Public Offering (IPO) process, acquisitions, and integration processes.
She says her passion is being a generalist. She lives in Boston and has been with Motif FoodWorks since 2019.
We make plant-based food better by analyzing, discovering and designing differently. The result? Crave-worthy food that’s better tasting, more nutritious and sustainable.
Unlike other food and ingredient companies, we’re built to bring the outside in. We’re a lean, nimble organization with seasoned professionals who have lived and led food businesses, along with science and technology experts who have renovated, innovated and designed leading-edge solutions. Together, we curate and connect with world-class scientists, universities, partners and technology platforms.
We’ve assembled an unrivaled team of experts from the food industry and world-class science and academic institutions.
We integrate and apply cutting-edge technology focused on closing the biggest gaps and solving the food innovation challenges of today and tomorrow.
We’re creatively aggregating proprietary insights and an exclusive network of partnerships to holistically unlock the secret building blocks of food to rewrite today’s food design rules.
About Workplace MVP
Every day, around the world, organizations of all sizes face disruptive events and situations. Within those workplaces are everyday heroes in human resources, risk management, security, business continuity, and the C-suite. They don’t call themselves heroes though. On the contrary, they simply show up every day, laboring for the well-being of employees in their care, readying the workplace for and planning responses to disruption. This show, Workplace MVP, confers on these heroes the designation they deserve, Workplace MVP (Most Valuable Professionals), and gives them the forum to tell their story. As you hear their experiences, you will learn first-hand, real-life approaches to readying the workplace, responses to crisis situations, and overcoming challenges of disruption. Visit our show archive here.
Workplace MVP Host Jamie Gassmann
In addition to serving as the host to the Workplace MVP podcast, Jamie Gassmann is the Director of Marketing at R3 Continuum (R3c). Collectively, she has more than fourteen years of marketing experience. Across her tenure, she has experience working in and with various industries including banking, real estate, retail, crisis management, insurance, business continuity, and more. She holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Mass Communications with special interest in Advertising and Public Relations and a Master of Business Administration from Paseka School of Business, Minnesota State University.
R3 Continuum is a global leader in workplace behavioral health and security solutions. R3c helps ensure the psychological and physical safety of organizations and their people in today’s ever-changing and often unpredictable world. Through their continuum of tailored solutions, including evaluations, crisis response, executive optimization, protective services, and more, they help organizations maintain and cultivate a workplace of wellbeing so that their people can thrive. Learn more about R3c at www.r3c.com.
Intro: [00:00:03] Broadcasting live from the SHRM 2021 Conference at the Las Vegas Convention Center, it’s time for Workplace MVP. Brought to you by R3 Continuum, a global leader in workplace behavioral health, crisis, and security solutions. Now, here’s your host.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:00:21] We are broadcasting from SHRM 2021 on Day two here in Las Vegas, Nevada. And with me is Beth King, the Vice President for People & Culture at Motif FoodWorks. Welcome to the show, Beth.
Beth King: [00:00:34] Thanks, Jamie. I’m excited to be here.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:00:36] So, why don’t we start off with you sharing a little bit about your journey kind of getting into H.R., and what you do as Vice President of People & Culture at Motif FoodWorks.
Beth King: [00:00:50] Sounds great. So, in terms of getting into H.R., I have to say I fell into it. I graduated college with the ever-popular liberal arts degree, which provides you with very little direction on how to actually get a job. And, my parents said, “Well, you have to get a job.” And I said, “Okay.”
Beth King: [00:01:09] And so, I started out as a recruiting coordinator, which is a very popular entryway, as you know, to H.R. and really enjoyed that. But I was lucky enough to have an opportunity to transition into a broader role and go into more of a generalist role. And, I started in a startup-like environment, which was really, really fun, and was able to take that, take my learnings from that company and move to a true startup that had gone through Series A and Series B funding, and went through an IPO with them as an H.R. manager. We were subsequently acquired and I was able to transition ultimately into an H.R. business partner.
Beth King: [00:01:53] So, my journey went from a more focused role in recruiting to a broader role and in the more generalist and business partner sector. And, that’s where I found my true passion and enjoyment, and, ultimately, that’s how I landed where I am today. And, throughout that journey, I also realized that there are so many great things about H.R. and what they can do in different types of companies whether it’s a startup, a midsize, or a very large company because I have experience in all of those. But my passion really lies in entrepreneurial ventures, in startups, and in growing something small into something mid-sized. And, that’s a really enjoyable place for me to be in H.R. But when you’re doing that, you need to have a broader perspective.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:02:47] Absolutely. So, you mentioned that there’s a lot of great things that H.R. does within all these different organizations. Let’s dive into that a little bit. Tell me a little bit about what you see as those great things. Like, what is it to you –
Beth King: [00:03:01] Sure.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:03:01] That you think is most impactful.
Beth King: [00:03:02] So, what I love about being in a small company, which is something that I’ve done several times throughout my career, is that you’re all things to everyone. So, you never have the luxury of getting bored, right? Because there’s just always something. So, one day you might be recruiting. The next day, it might be benefits. The day after that, it’s employee relations, et cetera, et cetera.
Beth King: [00:03:24] But when you have the opportunity to work for a mid-sized or a large firm, then you have the opportunity to engage with individuals who have done one thing for the majority of their careers. And, while that may not be attractive to all of us in terms of a career path, it’s a huge opportunity to learn about what does it mean to truly be a subject matter expert in XYZ area.
Beth King: [00:03:50] So, you have the opportunity in a mid or a large company to talk to people who have done payroll for 25 years and they know everything about payroll. They know everything about the state laws, they know everything about multistate, they know everything about international, they know how to interact with Treasury. And, it’s so incredible to go through your career and have those resources available to you even if it’s not your own journey, right?
Beth King: [00:04:19] And, that is what I love about working at different types of companies or having worked at different types of companies. And, it’s why I would always encourage people. If you think you love small business, that’s great, but don’t be afraid of trying something new. Don’t be afraid to go to that big or mid-sized company because you never know. And, even if it turns out not to be your thing, the insight and the information and the context that you’ll gain will be incredible, and it’ll be a wonderful addition to your own résumé.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:04:54] Absolutely. So, do you think it’s a hard transition for some that go from more of that generalist role to a more kind of subject matter, like specifics, specialty role? You know, is there a hard transition with that, do you think?
Beth King: [00:05:09] There can be. I think it depends on, obviously, the person’s interests and personality.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:05:13] Sure.
Beth King: [00:05:14] But I certainly think that we all naturally gravitate even as generalists to one discipline or another. So, for example, although I have made a career out of being a generalist, if I have the opportunity to focus my time on a specific discipline, it’s always going to be OD, organizational development.
Beth King: [00:05:37] To me, that’s what gets me excited. That’s where I see – it’s the work that is the most fun. It is the work that allows me to engage with employees in the most meaningful way for me. And, if I were to go into a specific discipline, that would be the one. But that’s not always going to be everyone’s choice.
Beth King: [00:06:02] So, I think that it doesn’t have to be a tough transition because if you just go with the discipline that excites you, that you’re passionate about, that you find joy in, and that you find to be really worthwhile for the employees, then I think it’s going to be more natural than anything else.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:06:21] Wonderful. And so, if somebody, let’s say they’re new in their career.
Beth King: [00:06:25] Sure.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:06:26] You know, maybe they work for a small organization, or maybe they work for a large organization and they’re kind of, you know, in one specialty and they’re looking at broadening that or trying to figure out where they go. You know, what are some things that have helped you in your career and kind of identifying that passion in organizational development? You know, how did you discover that?
Beth King: [00:06:45] So, I was very, very lucky early in my career. The organization that I worked for, the H.R. organization that I worked for, was actually led by someone who had done OD for about 20 years prior to joining our team. So, because of her specific background, the very nature of our day-to-day work had a bit more of an OD bent to it. So, it was a little bit more natural.
Beth King: [00:07:13] But that being said, it certainly wasn’t the only work going on in our team because we were H.R., so benefits still had to be done. Comps still had to be done. Payroll still had to be done. Recruiting. All of those things, right? We couldn’t just play around with creating trainings and what’s the next great employee engagement thing that we’re going to do for the team.
Beth King: [00:07:32] So, we had to focus our time differently. And, I would say for those folks who are looking to explore different disciplines in H.R., talk to your peers and colleagues. You know, go to – even if going to a SHRM event isn’t something that maybe is available to you, SHRM has an incredible amount of free resources that you don’t even have to be a member of SHRM to access. If you are able to get a SHRM membership, all the better because then you have even more resources available to you.
Beth King: [00:08:04] But I think one of the great things about SHRM is that it does offer a number of different points of reference and contacts even for those who, for one reason or another, may not be able to have a membership. But you can do that. I would say your local SHRM affiliates.
Beth King: [00:08:22] So, our company is based in Boston, so we have NEHRA, the New England Human Resources Association. They often will have free-to-member or pay-for-non-member events that you can go to. Look those up and just keep yourself informed. You know, do the research. Go online. I fully appreciate that keeping up with the newest labor laws isn’t exactly the world’s most riveting information. But if you want to grow and develop your H.R. career, you might want to check it out once a year or something. But there are great podcasts out there.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:09:00] Yeah.
Beth King: [00:09:01] There are great YouTube channels. There are so many wonderful resources out there. So, I would say talk to your partners and colleagues and, you know, do your research yourself and see what you think might be the right fit.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:09:15] Awesome. Awesome. So, one quick question, kind of looking at that organizational development and looking at, you know, you kind of mentioned that Motif FoodWorks does kind of almost like lab kind of work.
Beth King: [00:09:29] We have a heavy lab presence. Yes, we hired many scientists and engineers.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:09:33] So, how did the last year in terms of like, you know, I know with being that you’re involved in like managing culture and overseeing that, how did you balance that culture and support those individuals that – were they in the office? Were they considered essential? Were they hybrid? Like, how have you approached that? Because it sounds like you’ve got a lot of passion in that organizational development kind of that cultural aspect of an organization? How have you been able to implement some different things or explored your challenges [inaudible]?
Beth King: [00:10:02] Sure. So, I have to admit for our company specifically, COVID could not have come at a better time because we had about six weeks prior to COVID. So, in the state of Massachusetts, we went into lockdown on March 13, 2020, and about six weeks prior, maybe a little bit less than that, we had embarked on a buildout of our new facility, which was going to include our labs. So, the truth of the matter is in our organization we didn’t actually have our labs ready to go anyways, and they were able to be built out over the pandemic. So, it kind of worked.
Beth King: [00:10:39] But we got really creative with a lot of the work that had been going on in the office in terms of lab work. And, we had application engineers and scientists who work with food ingredients and creating different applications. They worked in their own personal kitchens, at their homes. Their families became – you know, we would send them the correct forms to sign and their families became the testers of those ingredients. Does this ingredient really do what we’re looking for it to do in the way that we want it to do it? And, what was helpful, obviously, is that we got very real-time and authentic feedback because I think most people would agree that your family is always going to be very clear if they don’t like your cooking. So, that’s the truth. So, it was very helpful to have that, right? And so, we were able to get that sort of non-biased – they weren’t going to sugarcoat it – feedback.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:11:45] That’s like your best test subject.
Beth King: [00:11:46] Exactly, exactly. I always say if we ever do a chicken nugget, give it to my kids, that’s all they eat, so.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:11:53] Oh, fantastic. Well, you can sign my kids up for that too. They’re like, you know, chicken nugget connoisseurs, right?
Beth King: [00:11:58] Exactly, exactly. Their absolute snobs. So, we were able to think creatively about what we were going to do. But our organization is not solely scientists and engineers. We also have [inaudible] staff, we have marketing staff, we have sales staff, et cetera.
Beth King: [00:12:16] And so, for those folks, you know, we really did have to get creative. Tools like Zoom and Teams became critical infrastructure for us. We did stay home for quite a bit of time in part because of COVID and in part because of the build-out, where it was like, well, if you know we’re supposed to be at home anyways, then I guess, you know, we don’t have a place to go back to. We were sort of homeless.
Beth King: [00:12:39] And then, when we came back to work, we had this big, beautiful new office with brand new labs and it was really wonderful. But we did things like we did the now-ever-prevalent Zoom happy hours. We tried to make it fun, tried to do different themes, ’80s themes. We did a “come as your favorite Nicolas Cage character,” which we had to explain to certain generations that Nicolas Cage had done more than just some Disney movies, that he had actually in fact been around since the early ’80s but that was before they were born. But it was really fun. We did things like that.
Beth King: [00:13:24] And, as I said Zoom and Teams just became critical. So, it was just kind of getting in the mindset of if I need someone using those types of tools, using Slack to get in touch, to kind of recreate that sort of grab you in the hall real quick that we get when we’re in person. Using Slack as the alternative to that has really helped. “Hey, I have a quick question.” “Hey, did you hear this?” “I’m on a meeting. They’re talking about this.” “What are they talking about? I haven’t heard about this. Can you explain it to me?”
Beth King: [00:13:53] All of that stuff was done through these new tools, or at least new-to-us tools or less frequently used tools, that really helped create remote business. And then, when we went back, we did do a hybrid model and we still are doing a hybrid model for many roles.
Beth King: [00:14:09] Lab roles, what we’ve done as we have said, you need to be here when you need to be here. Meaning, if you’re running experiments, you need to be here for that. But if you’re just analyzing data and you would prefer to work from home, then you can do that from home.
Beth King: [00:14:23] We also have employees who have that option and choose to be in the office for a variety of reasons. They like the personal interaction. Maybe, they have three more roommates at home who are also working from home and they don’t want to do that. Maybe, if someone, like myself, who’s a parent and getting work done at home is more of a challenge than it is to get work done at the office and so it’s just a productivity issue.
Beth King: [00:14:50] But we try to be as flexible as possible because we recognize that there has been a real shift in workplace culture, not just with our company but the expectations of candidates, right? Folks are looking more and more for flexibility in the workplace for that hybrid offering and what does that looks like. And, the truth of the matter as well is that we’re based in the seaport in Boston and driving in and out of the seaport on a Friday year-round is not the most pleasant experience. So, if we don’t have to have folks do that, we tend not to. But, again, some people want to go in on a Friday because maybe they want to do a happy hour after and you don’t want to drive to a happy hour.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:15:34] Yeah. No, absolutely not. And, well, and it’s just great having that flexibility and kind of meeting people where it best fits them with their lifestyle and their work style and – fantastic.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:15:46] Well, if anybody wanted to get in touch with you, Beth, and kind of hear a little bit more about, you know, your Nicolas Cage happy hours, how would they be able to do that?
Beth King: [00:15:54] Sure. So, LinkedIn, I’m under the name Beth Kelly King, would be one great way, or an email, email@example.com. And, they can always check out our website, which is www.madebymotif.com.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:16:12] Fantastic. Well, thank you so much for joining us today in the show.
Beth King: [00:16:15] Thank you for having me.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:16:16] You’ve been a fabulous guest. And, I hope the rest of the SHRM Conference goes great for you.
Beth King: [00:16:20] I’m sure it will. Thank you so very much.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:16:22] And, for those listening, definitely if you are in the booth area and the Expo Hall for SHRM 2021, stop by R3 Continuum’s booth at 4076 and check out our podcast.