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Human Resource Manager Melva (Lucas) Holt Connects Right People with Right Positions

Friday, March 11, 2016
Melva Holt

Melva (Lucas) Holt - CHE, 2002
Human Resources Manager, General Mills Inc.

In order to take on the challenge of strengthening company initiatives and achieving corporate objectives, companies must attract, motivate, and coach new talent. That's the objective of a good human resources manager, a career field ranked No. 6 among the 25 Best Jobs in American for 2016 by Glassdoor.com.

Melva (Lucas) Holt has found being a human resources manager with General Mills Inc. to be a rewarding alternative to a career that solely focused on engineering.

"[The Department of] Human Resources is responsible for the greatest asset we have in the company, talent," says the 2002 chemical engineering alumna. "Without the right people, it would be impossible to achieve our business priorities. Every decision I make (to hire or not hire and develop, promote, or separate an employee) contributes to [our] success."

Holt joined General Mills as a member of the company's engineering development program. As she began to understand and embrace the manufacturing systems, she was drawn to leading and coaching within General Mills' workforce. She was subsequently introduced as a shift supervisor for a green field yogurt plant startup.

Intent on developing as a corporate leader, Holt foresaw the human resources' role as a perfect mixture of acquiring management experience, applying technical expertise, and training potential talent. "[At General Mills] we are a family…Each day, it is important for me to have some personal interactions with employees of any level within our plant, keeping a pulse on how people are feeling and learning how we can best serve the teams as leadership of the plant."

This in-plant learning process has allowed Holt to symbiotically become a valuable resource in regards to employee and executive coaching, talent management, workplace relations, performance management, and workforce training and development. Through experiencing how to bolster communication between employees Holt gathered that "…finding people with the right skills and technical aptitude is not as hard as finding people who fit within our value system and culture. Our culture is collaborative and relationship based and takes someone who can thrive in an organization that requires you to build influencing skills."

Although Holt has considered returning to a more technical leadership role, she is more intrigued by the social science aspect of influencing, coaching, and building talented people and teams.

Currently, Holt is providing support and oversight of the human resources operations at General Mills' plant in Covington, Georgia (just outside of Atlanta) with approximately 350 employees. It is the latest assignment in a 13-year career recruiting and managing employee talent at six General Mills' facilities with a mix of production, research and development, and administrative operations.

Always determined to propel the company's workforce, she states, "My current focus is leading our facility through a very important cultural change that positions us for future success. While people understand the case for change mentally, it is hard to impact their hearts. This is challenging, but exciting, work for me. I love the idea of helping someone reach their absolute highest potential. I can do this by coaching employees and leaders to be their best…by teaching them the methods of effective communication and how to break down barriers."