Top job: Laurie Kalman Executive director, HR strategy, Grant Thornton International

Where were you working before and what were your duties?

I had an HR consulting practice which assisted clients with cultural transformation to achieve strategic goals. Before that I was vice-president of organisational development at Cendant Mobility, where our HR team transformed the culture and won the Gold Medal in the Quality Award and won recognition from the American Society for Quality for our leading-edge practices.

What qualifications do you hold?

BA degree in English Education.

What are the duties in your new role? Who do you report to?

I report to Mike Starr, the chief operating officer. My immediate focus will be the design, development and implementation of the Grant Thornton International HR strategy. I will work towards programmes through which member firms can further develop and inspire their people and which will help provide a foundation for a more cohesive culture across Grant Thornton member firms.

What are the main challenges HR faces in the next five years?

Getting the very best from around the globe to create common HR practices while preserving the unique characteristics that make each part of a firm successful in each of their respective markets.

What is the essential tool in your job?

Using influence to touch, move and inspire others towards achieving a common goals.

And the most overrated?

Being a woman, trying to do it all.

What is the worst thing about HR?

It concerns me that we have not made more overall progress as a function and that, in many companies, we are still not considered a strategic player or invited to the [boardroom] table.

What is the most annoying piece of management jargon?

Core values. If we don’t measure them, we won’t live them.

What is the strangest situation you have been in at work?

I once had to fire one of Santa’s elves.

Who is your ultimate hero?


How do you fill your spare time?

I love to entertain anything around hearth and home inspires me. My partner and I take ballroom dancing lessons. We love all kinds of music and like to travel.

What three words would you use to describe yourself?

High-energy, direct, grateful.

What is your most popular web page?

The internet is a tool for me like TV or radio, it serves a function. I don’t have a favourite channel and I don’t have a favourite web page.

What song gets you on the dance floor?

The Eagles’ Tequila Sunrise.

What is your worst habit?

Procrastinating administrative work. Thank goodness for long plane rides.

What is the greatest risk you have ever taken?

Starting my own business was a huge risk for me followed by leaving it when it no longer served my lifestyle priorities. I’ve learned to see my life as an adventure. That takes the ‘risk’ element out and replaces it with ‘choice’.

Who would play you in the film of your life and why?

Barbra Streisand. She’s an extraordinary talent.


2007-present: Executive director, HR strategy, Grant Thornton International (business services firm)

1998-2006: Principal, Performance First Inc (HR consulting)

1989-1997: Vice-president organisational development and director HR and quality, Cendant (relocation firm)

1980-1988: Executive director, HR, Macy’s Northeast (US retailer)

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