Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...
Henry Artalejo drops a startling piece of knowledge only a few minutes into his conversation with Hispanic Executive. The current SVP of global human resources at Griffith Foods, Artalejo is an HR and business leader with over twenty-five years of global leadership—from telecom to retail, basic ingredients to luxury chocolates—and a long history of driving HR success in both public and private companies (including an expat assignment in the Netherlands).
And he says about the last thing you expect an HR expert to say.
“If you ask the ultimate question of ‘Why HR?’ and someone responds with ‘Because I love people,’ well my response to that is ‘Next. Send the next person in.’”
After a few minutes with Artalejo, everything begins to make a little more sense. He is the person willing to say the thing everyone else might be thinking. Artalejo is willing to come at a problem or challenge in a completely unpredictable way to solve it. Just because he’s proven to be a great people leader doesn’t necessarily mean he approaches his role the way most might.
“Inevitably, you are going to be struggling with multiple difficult decisions in your job,” Artalejo explains. “If you can’t separate some of those emotions you have for people, you’re really going to struggle with a lot of decisions that we, as chief HR officers, have to make in the function over time.”
That doesn’t mean that Artalejo is devoid of empathy (which is immediately clear by the way he talks about his five-year-old daughter Liv). It just means he has enough experience to understand the difficult dance so many in HR struggle with, a dance that prevents them from rising into more senior roles and one that can emotionally deplete even the most caring of individuals.
Artalejo’s tenure with any of the organizations he has been part of falls somewhere around seven years. It is enough time to truly learn a business, learn the pain points, and get a handle on how to bring out the best in its people. It is time to see big projects through and leave a legacy of sorts demonstrating cycles of success.
That legacy building is in full effect at Griffith Foods, where Artalejo has been SVP since 2019. The SVP has sought to bring uniformity to an organization that historically has had a decentralized operating model. The family-owned business tasked Artalejo with building out a more comprehensive people strategy including well-being, talent, DEI, human capital management, compensation structures, and development planning. Internally, the architecture of the people strategy is framed under the acronym of TODC—which stands for Talent, Organization, Development, and Culture.
“We’ve made great progress, especially when you consider that much has been done in the middle of a pandemic,” he says. “I think part of that progress is because I didn’t have to fight for a seat at the table. The leadership knew that HR needed to be a critical part of the decision-making team.”
The biggest piece is still to come though, as Artalejo has just gotten to work on the total overhaul of Griffith Foods’ total rewards structure. The HR team has sought out an external partner to help with all the components of the revamp, including market-based pricing and job architecture.
Artalejo is proud that he’s been able to build an HR organization that is punching well above its weight. His leadership is based on the idea of cocreation and a shared commitment to making something great surrounded by like-minded individuals who have the same goal.
“Cocreating is super important to me because it creates joint ownership,” the SVP says. “I’ve asked everyone on my team to think more broadly about their regional set of responsibilities because they should view themselves as in integral part of our organizational HR leadership team.”
There’s a final piece of Artalejo’s leadership that bears mentioning: conflict. Artalejo is big on it.
“I invite constructive conflict constantly,” the HR leader explains. “It yields better business decisions and better outcomes. Most people think of conflict as between two people. What I am talking about is everywhere. It is how we reach any solution. It is one idea in conflict with another. My job is to create a safety net for that kind of feedback and make sure that we are addressing the issue, not the person. It gets issues on the table instead of after the meeting.”
And while it may read as slightly incendiary, that philosophy needs to be married with what has made Artalejo feel more at home at Griffith Foods than anywhere he has ever been.
“Every place likes to say that they’re a family, but this is the first place I’ve been where my CEO and chairman know my husband and daughter, will give her a hug, and talk about the business,” Artalejo says with pride. “I did not know what that was like until I came here. That is more important than anything and a living example of one of our values—Act Like Family.”
JM Search is the leading retained executive search firm for growth-oriented organizations. With over 40 years of experience, our partners are immersed in your search every step of the way, supported by a passionate, cohesive team of recruiting experts. With deep sector and functional-specific expertise, our partners have built expansive professional networks from decades of firsthand experience to ensure the best possible outcomes for our clients and their businesses.
JM Search is proud of the partnership we’ve forged with Griffith Foods and Henry Artalejo along with his senior leadership team.