From Calculators to Company Culture

Lora Dikun shares her journey from accounting to becoming the SVP of Human Resources and Chief People Officer at Giant Eagle.

Lora Dikun’s journey from accounting to human resources initially progressed at a steady pace. While working as a controller at Duquesne Light Company, she expanded her role by helping with executive compensation. Soon she was working on a myriad of projects on the financial side of human resources, which included handling trust fund investments, designing benefit plans, putting together incentive plans, and working with subsidiaries on their own executive compensation plans. By the time Lora left Duquesne Light to spend time caring for her two newly-adopted children, she had carved a unique position for herself that was half traditional finance, half human resources.

Lora Dikun, SVP, CAO and Chief People Officer, Giant Eagle Photo by Jody Mader Photography

Two years later when Lora was ready to re-enter the workforce, she faced a choice: finance and accounting, or human resources? The balance between the two that she had created at Duquesne Light was unlikely to be found in a typical job description. Ultimately, Lora dedicated her job search to the human resources realm. “Rather than analyzing the past, I wanted to be part of the future and make a real impact,” she says. She accepted a position as Manager of Benefits at Giant Eagle, multi-format food, fuel and pharmacy retailer spanning Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, West Virginia, and Maryland. Fifteen years later, Lora is currently the Senior Vice President, Chief Administrative Officer and, fitting with Giant Eagle’s team-focused culture, the Chief People Officer, where many of her initiatives are focused on improving the experiences of Giant Eagle’s 32,000 Team Members. In addition to her role as Chief People Officer, she also oversees the safety, legal, and compliance functions of the company.

One of Lora’s recent projects at Giant Eagle has been putting in place a new system to automate and simplify the employee assessment process. Lora explained that the prior annual performance review system was so cumbersome that it took too much time for the managers to execute and, as a result, employees (referred to as Team Members at Giant Eagle) weren’t getting feedback to help them move forward in their careers. Lora also realized that Giant Eagle needed to step away from numerical performance ratings. “People were too concerned about the number. They were missing the feedback,” she says. She cited an exchange between a manager and a Team Member where the Team Member received a low numerical ranking on one of their objectives. Even though the Team Member had the self-awareness to acknowledge that a certain area needed improvement, the poor rating incited a sense of failure and derailed a conversation about improvement.

The new assessment system centers around leadership skills and professional development. Team Members themselves first identify two skills that are their strengths and two that they’d like to improve upon. Then, managers can discuss the skills that a person at their level should exhibit as well as what skills to further develop to move forward in the company. Giant Eagle has a strong track record for Team Member retention, so making these reviews productive over the long haul is paramount to maintaining Giant Eagle’s culture of extended family.

“People are what it’s all about. I want to make sure that I’m helping remove whatever roadblocks I can so that my team can make the impact that they need to make.”

Another initiative that Lora has worked on with her team is Inclusion and Diversity. Lora specifically notes the order of these words, stating that “Inclusion has to come first, because you can be diverse without being inclusive.” At Giant Eagle, one major focus of the Inclusion and Diversity initiative is accommodating Team Members who have differing abilities. Lora explains that this has been a part of Giant Eagle long before she joined the company in 2003, and currently plays out in many different roles. “In distribution centers, we look at the flow process and how we can change it so that someone who is not as mobile can do some of the work,” Lora says. Giant Eagle has also managed its workplaces to accommodate Team Members with visual impairments, which encompassed everything from magnifying a computer screen to how the deli space in a supermarket is organized. To reach out to the community, Giant Eagle has partnered with United Way and many other organizations to help individuals of varying intellectual and physical abilities transition to full-time employment when they age out of the school system at 21.

Lora’s human resources umbrella also includes loss prevention, which is tied directly to safety at Giant Eagle. With a vision of a zero-incident workplace, Lora references Giant Eagle’s emphasis on accountability. “We have a philosophy towards safety of any kind: you see it, you own it. If you see a spill, you either make sure it gets cleaned up or blocked off. The same goes for safety of any kind,” she says.

Over the course of her time at Giant Eagle, Lora has pulled the many facets of human resources into one, centralized function. Where her background in accounting and finance come into play the most, though, is with labor relations and negotiations. When she initially joined the company, her role focused on benefits and expanded to include total reward packages. Lora received a master’s degree in Taxation while she was working at Duquesne Light, and this knowledge helped smooth her transition to human resources at Giant Eagle. “With labor negotiations it’s a give and take, and you have to know what the [financial] impact to the organization is going to be,” she explains.

Ultimately, being part of the vehicle that drives the people-oriented culture at Giant Eagle is what motivates Lora the most. Lora describes an extended family tree in the lobby of the corporate office composed of Team Members who have been a part of Giant Eagle for more than 40 years: “It’s running out of space and going down the hallway! People are what it’s all about. I want to make sure that I’m helping remove whatever roadblocks I can so that my team can make the impact that they need to make,” she explains.

Congratulations, Lora Dikun. Did you know that seeing a clinician is as easy as strolling the cereal aisle of the grocery store? UPMC is now partnering with Giant Eagle, the region’s largest supermarket chain, to offer UPMC AnywhereCare kiosks in the pharmacy area of several Giant Eagle stores.

United Concordia Dental, a leading dental solutions company focused on healthier mouths for healthier lives, applauds Lora Dikun for creating a world-class, modern-day HR department. We are proud to have a strong relationship–built on a shared commitment to improving oral health and overall well-being–with Lora and Giant Eagle, Inc.