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Kristin Malbasa may not have gotten her undergrad in human resources, but she might have gotten the next best thing: elementary education. The executive vice president of HR at MacLean-Fogg initially assumed she’d spend a career in teaching, helping mold early learners. Despite her career change and undeniable success in HR, those early lessons still come in handy.
“My first job after I decided to transition in my career was doing what amounted to adult education for business units across MacLean-Fogg,” the EVP explains. “It was a chance to combine the knowledge I had accumulated in teaching and apply it in a new way. I don’t think anyone would be surprised to hear that there are a lot of parallels in dealing with adults and children—at the end of the day, they’re both learners.”
It’s not meant as a slight, and the EVP’s understanding laugh makes it clear. The fulfillment she’s gotten after her career turn includes more than twenty-three years at the company where she initially started as an intern, and now she’s in the C-suite. It’s where Malbasa has had the opportunity to take on new roles and new challenges—all within the MacLean-Fogg umbrella.
Over those two decades, Malbasa has repeatedly helped a company that’s almost a century old continue evolving. The family-owned company is on its fourth generation of leadership, a rare accomplishment. To Malbasa, it makes a world of difference.
“We’ve been able to rely on the same values that we’ve maintained since 1925,” she says. “When we first began, we were in railroads and automotive. In the eighties, we added the electric utility industry and we’re back again to predominantly automotive. We keep evolving, but we’re able to stay true to our values. I think that’s part of the reason you see people staying with the organization for so long, myself included.”
The HR team functions with the assumption that in taking chances, failures are inevitable. Ongoing collaboration and training build in the psychological safety for her team to continue to be willing to move on their new ideas and take appropriate chances to help MacLean-Fogg grow.
Outside of HR, Malbasa’s team takes great lengths to keep their best performers. All employees have a career path at MacLean-Fogg, which offers vast opportunities for growth and provides resources to capture its team members’ career and development goals. “It’s also worth noting that taking care of our team’s mental health is more important than ever,” Malbasa explains. “This is why we also offer mental health and wellness benefits that make it easy for our employees to get high-quality support when they need it.
“I want to make sure that we continue to have leaders in our organization that prioritize building psychological safety, creating relationships with their employees, and creating an environment that no one dreads coming into every day,” she continues. “That feeling makes your whole life miserable, and we go to great lengths to make this a place our people enjoy spending their workday.”
The secret sauce is communication, Malbasa says. As the company continues to change, so do job expectations, and that can create legitimate unrest and worry for a workforce. That’s why the EVP says it’s imperative to openly, honestly, and transparently communicate about the ways the company continues to evolve.
It might mean more education, more training, and a willingness to embrace a new challenge, but it’s evident that the HR team will always go the extra mile to keep those who continue to stay true to the values of the organization.
Malbasa is an exemplary reflection of those ideals. The teacher who had the foresight to know that she needed a drastically different career has achieved that pivot at the highest possible levels. She reinvented what she could be, and she’s helping all those at MacLean-Fogg do the same for themselves and for their company.
“The Cheesier, The Better”
Kristin Malbasa loves a cup of coffee in the morning, spending time with her kids, and being outside in the morning while she plans her day. But if you really want to know Malbasa, ask her about her favorite scary movie.
“I love silly horror movies,” she admits. “The cheesier, the better. To me, it’s fun, sometimes it’s intense, and it always makes me feel a range of emotions—anxiety, enjoyment, relief, and even a little relaxation.”
For the uninitiated, Malbasa suggests what could be a holy trinity of horror: Child’s Play, John Carpenter’s The Thing, and Friday the 13th. Some of these are fun, some are suspenseful, but they’re all a great way to spend a Friday night. Take it from a bona fide horror enthusiast.