To her polite embarrassment, HP’s Elaine Beddome got the full-court press from her team when they nominated her for EBN’s 2013 Benny Awards. Her name was thrown in by Samanntha DuBridge, senior director of global benefits strategy, but UnitedHealth’s Chief Medical Officer, Richard Migliori, and Amanda Arellano, director of HR employee experience for HP, both felt the need to write separate letters endorsing Beddome.

Elaine Beddome, HP’s vice president of global benefits and employee mobility, has been selected as the 2013 Judges’ Choice Benny Award Winner. We connected with her to ask what she’s been doing at HP, and how to administer benefits programs on a global scale.

It seems we caught you right before a trip to China. Business or pleasure?

Business. Obviously my role is managing the global benefits function, so that means I’m responsible for over 90 countries, in terms of making sure the benefits are successful. I need to have engagement not only in the design of those plans, the leadership there, and the business challenges that relate to those countries. For the most part, we’re able to do a lot of that virtually, and HP is really good at virtual engagement, so that’s great, but on occasion it means catching a plane and participating with the teams, making sure we understand the business challenges in a growth region for us.

What reasons did your team give you for nominating you for our Benny Award?

I’m here to absolutely make sure that this function is an innovative, leading success for the company, so I’m not inclined to go out and sort of sell myself, if you will. So I guess their opinion was that I’ve accomplished a lot and they wanted to nominate me – and I wasn’t going to do it myself.

How did you come to work at HP?

My first [job] – what I call a real job – was at Texas Instruments, where I took on a number of roles within HR, whether it was recruiting, international compensation, that kind of thing. I then, after four years or so, joined Compaq, a computer corporation which was a start-up at the time, really high growth mode. I was involved in a number of HR functions there, but was asked, totally out of the blue [by someone who] turned out to be a huge mentor of mine, to come over to benefits basically. He said, ‘In a year, I want you leading the function.’ So he took a huge risk on me, gave me a huge opportunity, and I’m happy to say that a year later, I was exactly where I wanted to be.

I was managing the global benefits function at Compaq, but it was much smaller, much more centralized, and then HP acquired us. I grew into the bigger family of HP. So I’ve been with HP ever since. It’s been fun. I started kind of small-company. And we grew together – it was a huge opportunity to learn. You really take a tour around the globe on the two companies’ benefit plans and gain a real insight into what is required. … I was asked to take over the global function about seven years ago. As you might imagine, HP spends billions of dollars on benefits.

It’s really a neat job. You have to have a lot of technical expertise, but I’m a caretaker of very large sums of money of the business. I have to stay compliant, anticipating those costs, whether it’s health care reform, or legislative requirements, or health care inflation – you know, lots of things that drive [the company] financially – while at the same time, I’m a caretaker of people. You know, benefits is one of those really unique roles that touch on a very individual level the lives of our employees and their families. So I feel a huge responsibility to make sure we understand the people-related impact of all we do and how can we do things that are good for the company, but very respectful and positive for employees.

Read more of our interview with Elaine Beddome in EBN Sept. 15.

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