Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...
If you want to get at the root of what makes Heather Veldman thrive in her role as director of compensation at Pactiv Evergreen, it’s best to go all the way back. While Veldman was mowing lawns, pet sitting, and doing all sorts of odd jobs well before she was thinking about her career, the future HR compensation and benefits pro would begin her career at Illinois and Indiana staple grocery chain Jewel-Osco.
“I knew I wanted to be around people, finding ways to serve,” the director remembers. “I’ve worked in hourly roles and understand that side of the fence, and I’ve moved on to salary roles. But early on in my career during my time with Jewel-Osco, not being in an HR position taught me that people are the backbone of any organization. We’re all fighting the clock trying to get things done.”
Veldman’s continued willingness to put herself through the wringer for her people is just part of who she is. Just as much as her customers, Veldman was also aware of how impactful leadership and compassion could shape and build culture. The benefits and compensation expertise would come later, but the leadership building blocks were already there.
In fact, people were already taking notice of her leadership abilities from the time she was a child, though Veldman admits it wasn’t until recently that she fully understood what this meant. She always liked to make people happy, a key trait of influential managers, but she believed that productivity was the secret sauce of an effective leader.
100% When It Counts
Heather Veldman knows what it’s like to work through a crisis but says it shouldn’t really be anyone’s norm.
“If your work is what drives you, if that’s your sole purpose in life, then go for it,” she says. “But I learned early in my career that my life shouldn’t be about being connected all of the time. If I’m at my son’s baseball game, I’m 100 percent there. I try and be 100 percent in whatever I do, just not at the same time.”
“I have always been a ‘doer.’ I naturally gravitate to ‘doing’ or being productive and figured that good job performance meant the ability to effectively manage or lead,” she explains. “I thought this because good performance speaks for itself and can lead to promotions and more responsibility. I understand now that is just a small part of it because leadership is different than being a supervisor or manager. Leadership is something you portray regardless of your role.”
That lesson helped her as she progressed throughout her career and realized that she would need to let go of always being the doer, so that she could be the one to guide the doers that came after her.
Fast forward to January 2020. Veldman had just arrived at Pactiv Evergreen from digital consulting firm Sutherland, where she already established a long-running reputation of coming into an organization, getting promoted several times, and leaving her department far better than she found it.
But this challenge would be unlike any other.
“My job here started two months before COVID,” says Veldman, who is now able to laugh about the timing. “As we manufacturer of food and beverage packaging, we were considered essential.”
Veldman kept her phone on her and was readily available whether it be a Monday morning or a Saturday afternoon. It wasn’t anyone’s idea of a good time, but Veldman says she was heartened by the way she saw the organization come together, an organization that would ultimately unite as Pactiv Evergreen in September 2020.
Weathering this storm brought back the natural doer in her. Veldman says she was happy to pull up her sleeves and lend a hand to her team wherever needed, but she quickly realized that it wasn’t sustainable long term.
“I am now a leader of more experienced professionals that don’t need as much tactical help as I was used to providing. My value was no longer constantly ‘in the weeds’ with them but to only join them there if my assistance is needed or requested,” she says. “I quickly realized I needed to adjust my working/managing style to ensure my team was successful in the long run so they could find their own value.”
Veldman has continued to grow herself as well. Between her first day and this interview—in keeping with her reputation—she has been promoted twice, moving from health and welfare to overseeing the entire benefits function and now compensation.
“This role requires a different perspective when it comes to what kind of levers need to be pulled harder for what roles,” Veldman explains. “It’s tying roles back to our philosophy from a pay-performance perspective while also understanding external factors outside the company, factors that are changing constantly.”
Veldman said that one thing that stays consistent is her desire to act as a uniter, negotiator when necessary, and advocate for the collective good at Pactiv Evergreen. What may be good for one isn’t always for all, and Veldman has worked across many different departments and organizations to understand how important it is to maintain a broader perspective than just her department.
The definition of true leadership is broad in itself. “There are countless experiences that I have had over the past three years that led to me to realize that leadership is beyond a definition but way of working, living, and supporting each other,” Veldman says. It factors in ownership, bravery, and a willingness to learn from and understand each other.
In her own words, “it’s about understanding the needs, wants, and expectations of your teams, stakeholders, leaders, external partners, etc. It’s about trust, trusting that those ‘doing’ the work not only understand it but will complete it timely, accurately, and efficiently.
“It’s about being vulnerable to showing your team that leaders make mistakes, that we are human beings with lives outside of work, that when times get tough, we give ourselves grace and then hit the reset button,” she continues. “It’s about seeing beyond the moment, individual task, or project and understanding the impacts to better plan for the future. Ultimately, it’s about doing your best to live the values of your organization and lead by example.”
That’s the kind of leadership Veldman says she saw during the pandemic. Throw in in a heavy dose of heart, and you’re also talking about Heather Veldman.
Teladoc Health empowers all people everywhere to live their healthiest lives by transforming the healthcare experience. As the world leader in whole-person virtual care, Teladoc Health uses proprietary health signals and personalized interactions to drive better health outcomes across the full continuum of care, at every stage in a person’s health journey. Teladoc Health leverages more than a decade of expertise and data-driven insights to meet the growing virtual care needs of consumers and healthcare professionals. For more information, please visit teladochealth.com or follow @TeladocHealth on Twitter.