LeAnn Harris describes her career as a circle.
After earning a bachelor’s degree in sociology and employment relations and a master’s degree in kinesiology and sports management, she went on to manage BJC HealthCare’s on-site employee wellness center and lead the organization’s ergonomics program. Following her six-year tenure at BJC, she was named director of association health and wellness for the YMCA of Greater St. Louis, where she developed, delivered, and audited association standards and policies.
In 2010, she transitioned to Mercy and spent almost twelve years moving up the corporate ladder to ultimately be named vice president of benefits, health, and wellness. In this leadership role, she identified innovative solutions and established the strategic direction for all health and welfare, retirement plans, worker’s compensation, and leave administration. Today, she’s applying her employment relations experience as head of global benefits at Archer Daniels Midland (ADM),
Harris is responsible for offering benefits to all forty-two thousand ADM colleagues across all the company’s business lines worldwide. “On the retirement side of the house this includes benefits such as pensions, 401(k), stock purchasing programs, etc. And then we have health and welfare offerings such as medical, dental, vision, short- and long-term disability, life, and other voluntary benefits,” Harris explains.
Founded more than 120 years ago and initially focused on corn and linseed oil, ADM is now a premier global human and animal nutrition company, leading the way to a new future of plant-based consumer and industrial solutions. Through a series of mergers and acquisitions, the company has experienced a substantial growth spurt, making the standardization of its systems and processes increasingly critical.
Harris, a data-driven leader, came aboard in June 2023 to build ADM’s center of excellence on a global scale by creating new standards and improving the optimization of processes. Her goal is to modernize benefits and centralize its HR service center.
“We have a lot of different data points. A lot of focus has been on consolidating systems of record,” she says. “Over the last year, we’ve launched SAP SuccessFactors so all of our HR data and records are in one system.”
Harris is assessing all areas for opportunities for integration. She is also identifying areas ripe for optimization and consolidation, making HR “swifter.” “We’re trying to remove manual intervention wherever possible so we can use people’s talents to do other things,” she says.
She earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville. “I played basketball in college so that inspired the path I took—sports management,” she says. After her six-year stint at BJC HealthCare, she took a job with the YMCA of Greater St. Louis in 2008 as the director of association health and wellness. “I had responsibilities for all of the fitness centers and aquatics operations and facilities across the St. Louis metropolitan area, including vendor contracts and standardization in regard to staffing.”
She integrated into HR and benefits in 2010 when she took a position at Mercy, staying for twelve years and rising to vice president of benefits, health, and wellness. It was her work at Mercy—standardizing, setting up shared services, and creating centers of excellence—that prepared her for her mission at ADM. “We’re trying to do that same thing here at ADM, but on a global scale,” Harris says.
The title of head of global benefits brings with it a set of challenges, like creating and offering packages to a workforce of individuals who are in a variety of life and career stages and have a variety of health concerns. It’s vital to offer options catering to all demographics and ADM’s total rewards package must key in on that, she says. “It’s important to ask your colleagues what’s important to them and to test the waters.”
Another challenge includes working with ADM’s internal and external partners, extensions of her HR team. “In regard to managing our contracts and holding our partners accountable, we meet regularly and often, looking at KPIs, performance guarantees, and data,” Harris says. “We let the data drive our decisions.”
Like all HR professionals, Harris is charged with finding and hiring the most talented individuals to fill positions. Many of ADM’s plants, however, are in rural areas with sparse populations. “You don’t have a big pool of folks to grab from, and there’s a talent war in general,” Harris admits. To lure the best and brightest to ADM, she offers a total rewards platform so perspective colleagues can appreciate the value of working at ADM beyond monetary compensation.
Harris refuses to micromanage her “small-and-mighty” five-person team, preferring to remove barriers and lead by example. “As we build our global center of excellence, I’m all about having clearly defined job descriptions and clearly defined standard work—and checking in on it to make sure it’s still relevant,” she says. “I have an open-door, transparent relationship with the team so they’re not afraid to come to me if something’s wrong. I’d rather hear about it from them than to find out about it.”
She advises HR professionals to learn the overall business strategy and roles of the colleagues they’re supporting. “Go shadow and understand what they are doing on a day-to-day basis so you can supply the tools and provide support,” Harris says.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois congratulates LeAnn for her dedication to employees wellness solutions and are proud to be a partner with ADM delivering best in class health benefits together for twenty-one years. BCBSIL is the largest health insurer in Illinois, serving nearly 9 million members and operating in all 102 Illinois counties. BCBSIL is active in community engagement and educational activities that promote public health and wellness. It is a division of Health Care Service Corporation, a Mutual Legal Reserve Company and an Independent Licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.
Congratulations, LeAnn Harris!
Your innovation, leadership and commitment to excellence in total rewards are making a positive impact for ADM and your colleagues.
Securian Financial is proud of our strong relationship with LeAnn and ADM. Your success is at the heart of what we do. Together, our goal is to provide the most relevant solutions for your business and colleagues. Group life and supplemental health insurance solutions can help employees and their families enjoy their life today while providing financial protection for their future. We look forward to helping build secure tomorrows.
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