At Cumberland Farms, HR helps shape company culture through training and commitment to core values.
By Erin Del Conte, Senior Editor
As the senior vice president and chief human resources officer for Westboro, Mass.-based Cumberland Farms, John McMahon leads human resources (HR), and is responsible for leadership in developing and executing HR strategy in support of the company’s business plan and strategic direction.
Convenience Store Decisions is recognizing McMahon with an HR award for his 35 years of experience, six at Cumberland Farms as well as his role in making Cumberland Farms a ‘Great Place to Work.’
During his six years at Cumberland Farms, which operates nearly 600 stores in eight states across the Northeast and Florida, McMahon and his team have worked to create a people-centric culture built on a core set of values: never settle, tell it like it is, own it and succeed together.
“Our values are the foundation of our company culture and evolving our culture is an ongoing process,” McMahon said. “We incorporated these core values right into our performance evaluation plan to emphasize to our team members just how important they are.”
Employees are measured now on not only on what they did, but on how they did it, and rewarded accordingly.
The culture shift is evident in the ‘Great Places to Work’ Engagement Survey. Five years ago when Cumberland Farms first participated it scored a 69%. In 2017, 83% of employees believed Cumberland Farms is a ‘Great Place to Work.’
“Without the total support from CEO Ari Haseotes and the talented and committed HR team I have had the privilege to lead, we would not be nearly as far along as we are today on our journey. This has been a true team effort.”
McMahon spearheaded an increase in manager training five years ago, developing a program called “Management Essentials,” which helps managers learn to lead, coach, motivate, engage and recruit team members. Managers participate in a variation of the program every year. The numbers speak for themselves. Five years ago, Cumberland Farms’ hourly turnover surpassed 100%, today it’s tracking in the low 60s.
McMahon began his career with a degree in criminal justice, followed by six years on the Westchester County New York Police force, including as an undercover narcotics agent. From there he became director of industrial security at defense company Raytheon, where he also used his detective background to lead interviews when the company was hiring. Afterward, he took a position in the personnel department.
Later McMahon spent 10 years in ITT corporations and a variety of HR roles where he developed his depth and breadth of experience.
McMahon obtained a Masters degree in HR Management and went on to hold positions at a number of companies, including as the head of HR for kid’s shoe retailer Stride Rite and global distribution giant Arrow Electronics. He was recruited to join Cumberland Farms in January 2012.
McMahon’s favorite aspect of leading HR is the panoramic view it provides across a company.
“It gives you the opportunity to shape and influence the culture across the entire business with the right programs, policies, approach and culture.”
If people believe in the culture and see it as a family and a community, they’ll give extra effort that will separate you from the competition, he said.
He attributes three qualities to HR success: Confidence, Competence and Courage.
Over the last six years, the HR team has changed the perception of Cumberland Farms. “HR used to be administrative. It’s now a strategic business partnership with the whole company.
The foundation has been built for continued focus on building talent through the leadership ranks, including an in-depth succession planning process,”
“Make sure you have the right bench to fill critical roles and give people the opportunities to become strong leaders,” he added. “People will follow good leaders for the right reasons.”