We had the rare opportunity to hear from one of the most whimsical and well-known organizations in the world; The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Our friend, Kim Congdon, took on the role of Managing Director for The Academy almost three years ago and has been trailblazing since. We stole a few minutes of Kim’s time to learn how she is maintaining the reputation, tradition, and passion of the existing organization while also planning for the opening of a state of the art, one of a kind in the world museum in 2017.
Sherry Benjamins: What has surprised you most about your first three years with The Academy?
Kim Congdon: What really surprised me is the responsibility that comes along with working for one of the most recognized and celebrated global brands. Having worked for Time Warner Cable and Sony Pictures, I was used to the fascination entertainment companies have for a wide swath of people. However, the level of passion is magnified here. There is such a beautiful mystique around the Academy that drives interest beyond what other companies even other entertainment companies have. The Academy has the second most recognized brand in the world. That is a significant number of people watching our every move.
The other wonderful surprise was how passionate the employees at The Academy are about anything and everything involving movies. You see this when talking to our employees.
SB: How does the brand recognition and brand loyalty play into the human capital side of things?
KC: The brand loyalty piece is a double edge sword. We find that people come to work for The Academy and never leave, which is amazing and unique in this industry. On the flip side, it can be hard for some of our younger employees to see growth opportunities here because of the tenure of those in management. I am proud to say that since I have been here we have had 50+ people be promoted and grow their career through The Academy. With those growth opportunities, we have a wonderful balance of passion and tradition that is being injected with new innovation.
SB: Will the new museum take on the same culture as The Academy?
KC: That is a great question. The museum is about celebrating the traditions and achievements of motion pictures in a new, fresh, and ever evolving way. With the museum we will showcase the 17 major disciplines that collaborate to make motion pictures and make sure that everyone walks away with something when they visit the museum. This is the first museum dedicated solely to motion picture and we want it to offer preservation, education, and worldwide connection.
SB: How will the work of HR change with the museum opening?
KC: We have focused on creating the structure, systems, and processes for hiring due to anticipated additions and specialties required. We will have a few hundred people supporting the museum, so it is important that we build the infrastructure and operating plan now.
SB: Are you hiring leadership for the museum?
KC: We are so lucky to have just hired our head of the museum, Kerry Brougher. We pulled out all the stops during the recruiting process, but we are lucky to have Board members, advisors, and stakeholders that are respected and admired to sell the mission and vision of The Academy. Not to mention, our President Cheryl Boone Isaacs who is helping us look at every part of our business in an entirely new way. Since Cheryl was elected President, Cheryl and the Academy have been recognized by countless organizations for the commitment and contribution that has been made to innovation and inclusion.
SB: What advice do you have for others responsible for executive selection?
KC: No matter how thoughtful you are during the hiring process, you can always be more thorough. Whether it be multiple interview panels, candidate presentations, opportunities to connect candidates to key players, or careful reference checking; this process requires patience and a keen eye and attention to detail. The other key is to have an upfront definition of the strategy, the role, and your process. Know what you need, not just what you want. This can be tedious, but it will save you time and effort in the long run.
SB: Reflecting on the last 3 years at The Academy, what do you think has led to your success?
KC: The week I accepted this role, the museum got the ruby slippers and there was this overwhelming sense of excitement and pride. I made a very conscious effort in the beginning to understand the organization before “imposing” any HR best practices. The Academy gave me the chance to oversee operations, which helped me to understand how to guide people in this culture.
SB: What is your advice for other HR leaders looking to break tradition or take a more unorthodox role?
KC: People should only do this if they are inspired by the mission of the organization. There has to be an intriguing combination of purpose with structure and dynamics that draw you in. I was drawn to this role because it was a chance to be a part of something that is a part of history and because I believed in the mission of The Academy.
SB: I love that you stepped beyond your comfort into something that really inspired and energized you. Thank you for giving us this inside glimpse into the glamour but clearly the complexity of the business behind the passionate world of The Academy of Motion Pictures.
You can get a sneak peek of what to expect from the museum with the Hollywood Costume exhibit that is running through March 2nd at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
Kerry Brougher, Director of the Academy Museum says. “The museum will not only look to the past. At its core, filmmaking is a combination of many art forms—and the museum will embrace this interdisciplinary approach by working with groundbreaking artists…as well other cultural institutions to help create its future."
Imagine combining the art forms in your business. You may be on this journey now. If not, I hope you find the ideas here inspiring and add perspectives that fit the future of your business and engage the imagination of all of your employees.
Feedback on this newsletter:
"delightful interview here...I really like the shift "broader than HR", as it gets your core constituency thinking in different ways...nicely done! (as usual...)"
"Really nice ! Great picture and interesting interview"