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A Closer Look at Candice Mendenhall of ICF

mendenhall-candice_04-05-10Candice Mendenhall is the Senior Vice President of Human Resources at ICF International. She joined ICF International in 2008 after serving as senior vice president of human resources and shared services at Ratner Companies. We had the opportunity to discuss with Mendenhall why she chose HR as her profession, what it’s like working at ICF and she shared with us a unique favorite hobby of hers.

GovConExecutive: What is it that draws you to Human Resources?

Mendenhall: I guess that I have always held the firm belief that what drives a business is the people within the organization, and unless you get the business strategy linked to the strategies that support the potential contribution of the individuals within it and how they’re recognized and rewarded, the ability to achieve the business strategy is compromised.  That’s what drew me to this area, is just believing that the strength of a business strategy is the strength of the people and processes there to support it.

GovConExecutive: What’s it like working at ICF?

Mendenhall: What’s different about working at ICF, is this is the first company that I have worked for, where the mission of the organization is as critical as the profitability of the firm. What we have is a lot of very passionate people around our mission, passionate about doing good as well as making money.  It’s extremely compelling.  The employees come here and are motivated because of the nature of the work we do, not just the profit motive.  It’s refreshing and very motivating

GovConExecutive: What are some of the challenges you’re currently facing and how will you overcome them?

Mendenhall: This company has quadrupled in size in three years.  We have done that through significant organic growth and through acquisitions.  When you grow that fast, you find that the processes and systems to support a larger organization usually lag behind the growth.  For us, the biggest challenge is becoming more efficient and effective by utilizing technology to a much greater extent.  Five years ago, 90% of ICF’s business was on the east coast.  Now we have offices in practically every state of the United States and in multiple countries.  It’s really about helping our executives transform the organization’s culture, processes, and employee programs to support a multi-national firm.  It’s like we are driving a race car, and while it going around the track, we’re changing the tires at the same time.  Our challenge is to keep the car moving at the same pace while simultaneously upgrading it.

GovConExecutive: How would your colleagues describe your leadership style?

Mendenhall: My colleagues would say that I’m decisive.  I’m analytical, I think through options first, but I am somebody who will take the risk and make decisions.  I have to be collaborative because in HR you must be able to influence strategic decisions around organizational and people issues.  Integrity is also a cornerstone to how I manage myself and my relationships.  I do what I say, and I certainly wouldn’t ask others to do something I wouldn’t do myself.

GovConExecutive: What makes a successful HR department?

Mendenhall: A successful HR department has to understand that it’s here for one reason, and that’s to serve the line side of the business.  We exist to help the company generate the revenue and profits that it needs to grow and sustain itself.  So, unless you are an HR function that is service-oriented and understands what that means, you can actually get in the way of your business’ growth.  It’s trite to say that you need to be a strategic partner; you need to be at the table.  All of that’s true and that’s where the senior HR leader needs to operate to effectively support the business.  In the end you have to realize that you’re here to help the company make money, and you’re doing that by making sure that your firm has competitive employment practices, that you have strong leaders, engaged employees that are productive, and that your policies and procedures are flexible to meet the changing needs of the business.  You need to first and foremost understand the business and understand how you can contribute to its growth.

GovConExecutive: What’s something that most people don’t know about you personally?

Mendenhall: I love dirt bikes, and at one time, I did a lot of racing.  I don’t race anymore, though.

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