10/15/2014 10:13 am ET Updated Dec 15, 2014

Women in Business: Lori Malcolm, SVP Human Resources for Checkers Drive-In Restaurants

Lori Malcolm is the SVP Human Resources for Checkers Drive-In Restaurants, with 800 locations operating under the Checkers and Rally's brands. Prior to joining Checkers, Mrs. Malcolm held a number of roles with industry leading companies including Wal-Mart, Disney, and IBM. She has been the Sr. HR executive for companies and divisions with more than 15,000 employees. In addition, she has led global HR functions in Organizational Effectiveness, Employee Engagement, Executive Development, Diversity, and Talent Acquisition. Mrs. Malcolm holds a B.S. in Operations Research from Cornell University and has nearly 30 years of experience in technology systems and human resources leadership.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
I am the daughter of a single mother who was very talented, but grew up believing that college and a professional career was not a possibility for a young, black woman from a poor family. She had a dream to make a better life for my brother and me, and she used her skills and intellect to become a secretary.

Within a few years, she was promoted to Executive Assistant for the President of a local company and stayed in that role for 15 years. She had an amazing work ethic and was well respected in her role. She became so good at what she did that when the President traveled, she would keep everything going. He could return days later and nothing would have fallen through the cracks.
I admired her strength and ability, and even as a child, I recognized the difference in reward structure for management versus the staff. I also could see how difficult it was to have a mom with no flexibility in her day. So I made a decision early on that I wanted to be in business, but I wanted to be a leader. And I would be a leader who would recognize talent wherever it existed and would encourage people to dream bigger and realize their potential.

Of all the things that I do in my role today at Checkers and Rally's, coaching and mentoring others is the most satisfying. I also love to create talent systems that provide growth opportunities for our entire workforce, both in the restaurant and in our corporate office. It makes such a positive difference for our employees and their families.

How has your previous employment experience aided your position at Checkers and Rally's?
In my role at Checkers and Rally's, I am responsible for establishing People Systems and Processes that will promote our culture of Guest Obsessed service. Our vision is to grow our brand by becoming 1st Choice for our Employees, Franchisees, and Guests.

Success in this role requires an understanding of how a culture is brought to life through business systems, processes, and technology as well as key HR functions like Talent Management, Talent Acquisition, and Learning. My previous experience prepared me so well for this role. I have a strong process and business orientation learned from my early career as an engineer with IBM developing and marketing business solutions.

After transitioning my career into Human Resources, I held a number of leadership roles with Walt Disney World and Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., where I had the opportunity to lead almost every function of HR. It was incredible to experience first-hand how important culture is in a successful organization and how employees can connect so strongly with the brand.

My role at Checkers and Rally's has given me an opportunity to put all of that previous experience together and work with an amazing senior management team to implement a People Strategy from scratch.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Checkers and Rally's?
The highlight of my time with Checkers and Rally's has been working with our senior team to transition our business from a turnaround situation into a growing, vibrant brand. I am also very excited about having implemented many new people systems over the last three years, enhancing our ability to drive business outcomes with our People engagement and performance. Currently, we are implementing a new learning management system that will transform how we train and develop our people at Checkers and Rally's. The biggest challenge for me was finding creative ways to bring world-class learning solutions that are at work in multi-national companies to our organization. While a challenge, it has been so rewarding.

What advice can you offer women who are seeking a career in franchising?
Go for it! There is nothing quite like the experience of helping a franchisee to build a business that can remain in their family for generations and leave a legacy. Your expertise and guidance will be valued and will truly make a difference.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
Work/life balance is something that each individual has to create for themselves to fit the needs of their family and work environment. I learned early on in my career...the hard way...that communication and planning is the key to creating successful balance. I constantly communicate with my husband, family, leader, and team to ensure that we are in agreement with expectations and that I have a clear plan for how I will manage my time to meet those expectations. I have found that my leader is supportive of time off needed for personal needs when there is total confidence that their expectations will be met.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
I believe that the biggest issue we face as women in the workplace is something we bring on ourselves. I find that as women we are far more likely to say "yes" to things even when we are overwhelmed or to be hard on ourselves when we don't perform as well as we like. I have had the opportunity to mentor many women and I often have to coach them to give themselves the power to say no and the grace to make a mistake.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
I have had many mentors over the years in both my professional and personal life. One incredible mentor of mine was the former CIO of Wal-mart who virtually saved my career. My four children were between the ages of 5 and 12 and my husband had recently been promoted to a VP and was traveling constantly. I told her that I was resigning from my position as her HR Director because I felt that it was impossible to do what she needed and take care of my children well. She realized that this was just a short season in life and that I would find a way to work it through. She wouldn't accept my resignation and gave me some time away to figure it all out. She was right. I came back re-energized and have continued to grow by career from that day forward. I have also had great women who were role models in terms of their strong faith and commitment to their family. I learned so much from them about living a balanced and abundant life.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
Two other female leaders I admire are Ursula Burns, Chairman and CEO of Xerox and Susan Chambers, EVP of People, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. Ursula is someone who, like me, grew up in a family with a single mom and aspired to do more. She also has an engineering background and grew her career in the very male dominated technology industry. What she has accomplished in her career at Xerox, becoming the first African-American female CEO, is truly admirable.
I first met Susan Chambers while she was a VP in the IT division at Wal-mart and I was her HR business partner. What struck me about Susan was her ability to connect so personally with everyone she met. She has a way of making people feel like they have been heard and that she truly cares about them. She grew her career at Wal-mart and has been the EVP of People for several years. I admire her personally and as a leader.

What do you want Checkers and Rally's to accomplish in the next year?
In this next year, we will continue our mission to become 1st Choice for our Employees, Franchisees, and Guests. My goal is to inspire and engage our employees in creating the exceptional experiences for our Guests that will bring them back again and again to Checkers and Rally's.