Linda Garhart is passionate about cultivating culture.
That’s why her role at WPX – as Director of Human Resources and Diversity – is so fitting. Linda says people are her No. 1 interest in the workplace, and learning how to keep them engaged and productive is her goal.
“I believe wholeheartedly that in order to conduct the most effective business, you’ve got to listen to what employees want and what makes them motivated,” she says.
Before she began her career in HR, Linda’s dream was to travel the world.
“I always wanted to be a travel agent growing up,” says Garhart, who was raised in a small town in Kansas. “My parents said that was fine, as long as I went to college.”
After graduating with a business degree from Washburn University in Topeka, Garhart achieved her goal – she worked as a travel agent for about two years, and traveled to many of her dream destinations – Europe, Hawaii and many countries in the Caribbean.
But after a couple of years, she wanted to move into a different career – and it was inspired by Linda’s favorite college elective.
“Back then it was called ‘personnel management,’ and I loved it. I loved my instructor, loved the material, and I loved the content. It just stuck with me, and I knew I wanted to pursue a career in HR,” she says.
She then moved to Tulsa with her husband, whose job brought him to Oklahoma from Kansas City.
“We came to Tulsa thinking it would be a short stop. We had never been here and didn’t really know the lay of the land,” Linda says. “But we really love it. It’s a great place for family.”
Linda joined Williams right after it merged with Mapco, and she became an HR business partner supporting the Energy Marketing & Trading group. She continued her role at Williams as an HR Business Partner, where she worked with the IT department before transitioning into a role supporting the Exploration and Production unit, which became WPX after it spun off from Williams in late 2011.
In Linda’s current position, she oversees the HR Business Partner group, as well as a new area for her – diversity and inclusion.
“The diversity and inclusion role has been so exciting for me. I had some involvement in it before as an HR business partner, but I knew we would really have an opportunity at WPX to define and create an environment where people are challenged and where they feel valued and are able to reach their full potential.”
Last fall, WPX began a new facet of the company’s diversity program, an employee-based board called the Inclusion Council.
“We knew we wanted to spend some time getting an up-close look at our needs as a company. So we conducted focus group meetings and talked to many employees who had a real passion and commitment for diversity,” she says.
“We were intentional in calling our council an inclusion council versus a diversity council. If you aren’t successful in creating an environment that’s inclusive, you may have success in diversity but it likely won’t be sustainable.”
WPX’s Inclusion Council is made up of 13 employee representatives from each of WPX’s locations, as well as the HR Business Partners, who are creating a plan to engage employees throughout the enterprise.
The council will encourage other employees to share their ideas about how WPX can cultivate the ideal workplace culture, where everyone feels equally valued and respected. These employees will have the opportunity to be part of a local council at their specific work location.
“You can’t be successful and execute on business plans if you don’t have employees who are engaged and feel valued,” she says. “It adds so much to productivity and overall success as a company.”
The lively discussion at the council’s inaugural two-day meeting proved to Linda that members had truly diverse perspectives.
“One thing we really wanted to recognize from the start is the fact that every location has unique needs. What works in Tulsa is probably very different than what works in Gillette,” she says.
“We tried to establish some broad priorities, but we want to make them flexible for each location.”
During her downtime, Linda enjoys spending time with her two children – Ashley, 25, and Nicholas, 19, and she still loves to travel. She and her husband enjoy taking cruises – she hopes to take a sail to the Mediterranean soon.
“Traveling is a great outlet for me to relax. It’s a great way to enjoy other countries and cultures,” she says.