Women Worth Watching 2015
Jill Van Pelt
This SVP of HR is a Passionate Supporter of Denny’s Employees Everywhere
Jill Van Pelt is the senior vice president of human resources and chief people officer for Denny’s Corporation, the franchisor and operator of one of America’s largest full-service restaurant chains, with more than 1,700 franchised, licensed, and company restaurants, located in all 50 states and 11 countries around the world.
As chief people officer, Jill is responsible for all human resources functions, including compensation, benefits, recruiting, employee relations, organizational and executive development, human resources systems, payroll, and local community and charitable activities. Additionally, she is significantly involved in internal communications and crisis management, and co-sponsors Denny’s corporate social responsibility activities.
As a member of Denny’s executive leadership team, Jill partners with Denny’s CEO, CFO, COO, and CMO to define and guide the strategy for the organization. She is a passionate advocate for the company’s employees, and promotes and encourages its many diversity and community-service activities.
“Be confident, be genuine, be positive, be kind.
Prior to joining Denny’s in 2006, Jill held human resources leadership positions with various organizations, including Maytag, Coastal Corporation, and Dynegy. “My biggest career leap,” she said, “was taking an overseas assignment early in my career. On this project, I was the only woman, the only American, and quite junior to most of my peers. I learned a lot about myself and my values while I gained great work experiences, amazing friendships, and a new level of confidence.”
Jill is actively involved in restaurant industry leadership groups and the local community in Denny’s home market of Spartanburg, South Carolina. Jill sits on several community and nonprofit boards, including Spartanburg Little Theatre, Spartanburg Youth Theatre Parent Advisory Council, United Way of the Piedmont (beginning in June 2015), and Women’s Foodservice Forum’s Learning & Development Advisory Committee.
Education: BA in Accounting & French, Clarke University; MS in Human Resources Management, Houston Baptist University
First Job: At 16, cashier & sorting clothes at a dry cleaner
What I’m Reading: “The Happiness Project” by Gretchen Rubin
Words I live by: Be confident, be genuine, be positive, be kind.
The most important quality a woman leader should have is…
…the courage to be herself and be true to her goals and values.
The career advice I’d give my former self:
No one is in charge of your happiness or your future but you (great advice from my Dad’s “Top 10 Life Lessons”)
The one thing I’d do differently in my career, knowing what I know now, is…
…realize earlier in my career that I don’t have to be an expert at everything but rather to surround myself with a great team with complementary skillsets.
When I really need to focus on a project, I…
…work from home. My office is like a revolving door at a busy train station.
My biggest career leap (and what I learned from it) was…
…taking an overseas assignment early in my career. On this project, I was the only woman, the only American, and quite junior to most of my peers. I learned a lot about myself and my values while I gained great work experiences, amazing friendships, and a new level of confidence.
Being a woman in my profession has been…
…an honor. While being a female in a Human Resources role is not uncommon, it has been an honor and privilege to be a role model for other women growing in their careers and to help guide them in their development.
I’ve learned that failure is…
…a great learning experience, and often a stepping stone to success.
I maintain a healthy personal life by…
…knowing what really matters and always remembering the “Lesson of the Five Balls”. I first read this quote in the novel “Suzanne’s Diary for Nicholas” by James Patterson, during a pivotal point in my life and career. It made a huge impact in the way I looked at my life and my work, and I share it often with others struggling to “have it all.” It goes like this:
“Imagine life is a game in which you are juggling five balls. The balls are called work, family, health, friends, and integrity. And you’re keeping all of them in the air. But one day you finally come to understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. The other four balls–family, health, friends, integrity–are made of glass. If you drop one of these, it will be irrevocably scuffed, nicked, perhaps even shattered. And once you truly understand the lesson of the five balls, you will have the beginnings of balance in your life.”