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Women to Watch: Where are they now …

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It's been 10 years since Business Insurance started the Women to Watch program. To celebrate that anniversary, during 2016 we are running a series of occasional articles catching up with some of our honorees.

Kate Van Hulzen

Managing director and global practice leader, communication and change management

Willis Towers Watson P.L.C.

Houston

2007 Women to Watch

Principal and Los Angeles communication line of business leader

Buck Consultants L.L.C.

Los Angeles

The era of shifting regulations, mergers, acquisitions and cost-saving measures may prove to be a challenging time for businesses and their employees, but for people such as Kate Van Hulzen, it's an exciting chapter in employee benefits.

Ms. Van Hulzen has spent her career helping companies grapple with change by providing insight and practical strategies for their employees. Business Insurance named her as one of the 2007 Women to Watch, when she was a principal in the Los Angeles office of Buck Consultants L.L.C. At the time, she helped companies communicate benefits programs such as health and retirement. She took on this role after serving as a communications practice leader for Towers Perrin Co., which — through its own series of deals — is now Willis Towers Watson P.L.C.

Ms. Van Hulzen is now at Willis Towers Watson, where she heads a global team of 300 in its communications and change management practice.

She came on board in 2011, when the firm was Towers Watson & Co. She said she delights in helping companies communicate change to their employees — sometimes in Spanish, which she speaks fluently.

“We help organizations manage change throughout their organizations,” she said. “We help our clients understand what their business challenges are associated with their business changes (and) we align their changes with communications strategies (and) change-management interventions.”

Today one of the challenges for her and her clients face is the trend of doing more with less — and informing their employees, she said.

“As organizations look for ways to manage their costs, it raises some challenges so that they can manage costs without reducing the values… We help clients communicate tough messages when they are truly making changes for cost-cutting measures (and) we educate the employees on how to work the new programs, how to take advantage of the new features,” Ms. Van Hulzen said.

To convey that message successfully, one has to be authentic, Ms. Van Hulzen said of the lessons she's learned in her career.

“I believe in openness and transparency,” she said. “(Clients and their employees) appreciate the candor and the authenticity, the openness.”

Leadership is also another key lesson, Ms. Van Hulzen added. “I would say that I've learned a lot about leadership, both through our consulting to organizations on leadership effectiveness and then also being a leader myself, applying that to my own work. There have been changes to the leadership model and you must learn how to engage, enable and inspire people.

“You have to ask yourself, how do you inspire them through your own behavior? How to you support them to be effective in their roles? A big part of that has to do with communicating with authenticity and trust,” she added. “I've learned how valuable it is to be an authentic leader. Together you can move forward with that.”

Ms. Van Hulzen said she looks forward to continuing to help companies deal with changes and navigate obstacles. “I found the role that I truly enjoy…It has to do with helping our clients solve their challenges, but also helping to lead change in my own organization. It's an exciting opportunity for me.”

Watch for the next profile in our "Where are they now..." series next month. You can read previous "Where are they now..." profiles by visiting this page.

To read the 2007 interview with Ms. Van Hulzen click here.

To read profiles of all the Business Insurance Women to Watch since 2006, click here.