Employee Culture: Stephen Becker, Senior Vice President of Golden State Foods and Herb Callahan, Corporate Leadership Development Director of Golden State Foods

Hosted by Chris Dyer, the CEO of PeopleG2 – Talent Talk Radio features engaging conversation with CEOs, thought leaders and HR executives.  Talent Talk connects professionals who care about talent-related issues and employee culture.


Today’s guests are Stephen Becker, Senior Vice President of Golden State Foods; and Herb Callahan, Corporate Leadership Development Director of Golden State Foods. Golden State Foods is a large international company that feels more like a family, and today’s guests both help build this collaborative employee culture day in and day out.  To hear the entire show, click here


Becker joined Golden State Foods in 2000 after a long career with Unisource. Unlike other companies of its size and global footprint, Golden State Foods is a privately-held organization that is 100% management owned and operated.

Callahan spent more than two decades serving in the Marines, and joined Golden State Foods in 2012, then as a regional HR manager. Callahan sees two sides to HR’s role today: the first is transactional and is evolving given new healthcare policies and processes; the second relates to organizational development and how it’s dramatically shaped by technology.

Becker adds that technology is “both a blessing and a curse.” Meanwhile, the biggest evolution he sees in HR comes down to demographics, where a company may now have as many as five generations in the workplace together. 

70% Character

Golden State Foods is a values-based company with a belief in God and the dignity of all people. So when it comes to recruiting, they look for character (which accounts for about 70% of their hiring decisions) and competence both. “You can always find people with the right skill sets, but you can’t always find people with the right character,” says Callahan.

In what is consistently a great employee culture, employees can count on being treated with respect and being heard. The management listens to all associates with empathy and understanding, and involves all levels in the decision-making process. Because of this, Becker believes he can draw direct correlations between this employee culture and the company’s productivity.

They also measure the employee culture via an international employee survey administered every 18 months, and followed up with employee focus groups. Becker cites the 2013 survey which revealed that 98 percent of the associates were “highly committed” to Golden State Foods’ success. “We try to think like smaller companies…like an extension of family unit,” continues Becker. And where there is room for improvement, they blame and fix the process. For instance, they responded to associate demand for more training by creating Golden State Foods University, run by Callahan and offering courses in addition to instructor-led training.

Trust & Empathy

When it comes to leadership influences, Callahan cites several military leaders who trusted him and gave him tasks just outside his wheelhouse, allowing him to stretch and prove himself. “The core things they did was to extend trust and help me to develop,” he recalls.

For Becker, an executive during his time at Unisource is among his greatest inspiration. Becker recalls he “had a heart of gold and cared about people probably even when they didn’t deserve it.” He also cites the wisdom of his father-in-law, who once told him: “Make sure you don’t have all the answers until you have all the facts.” Callahan adds that it is a challenge not just to listen, but to listen with empathy, something he works at constantly.  This type of empathy encourages their solid employee culture.

What are You Reading?

Becker is reading: The Speed of Trust,” The 2020 Workplace and Why Men Earn More.” Callahan is also reading what he calls a new classic on group dynamics, The Skilled Facilitator.”

Tune into the show next week, and remember, do what you love….and show the world how talented you can be, today.

Air Date: April 1, 2014