'The HR leader must be the champion, coach, advocate, and sometimes disciplinarian to ensure we're all building a sincere and meaningful culture.'
This article was first published on June 1, 2023, by HR Daily Advisor, a sibling publication to HealthLeaders.
Lorraine Ortiz has nearly 25 years of HR professional and executive coach experience in nonprofit, corporate, healthcare, and higher education. Throughout her impressive career, Ortiz has held several executive roles, including Vice President of HR at Riley Children’s Health, Director of HR—Retail Division at Goodwill Industries of Central and Southern Indiana, and Vice President and Chief HR Officer at Butler University, where she implemented the institution’s first strategic HR department to serve the needs of more than 1,000 faculty and staff.
Currently, Ortiz serves as Chief People Officer at First Internet Bank, a pioneer in the branchless delivery of banking services since 1999. In her role, she’s responsible for a myriad HR and talent strategies programs, including overseeing the bank’s diversity and inclusion initiatives, employee experience, and talent acquisition and development efforts.
In our latest Faces, meet Lorraine Ortiz.
How did you get your start in the field?
HR was a perfect fit for supporting others in finding and connecting their “why” to the industries and companies where they choose to work.
Who is/was your biggest influence in the industry?
I’m an avid reader, so several authors come to mind. But my executive coach has ultimately been my biggest influence. I’ve had the opportunity to work with the Stephanie Wood Group for individual and team coaching. Not only am I a better employee and colleague because of their guidance, but I’m also a better wife and mother. Hands down, Stephanie has had the most significant impact on my career, and as she continues to coach, she has become more influential in the industry.
What’s your favorite part about working in the industry? What’s your least favorite part, and how would you change it?
My favorite aspect of the industry has evolved as I’ve grown my experience, roles, and myself. I enjoy supporting others in realizing their full potential through their work. Mark Twain wrote, “The two most important days of your life are the day you are born, and the day you find out why.” I love helping my colleagues find their why and realize it daily.
My least favorite aspect of the industry is difficult to define. I’ve had the opportunity to stretch myself, learn, and be challenged in all areas of HR, and I value the experience. But if I have to pick one, it would be when a leader and colleague relationship breaks down, which results in separation at the company—even more so when these individuals take the situation as a personal failure. Lessons learned are essential. Shame, however, is unproductive and can have a lasting effect on your career. It can stifle potential and the ability to move forward.
It sounds like, through your experience, you really care about people, and you want to help them feel safe and comfortable, which is important in the industry. Please elaborate here.
As mentioned, I care about helping people realize their why. But it’s important not to silo the support for employees to one department (as if it’s an initiative). Life can be challenging. We face different hills and valleys at different times. A company’s culture has to permeate every level and every department—from individual contributors to the C-suite. The HR leader must be the champion, coach, advocate, and sometimes disciplinarian to ensure we’re all building a sincere and meaningful culture. To do this, we should be self-aware and vulnerable, celebrate wins, and appreciate each other’s faults and strengths so we know how to bring our best selves to work each day.
How can HR most effectively demonstrate its value to the leadership team?
HR connects the business and its mission and objectives to its audience. Automation and artificial intelligence continue to change the speed and effectiveness of business. It’s imperative that we prioritize our people, as their strengths and creativity enable us to imagine more in order to deliver a better way to bank. From a practical perspective, the business has three lines: the top line, bottom line, and pipeline. It should behoove any company to strongly align its pipeline to the needs of the business so it can be learning-agile, change-ready, and future-focused to move with the speed required to meet our customers’ needs. HR must understand the company’s current objectives and long-term strategic goals. It also requires active participation at the leadership table to create an environment where the company’s talent can tap their inner creativity, develop new solutions to reach business goals, and continue enhancing their skill sets.
What are you most proud of?
Stating the obvious, I’m most proud of my family and the support they’ve provided me as I have grown and failed and stretched myself to be who I am today. I wouldn’t be where I am without their faith in me.
In terms of a more recent professional win, implementing the first strategic HR department for Butler University was an enormous undertaking that will ultimately serve a team of 1,500 employees for many years.
Do you have any advice for people entering the profession?
My advice would be three-fold:
Remain sincerely curious. Approach every day curious about the business, the people, and why they work where they do. Above all else, challenge yourself to remain curious so you continue to learn.
Find ways to manage the bad days. Working with people can be extremely satisfying, but it will inherently bring about sad, challenging, and difficult days. When those days happen, as they will, find ways to center yourself and get to the root cause. For example, one of my favorite bosses kept a warm apple cinnamon pie-scented candle in her office. Whenever we had a challenging moment, she would remind me to smell the candle. It immediately brought me to my grandmother’s house and her baked goods. (I bake because of her influence.) This exercise immediately centered me, reminded me of what’s important, and helped me view the situation with a clearer mind. I now tell my team this story and keep a candle in my office whenever my team or I need it. Wallowing in a problem doesn’t fix it. But if we take time to center ourselves, we can find how we fit into the problem and how we can solve it.
Know who you are. Working on yourself is important for all facets of life. Seek out opportunities for coaching, reading, leadership assessments, peer networking, and the like. Remember that you are where you need to be, and all your experiences—good and bad—are what got you there. Celebrate, learn, and move forward from each of those experiences. Part of the “day you find out why” includes a true appreciation of yourself and an ability to remain authentic and humble.
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