'It's important to be flexible where possible, make decisions with empathy (but not emotions), and focus on employee experience instead of rule compliance.'
This article was first published on September 7, 2023, by HR Daily Advisor, a sibling publication to HealthLeaders, and has been adapted for HealthLeaders.
Human resources (HR) leaders in healthcare can learn and take valuable information from HR leaders in other sectors. In this article, read how one leader is championing culture and mployee experience for their organization.
Meet Shannon Duvall, Sr. Director of People and Culture at CallTrackingMetrics (CTM), a global conversation analytics company. Duvall brings more than 15 years of experience managing and scaling HR operations to her role where she develops the long-term strategic vision of CTM’s culture and employee experience. Additionally, since she joined the company, CTM has consecutively been named to Inc.’s Best Places to Work, as well as Best Place to Work by Baltimore Business Journal.
We recently connected with Duvall to discuss how she got his start in the industry, her biggest influences, and best mistake. The lesson? Follow the rules but be flexible.
“My best mistake was following the rules exactly,” Duvall shared with HR Daily Advisor. “It sounds crazy, but during the early part of my career, I was taught that there are sets of rules that HR needs to follow precisely. It was an old-school, rigid method of thinking that no longer aligned with the cultural expectations of new hires. It’s important to be flexible where possible, make decisions with empathy (but not emotions) and focus on employee experience instead of rule compliance.”
In our latest Faces, meet Shannon Duvall.
How did you get your start in the field?
My first job out of college was working as a receptionist/executive assistant for a rapidly growing company, and I happened to report to the HR Manager. I would assist with various HR projects and began to get interested in the field. I applied for an HR Generalist role when it opened and was selected, and my HR life officially began.
Who is/was your biggest influence in the industry?
My biggest influence in the industry has been a Chief People officer I began reporting to about eight years into my career. This CPO had never worked in HR before — her background was compliance and business development. She pushed me to think with an outside-of-HR perspective, which helped propel my forward thinking and encouraged me to view situations through a different lens than what was expected in the space. She challenged me to align more with the operations side of the business and showed me how to think about supporting the organization in strategy development instead of just HR-related items.
What’s your favorite part about working in the industry? What’s your least favorite part, and how would you change it?
My favorite part of working in HR is the people aspect. While it might sound cliché, helping individuals navigate their professional journeys and watching them grow is incredibly fulfilling. Witnessing a recent graduate evolve into a skilled professional through our comprehensive career path program is truly rewarding. Having the opportunity to provide practical assistance during challenging personal times, such as helping an employee find suitable care for an ill loved one, brings immense satisfaction. Each day, I strive to foster an environment where employees feel supported and empowered, pushing them to consider their true happiness and potential both professionally and personally.
But of course, there are moments that are less enjoyable. One aspect that can be tough is handling situations like layoffs. While I understand that rightsizing is often a necessary part of doing business, it’s still a difficult task. Additionally, although I engage with employees regularly, some interactions are more transactional, like addressing benefit queries. I wish I had more time to conduct insightful focus groups and gather actionable feedback, fostering a deeper connection with the workforce.
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.
I’m genuinely passionate about people’s well-being and creating an environment where everyone feels at ease, and it’s humbling to work at an organization that has those same values. At CallTrackingMetrics, communication is a cornerstone, and we go the extra mile to ensure it’s a two-way street. We don’t add titles on our name tags or plates because a title shouldn’t change how you interact with someone. Whether you’re chatting with the company president or an entre-level new hire, it should feel equally comfortable.
Little things like having a literal open-door policy, or even the fun stuff like riding around on scooters – it all contributes to a sense of openness. And for new employees, we make sure they’re not just handed a rulebook, but rather, we have conversations about how they’ve experienced workplaces before, what they believe in and if they trust that we’ll keep our promises.
How can HR most effectively demonstrate its value to the leadership team?
HR can prove its value by supporting the leadership team. Coach leadership team members on difficult conversations, support them by being flexible where you can be, keep them informed on what you are hearing from employees and develop a foundation of great benefits, processes and candidates that is easy for them to build a culture on top of. These actions all help them be their best selves and great leaders to their teams.
Where do you see the industry heading in five years? Or are you seeing any current trends?
Over the next five years, it’s going to be quite a journey for our industry. We’ve been hearing a lot about AI, and it’ll be fascinating to see how it fits in at CallTrackingMetrics, especially since we’re already using AI in our software to help our customers. One area I’m curious about is how generative AI will play out in the HR space. HR is all about that personal touch, and I hope we don’t lose that. Imagine having a question and being directed to some chatbot – that’s not the same as talking to a real person, right?
However, AI could take care of a lot of the behind-the-scenes HR stuff, like sorting out benefits and payroll, that could free up our team to focus more on the people part of the job. However, there are also federal rules and regulations that could be real roadblocks to full automation. The big question is, will these rules catch up with all the cool tech we have?
What are you most proud of?
I am most proud of the initiative I took in 2020 while still being relatively new to CallTrackingMetrics. At that point, our company consisted of just 50 people, and we were still in startup mode. During that time of significant external challenges and shifting priorities, we mirrored successful strategies from industry leaders like Salesforce and Google through thorough research and collaboration with our talent manager. Our initiatives included a volunteer time off program, donation matching and a flexible floating holiday to honor individual celebrations. We also launched a comprehensive diversity and inclusion survey to foster a more inclusive culture. These efforts not only fortified our company values but also resonated strongly with new recruits who value such a forward-thinking environment.
Do you have any advice for people entering the profession?
First and foremost, maintaining emotional resilience is vital. Remember, everyone’s perspective is their reality, so it’s crucial not to take things personally. Flexibility is key, even within the confines of established rules. Approach people with empathy, especially during challenging times; it’s a fundamental aspect of the role, even if recognition isn’t always forthcoming.
Don’t hesitate to ask questions and challenge norms — all in a respectful manner, of course. Understanding the reasons behind actions can be just as important as the actions themselves. Beyond the contents of the HR manual, gain a holistic understanding of how the company functions – how its different parts interact, collaborate, and contribute to the entirety of the organization.
When it comes to integrating Gen Z into the workforce, be prepared to adapt. They bring their own unique perspective, and harmonizing with it is key. Blend empathy, curiosity, and strategic thinking to create a workplace environment that resonates with everyone.
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