Mercy Health’s executive director of people, learning and culture, Kate McCormack FAHRI, reflects on a successful HR career in the health sector.
Q. During your 14 years with Mercy Health, what changes to the HR function have you witnessed?
I started on a three-month contract and had no intention of staying. Fourteen years later, I can safely say the HR function has grown and transformed to support the evolution of the business. Mercy Health has expanded to the point where it can care for communities from birth to death, and the HR function supports our staff in the same way. We now have HR business partners and, as a model, this works well.
Q. What is it about the health industry that has retained your interest for so long?
Health is a 24/7 business and it’s constantly changing. The reason we exist and the reason we remain inspired is our people – the carers, patients, families and support staff who make up the Mercy Health community. The diversity of my role also keeps things interesting. I have responsibility across HR, learning, communications, media, and OHS/WHS.
Q. Employee engagement is at an all-time low. Why do you think this is the case, and how can organisations turn this negative trend around?
Employee engagement is largely about culture. You can have the most talented, motivated people in your organisation, but if they don’t feel valued they will eventually disengage. It is critical to constantly listen and communicate to your people. Our CEO, Stephen Cornelissen, is approachable and transparent, and I think people value that in an organisation.
Q. You have been recognised as a diversity and inclusion champion. What are the greatest points of resistance in achieving results in this area?
Middle management is the one group that is constantly overloaded. Trying to influence them as they juggle their own teams, workloads and reporting lines can be a big challenge.
Q. What’s your advice on achieving management buy-in for HR initiatives?
Resilience! Start with the CEO, get them on board and work down the line.
Q. What’s the one lesson you’ve learnt in your career that you wish you’d known as a graduate?
It’s okay to make a mistake.
Q. What do you think will be an increased focus for the HR profession in 2015?
We constantly have to justify our existence, and that won’t change. Now and into the future, we must demonstrate that we understand the business and are aligned to its objectives.
This article is an edited version. The full article was first published in the December 2014/January 2015 issue of HRMonthly magazine as ‘Meet… Kate McCormack FAHRI’. AHRI members receive HRMonthly 11 times per year as part of their membership. Find out more about AHRI membership here.