Susan succeeded in shows that HR can really make a difference during company expansion
Six years ago Susan Moriconi was presented with a challenge: helping California-based Omnicell Inc. convert from small-company HR practices to expansive systems able to support a rapidly growing company become a $2 billion-ready firm.
Thanks to acquisitions, the international healthcare automation provider has taken on 1,700 more employees since 2012, now boasting a worldwide workforce of 2,500 and annual revenues of $800 million. The $2 billion mark is a five-year goal.
“When we reach (our goal), we will be a much different company,” notes CHRO Moriconi. “It’s such an exciting time; right now at this company, there’s an opportunity for HR to make a real difference.”
That doesn’t mean the transition has been easy so far. Among ongoing HR challenges, she cited:
- Creating common systems for multiple locations. “Having 13 HR systems which did not connect to each other made it very difficult to understand where we were and measure progress. Much of that was done painstakingly manually.”
- Undergoing continual questioning by employees about her authority to make changes. “Rapid growth for an HR team generally resourced in the bottom quartile added complexity and expectations … (yet we were) expected to keep doing what had always been done.”
- Retraining managers to align with future business goals, particularly in regard to poor performers. “We still struggle with getting folks to understand working across teams and geographies is not a ‘nice to have,’ but critically important … and there will be consequences if that doesn’t happen. Differentiating pay for performance meant having tough discussions with employees by managers reluctant and untrained in how to do it.”
- Being among the first corporate departments at Omnicell to integrate. “It sort of gives comfort to other departments that can say ‘See, they’re doing it, it works,’” she notes.
- Trying to blend corporate and national cultures. “We’ve had misunderstandings when we acquire a company, in the way things get done,” she notes. “For example, they would get a group together, brainstorm, think, move ahead … and repeat that process several times. We would just have things ready for approval, and they felt their input wasn’t needed…although it was.” One solution has been establishing work groups that can jointly discuss workflows, budgets, and processes for decision-making.
- Managing differences in benefits administration, both legal and cultural. “We have to know the norms of the country — and what we have to offer — to be competitive in hiring. What we might think is a lovely form of recognition might not be acceptable.”
- Navigating GDPR and managing other countries’ regulations regarding the storage and usage of employee data.
- Ensuring the transition focuses on “clearly articulated respect and appreciation for who and what got us to where we are.”
- Attracting and retaining a diverse workforce in a company that had what Moriconi calls “a start-up hero mentality.” “But we need to not give up the values and nimbleness of a startup. I look for people who can keep their eye on where we need to go, but be flexible on the route to get there.”
Challenges notwithstanding, Moriconi says she loves her work, is proud of her department’s accomplishments, and has received positive feedback from many. Her advice for peers undertaking similar ventures?
- Decide which areas should change quickly and which changes must be gradual.
- Your work may feel like you’re taking one step forward, two steps back. “Don’t beat yourself up if things don’t go as quickly as you originally planned, if leadership is not doing so. Know when to let go and come back later, perhaps using the “stealth” approach.”
- Stay focused on the difference your work will make on the organization.
- Temporary work overloads are OK, but shouldn’t become the new normal for yourself or other employees.
- Acknowledge to employees that change can feel like a time of loss.