An Interview With Dottie Donnelly of Cantel Medical

June 20th, 2018

How HR Drives Success at Cantel Medical

For Dottie Donnelly, HR isn’t just a contributing factor to a company’s success. It’s a key driver of it. That was her vision when she joined Cantel, a leading provider of infection prevention products and services, as SVP and Chief HR Officer (CHRO) in January 2017.

“Everything that we design and deliver is done with that mindset, enabling the business to grow and our culture and work environment to be very attractive to talent,” she says.

As SVP and CHRO, Donnelly is responsible for Cantel’s global HR function, including its people, strategy, policies, systems, and processes such as talent acquisition and management, succession planning, learning and development, diversity, compensation and benefits, and performance.

As part of her HR strategy, she involved the management team early on to ensure that everyone had the opportunity to collaborate on bringing the vision to life.

“I worked closely with the management team to ensure their input was taken into full consideration as the HR strategy was developed. We were able to identify what needed to be done to improve our current HR function and believe that a collaborative approach allowed us to fully align to ensure we were moving forward on the same page,” she explains.

One of the toughest challenges Donnelly faced in her new role had to do with the current HR infrastructure (and that of the rest of the company) not being set up to keep pace with Cantel’s rapid growth. They’re in the process of building the systems, processes, policies, and capabilities needed to support the organization now and in the future — but the business can’t stop running while that happens.

“We are in some sense flying the airplane and serving customers while we are building it,” she says. “While this is at times a challenge, this makes it a very exciting place to work.”

In any HR function, she notes, there is typically behind-the-scenes work that goes on just to help keep the company running.

“People don’t automatically get recruited, hired, onboarded, developed, and so on,” she says, noting that hiring top talent in a job seekers’ economy has been a challenge, as has access to HR data. “Having rich data, and the ability to draw insights to make better decisions about people is a crucial enabler for the success of the company.”

She believes some of the more valued services that her HR team provides is organizational consulting, and organization design and development. Cantel is fast-growing, and appropriately evolving its operating model, including ways of working, business processes and organizational structure to keep pace with its growth.

“The ongoing rate of change and fast pace environment makes this work experience very rich. I am fortunate to have a team that is pretty fearless, nimble and adaptable to help the organization navigate complex, ever-changing and evolving situations by applying their hard work and diverse skillset to offer solutions to resolve issues that arise.”

A key factor in that is building relationships and trust among her colleagues.

“I’m the kind of person who is very transparent in my approach, so sometimes things I have to say or do act as a catalyst or directly drive change which can seem disruptive, yet my colleagues know that my main goal is to help the company rapidly evolve to stay competitive and that I have the best intention for the company, employees, and management team at heart,” she says. “I make it a point to remain open-minded, seek to understand all perspectives, and aim to build trust and gain respect by being consistent, collaborative, and passionate about the role that I play in the company.”

Donnelly’s best advice to others in her position is to remain humble, be willing to learn, and focus on building collaborative solutions. She says that you should build yourself a “kitchen cabinet” of advisers and confidants that you can go to in order to obtain valuable information, bounce ideas around, get feedback, and share best practices.

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“As the CHRO, you are in such a unique position that requires the utmost confidentiality that you need to have people both inside and outside of your company to rely on for advice and counsel, and to help you remain objective in your decision making,” she says. “Also, use humor where you can and always focus on bringing a balanced perspective. It’s important for the CHRO to address situations in a neutral, fair, and open-minded fashion, whether it’s the CEO, the Board, or the C-Suite.”

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