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The Challenges Facing HR: An Interview with Patty McKay of AMN Healthcare

August 19, 2016

HR-Professionals.jpgI recently had the opportunity to chat with Patty McKay who is an HR Executive at AMN Healthcare in San Diego. Patty has over 25 years of experience in leading teams such as OD and Learning, Leadership and Professional Development, Change Management, Assessment and Selection, eLearning, and Sales Management. She has experience working cross-culturally and operating with the highest standard of personal accountability and transparency.

Patty’s specialties include Leadership Development, Coaching, Global Mindset, Cross Cultural Sensitivity, Organization Development, Strategic Thinking and Execution, Change Leadership, Systems Thinking and Synthesis, Behavioral Interviewing, Project Management, and Yoga and Fitness. During our discussion Patty and I chatted about the challenges she faces, globalization, and millennials, among other things. Read on for a summary of our discussion.

What are the biggest challenges that HR faces currently?

Patty McKayThere are so many. The challenge that is at the forefront right now is the fact that corporate cultures are changing in America. These changes are being driven by people who have less and less loyalty to the company. That, combined with the globalization of most corporations, is forcing HR to re-think a number of things, including:

1. How do we hire talent?

2. How do we develop and lead our talent?

3. How do we reward and recognize talent?

4. What do we do when people exit the organization?

Some organizations need to seriously think about and change their approach to these 4 issues if they want to stay competitive in a global economy moving forward.

Do any recent examples stick out in your mind to help illustrate these challenges?

PattyOf course! In fact, just the other day I attended the graduation of our summer associate program. During the ceremony each of the graduates gave a presentation about why they selected AMN and what they learned during their time with us. These young adults were so impressive. I think that recent college graduates are entering the workforce with a much higher level of skill, knowledge, and composure than in the past. They know what they are looking for. They know what they want.

It is hard to attract this kind of talent – how do we do that? That is the key for us (and other organizations) moving forward. How do we attract, develop, and retain this kind of talent? It takes a dedicated effort and a strategy to make this happen. Just hiring good people isn’t enough. 

These recent grads are probably the last of the millennials. Have you found millennials to be different or more challenging in any way to hire and retain?

PattyAlthough a lot has been written about the entitlement of millennials I strongly believe they are not that much different that everyone else. The best way to lead anyone is to understand them as an individual. They are not all entitled. They just want to be known for who they are. What leaders need to do is simply lead them as they would like to be led. It's really no different than any other generation.

In your response to my first questions, you mentioned globalization. Can you talk a bit more about why that is a challenge?

PattyGlobal can mean that an organization is physically operating in multiple countries. Or, like in our case, it means that people from all over the world are working for us. There are all different types of people we work with and we had better get really good at including all of their perspectives, communicating with them, etc.

PM-Quote-2.jpgIf we can understand and get to know our employees as individuals, we will be even more successful. Treating someone like a stereotype is the worst thing you can do. If we want to engage our global workforce, we need to try to see it from their perspective. We need to have what I call “Global Agility”. Global Agility is essentially seeing the perspective of people from other cultures.

What keeps you up at night as an HR Executive?

PattyLike most of the Fortune 500 companies, AMN has had massive growth. We have a lot of new locations and new people and it’s more decentralized now. We need to think about how we are extending the footprint of HR to meet the needs of all of those people. And, oh by the way, we need to keep costs under control and don’t want to have people flying all over the country all the time. How are we taking care of all of those team members? That is definitely what keeps me up at night.

What is the biggest challenge you face with regard to leadership selection and development?

PattyTruly one of our biggest challenges is, how to get leaders to recognize that the most important part of their job is taking care of their people. We have excellent engagement data. But people want more leadership, they want more coaching, more feedback, and more one-on-ones. That is not just millennials either. It is everyone who wants more of this.

PM-Quote.jpgIt’s not that our leaders are bad. We have great leaders but they need to be doing even more with their people. They need to focus less on tasks and more on people. They need to accomplish more through people.

We have a phrase at AMN “It’s all about the conversation”. You can tell people until you’re blue in the face to do something. You can make it 50% of their performance plan. But what people listen to is recency and relevancy. If my boss is telling me on a regular basis that I need to be focusing on my people, then that is what I do. Our leaders need to focus on this.

For my last question, I am going to change the topic a bit. As an HR leader, what tactics or organizational tools have you used to be successful in your work life? With all of the information coming at you, it must be hard to focus.

PattyPlanning and organizing is huge for me. I basically use a task list on steroids, maintain it electronically, and utilize it as a communication tool upwards and downwards (2 levels down as well). I am also a veracious note taker. It has saved me so many times. The other thing I do to manage my time is that I go to bed early and I get up early. I honor my work outs. I actually schedule a calendar meeting with myself for my exercise, and I very rarely break it.

I really enjoyed my time with Patty and there are some great pieces of advice within her responses. Even though AMN is a huge organization, much of this can be applied to middle and small corporations who have similar challenges. Thank you, Patty, for your time and insights.

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Paul Glatzhofer Paul Glatzhofer is the VP of Talent Solutions based in the Pittsburgh office of PSI Services LLC. He works primarily with organizations that are implementing global assessment and development systems at the leadership level. Paul’s work includes leadership development, leadership skills training, coaching, leadership and executive selection, turnover and ROI analysis, and ongoing feedback development.