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10 May 2013 | Paul Snell
Attracting the right people in the right positions is the CPO's most important task because otherwise the team cannot perform.
“The most important thing we have all done is attracted excellent talent,” said Deborah Beavin, CPO at health insurer Humana. “If we don't get the right people in the right roles – and they can't all be cookie cutter – then we can't be successful in meeting the performance that is expected of us. People matter and they matter a lot.”
She told delegates at the Institute for Supply Management annual conference that a key factor for her when recruiting was establishing the recruit's “cultural connection”.
“I spend most of the interview talking about what are the things that excite you, are passionate for you in terms of the ultimate expectations for your career, but also sharing with them from a cultural standpoint some things that are expected in Humana,” she said. “And I encourage people to have 'day-in-the-life'-type conversations with people before they commit, because it has to be a mutual fit and I want them to be in that role and passionate about being in this role and not just to be the stepping stone.”
Beavin highlighted some of the minimum requirements she looked for from candidates. “The 'table stakes' for us are making sure people have basic business acumen. When we are assessing them, is there an understanding of the business? Have they done research about our business? Do they understand our industry? We also look at if they have analytical capability – the ability to turn analytics into action? And also a passion for learning. Are you a person who can bring great gifts when you come in, but are you up to continuing to learn and building that toolkit. And being results orientated – can you deliver and demonstrate you have delivered in the past?”
As Humana frequently makes acquisitions, she said, she also looks for people who would be comfortable in such a changing environment.
Beavin also pointed out the need for social and emotional intelligence. “That is such a huge array of skills and capability. I will boil it down to this: in conversations, when someone is able to engage with a business partner, being able to use it for an opportunity for mutual learning and push opportunities forward, too. It's all about comfort in self, but humility to learn.”
She also referred to procurement skills, but intentionally listed them last. “We can bring people in and teach them procurement – especially in an entry level role,” she said. “For some of the leadership roles, we have even brought people in who have a deep understanding of print or clinical care and taught them procurement because they have bought that core experience.”
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