United Recovery Systems’ CHRO, Michael Hoehne, discusses how HR can add business value and positively impact company culture to build a successful organization
“Don’t forget your other roles you have had before. Take it with you, because it is all a building process.”
That’s good advice, especially coming from Michael V. Hoehne, Senior Vice President and Chief Human Resources (HR) Officer since January 2014 at United Recovery Systems LP, a Texas-based collection service working in the credit card, retail, commercial and deficiency loan industries.
As an undergraduate, Hoehne studied Computer Management and Business Programming. “At the time, I was the only person in my family to finish college,” he said. “I had no one to act as a real-world model for my career path, so I studied what seemed to be the most in-demand subject.”
But a life behind a keyboard ultimately held little appeal, so Hoehne looked back to his collegiate days. “I had been involved in numerous activities, including athletic teams and residence hall government, and the retail industry seemed a better match for the skills I had developed,” he recalled.
Initially working in retail pharmacy management, Hoehne soon became a well-rounded professional, focusing on training, hiring and disciplining of employees. “There was no dedicated HR staffer in the stores,” he said, “so we’d often hire as needed, rather than looking for the best possible employee.”
He found that the right employees could make a big difference in the business, so he set out to change the situation. “I would spend some of my days off working with the training manager to develop a program for lower-level management spots,” Hoehne said.
And that experience piqued his interest in HR. He went on to hold senior HR positions with Sears, Roebuck and Co., Wickes Furniture Co. and APAC Customer Services (servicing Fortune 500 clients using voice, online, email, text or chat).
Build Your Own Success Model
Hoehne has brought part of each previous job with him to new opportunities. “You build on your life experiences, both personal and professional,” he said. “Learn the right things to do from good leaders, and build your own model for success.”
These models, he noted, can range from proper leadership approaches (“Some bosses yell in order to get things done,” Hoehne said, “but I found that doesn’t drive the right results”) to something as mundane as spending 30 minutes in the morning planning your day, rather than just tackling random projects.
The workplace offers many opportunities to learn, Hoehne added. “You’re always subject to the things you must do,” he said, “but you can always reach further—take on extra projects or participate in a cross-functional committee.” It will demonstrate your dedication and your interest in helping the business succeed.
He highlights, too, that a varied background, even in college, can be beneficial. “I worked during summers and after school hours, and developed some good contacts,” Hoehne said. “I also participated in track, cross country and the Illinois Residence Hall Association. That exposed me to many different universities and colleges and their leadership teams.” The point? “It shows recruiters and employers that you’re more than just a 9-to-5 drudge.”
Put Ideas Into Action
By developing a broad knowledge base about their companies, HR professionals can create significant value through their work. “There are many capable HR professionals who have lots of ideas,” Hoehne acknowledged, “but the ones with real business discipline understand how to make them work.”
For example, instead of simply hiring to meet a census goal, Hoehne’s group will analyze what each prospect can bring to the business—in terms of revenue, transactions or other metrics—and then hire those most likely to enhance the company’s success.
“When we use analytics to interface with our business runners, they tend to take us more seriously,” Hoehne explained, “because they see that we want to help the business operate better. Getting the right people means they can add value, and are less likely to leave in the future.”
Maintain Culture & Attitude
The HR group also can contribute, even in subtle ways, to a company’s increased success via its culture. “Unless it’s really bad, there’s never a reason to change a culture completely,” Hoehne said. “Instead, you can introduce improvements that will drive toward better performance.”
Introducing change can be a long process, but Hoehne maintains that it’s easier if senior leadership presents a vision for the future, determines the changes needed to realize that vision, and then implements them, always relating them to the people in the organization. To illustrate, Hoehne offers the use of performance metrics.
“In some cases, everyone gets rewarded when the company is doing well. But that can lead to a sense of entitlement,” he said. “A better practice would be to set a revenue target, implement performance-reward metrics, and explain that the new practice will recognize and benefit top performance. People usually say it makes more sense than giving everyone a raise because there’s more incentive to perform better.”
Basing rewards on both corporate and individual performance also can help people understand that everyone, from senior leaders to the person who answers the phones, can play an important part in the company’s success. “Many companies don’t acknowledge the contributions of lower-tier employees,” Hoehne said. “I think they could be more successful if they did that.”
“People rarely come to the HR Department with great news. Usually it’s a problem with an incorrect check, some difficulty in employee relations, or a similar situation. It’s important to keep a positive attitude, and try to enjoy what you’re doing,” Hoehne said. “You work far too long not to enjoy it. I never dread coming into the office. I’m happy where I am, and I’ll continue to impact the business today and even more in the future.” ♦
For Michael Hoehne, volunteering in the community is practically second nature. “My parents had little time to formally volunteer, but they always helped people out,” he said. “My father donated money when he could, and my mother helped neighbors with free child care. That’s how I learned the importance of giving back, even when you get nothing tangible in return. So I get involved when I can, maybe helping at a homeless shelter or a hospital, or working to address inner-city concerns at the food bank.”
It’s important for businesses to do the same, according to Hoehne—and to keep it local. Complex companies generally have operations in many locations, and different offices will have their own “pet” charities. One might support cancer research; another location, a food bank; yet another, animal shelters. Corporate giving, he advised, should reflect that.
“Instead of being a one-charity giver, whether of dollars or service hours, companies should support those local efforts,” Hoehne said. “They’re closer to their employees’ hearts and minds, and people are more willing to donate when they can see the effects happening in their own backyards.”
Michael's Key PartnersArlington Resources, Inc. (HR Staffing & Search) | Russell Reynolds (Executive Placement)
Latest posts by Frederick Jerant (see all)
- How to Create a Culture of Appreciation to Keep Your Team in Good Spirits - October 12, 2015
- Building an HR Success Model - September 2, 2015
- The Arithmetic Way to Deliver a Great Digital Media Product - January 9, 2015