Faces of HR

Jessica Micciche on Unleashing the Creativity of Her Employees and Breaking the Rules (in a Good Way)

Welcome back to Faces of HR. In this space every Friday, we will profile one of your peers, learn about his or her experiences as and feelings about being an HR professional, what the person’s goals are, and how he or she hopes to accomplish those goals—and get to know a little about your peer as a person along the way!

Today we’re learning about Jessica Micciche, Senior Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer at Availity, the nation’s largest real-time health information network. Micciche joined Availity less than a month ago, bringing 15 years of HR experience in high-tech and manufacturing environments with her. She oversees a team of 21 HR employees and is responsible for 1,025 associates and contractors globally.

How did you get started in HR?

“I started my career in sales, actually, for quite a few years. I was a quota-carrying sales rep, so I know intimately how difficult it is to bring revenue in the door and the hard work that goes into it. And then it was by way of bringing some training to the sales force that Human Resources was on my radar screen. So, I started to look into that and ended up joining Human Resources through organizational effectiveness, learning, and L&D. For me, I’ve always kind of had two worlds that got mashed together, from sales and HR, that formulated the way that I look at the work today. I got here by a little bit of a route that people aren’t used to.”

You have a new position at Availity. What motivated you to make the move?

“When I met with the leadership team of Availity, you could just see how passionate they were for this work. What we do at our company, every day, is try to transform the healthcare industry and think about how providers and payers can work together to improve patient care. They really feel very strongly about this work, and they feel strongly about the role their associates can play in making that happen. And I think more and more, all of us—and sometimes the smart ones are born with this, but many of us come to it later in our career—being mission driven in the work that we do was super important to me. So, it was my colleagues and their passion for the work and their hopes and desires for all that we can do for the team here to forward the mission.”

What are you hoping to accomplish with this new position?

“If I think about the company strategy, and I think about the role of Human Resources in advancing that strategy, whether we are doing acquisitions, or we are just trying to fill our openings in general, or trying to develop our team, I want the HR function to really make sure that every aspect of the HR service model lets our company and team move as fast as they possibly can. But not only fast—effectively as well. ‘How many barriers can we get out of the way?’ ‘How many decisions can we allow the team to make on the ground?’ And that’s an opportunity for us, and that’s what I’m hoping to accomplish with this organization.”

Why are you passionate about HR?

“I think all of the rules in the world cannot create safety. And no matter how many processes and policies you put in place, you’ll never improve upon the beauty of an inspired and informed associate and the difference that they can make at a company. I love the idea of leading the function that helps develop and unleash the creativity of the phenomenal associates we have here at Availity.

“I think sometimes we get too ahead of ourselves in the HR function. We think that if we create a policy or create some kind of process that we can lock down, that makes us safe as we move forward. And I actually like to unleash the decision-making. I think we hire some of the best and brightest, and their thinking and their creativity will actually be better than any policy or process that we come up with.”

What’s one of the most fun things that you’ve seen in your years in HR?

“This one goes back a long way; it holds a special place in my heart, and I’ll never forget it. I had an engineer once that I was interviewing, and he was fresh out of school—the economy was bad at the time. I mean we cannot even imagine a world today in which a software engineer is working at CVS while trying to find a job, but I’ve been in this long enough where I’ve seen it all, and that was what he was doing.

“We were hiring, and the starting base pay was going to be $60,000. When I asked him what his salary expectations were for the role, his answer was, ‘I will not take this job for less than $33,000 a year.’ I said ‘Oh, that’s good to know, and I’m glad you are firm on that number, so we’ll come back to you.’  I went and got the hiring manager and I said, ‘You are making this offer with me because this is going to be the most fun you and I are going to have in probably the next 6 months.’ When we offered him that job, not only was he speechless, he was emotional, his parents were emotional—that was one of the most fun moments I’ve had in Human Resources.”

What advice would you give a budding HR pro who is just starting out?

“Master all of the rules. Master the laws. You have got to have that because you have got to build that base of knowledge. But once you do that, that’s when the fun begins. That’s when you can start to break the rules and really make a difference.”

What rules are you breaking?

“When I look at the typical format of a performance review, I am certain that for many organizations, maybe not all, but for many organizations, your typical 5-point rating scale is hurting the company more than it’s helping it. I think it’s breaking relationships between associates and their managers. I also think the performance discussion becomes an argument or a test of wills versus a beautiful conversation about celebrating the value someone brought to the organization in, say, the last 3 to 5 months. It should also be about examining areas where the manager is really worried about or wants to double-click on and help that associate to ensure that they are successful. So, the rules of how you do performance management are certainly something I’m very big on breaking.”

Would you like to be profiled in a future Faces of HR and share your experiences, challenges, etc.? Or, do you know anyone else in HR you think has an interesting story to tell?  Write us at HRDAeditors@blr.com and include your name and contact information; be sure to put “Faces of HR” in the subject line.