After completing undergrad at the University of St. Thomas, HR wasn’t the end-goal for Amy Spartz when she initially started her career.
“When I set out, I had a new baby, and just really needed a job,” she told HR Daily Advisor. “After reaching out to as many people as I could within my network, I came across an individual who thought I would do well in the field of HR. The more I thought about it, the more I realized he was right – and he was! Now that I’m here, I’m glad the job search led me down this path.”
More than 20 years later, Spartz has no intention of going anywhere. Over the course of her impressive career, she has held several executive positions including a human capital partner with Optum Health and senior vice president at ECMC Group, a student loan services organization. Additionally, Spartz and her husband own three restaurants.
Currently, Spartz serves as Chief People Officer at Gravie, a health benefits company. Gravie was launched a decade ago and Spartz joined not long after in 2015. The Minneapolis-based company’s flagship product, Comfort®, provides zero-cost coverage on the most common healthcare services including primary, preventive, and urgent care and generic prescriptions.
Gravie has grown tremendously over the past few years, tripling its workforce to more than 300 people. When it comes to recruiting, even when you’re experiencing exponential growth, Spartz noted that one of her best mistakes is “underestimating the time and number of resources needed to prepare.”
“I wish I had started preparing earlier, hired recruiters earlier, got great tools in place earlier – you name it, I should have started it earlier,” Spartz says. “At Gravie, we have a big mission and vision we’re striving toward that demands innovative, critical thinkers. Additionally, at the rapid rate of growth we’re experiencing, we’re making a concerted effort to maintain and foster the exceptional culture our founders set out to create.”
In our latest Faces, meet Amy Spartz
Who is/was your biggest influence in the industry?
I’m inspired by my colleagues at Gravie, our company’s vision of a health plan people will love, and the culture our co-founders have created. Before coming to Gravie, I was running my own consulting practice and loved it so much that I decided I would never work for someone else again. But after hearing the vision for Gravie, I was sold. And the way we approach people management has been so different and refreshing.
What’s your favorite part about working in the industry? What’s your least favorite part, and how would you change it?
I love people, and that’s what I get working in the HR industry – I get to know so many facets of all the people around me. You don’t have to love all aspects of HR, but I think most of us in the industry would be hard pressed to not find a couple parts to love. It’s fulfilling work to see people thrive in their jobs when they are authentically supported, and their needs, especially as it relates to benefits, are being met on and off the clock.
My least favorite part of my industry is when someone takes something that’s been happening for years, rebrands it and then shouts it from a mountaintop like they’ve discovered something new. Quiet quitting? Please, Gen X invented that years ago. It’s just been rebranded. Instead of focusing on clever names for issues that have always existed, we should focus on the root of the actual problem and address it directly. Quiet quitting is really employee engagement, so tapping into your employees’ passions, energy and focus on the problems becomes the opportunity.
It sounds like through your experience you really care about people, and you want to help them feel safe and comfortable, which is important in the industry. Please elaborate here.
Safety is one thing, and comfort is another. Sadly, workplace safety has evolved into something really threatening and all leaders (not just HR) need to be proactive about security – physical and mental, industry, cyber – and plan for those things every year. In contrast, being comfortable isn’t something individuals should expect at all points in their career. If you aren’t pushing yourself or being pushed, you could be holding yourself back and refraining from taking risks that may really help you grow and develop new skills and interests for the future.
How can HR most effectively demonstrate its value to the leadership team?
In collaboration with a supportive CEO, HR leaders should work to identify the handful of most critical issues that will help drive the business toward its definition of success. You probably can’t be all things to all people, so focus on doing a few initiatives well.
Where do you see the industry heading in five years? Or are you seeing any current trends?
People and businesses are both complex. Finding ways to attract, motivate and retain talented people will most likely always be the focus of our industry. But we’ll be using AI, data science and all sorts of other new tools to keep innovating on how we do that work. It’s also interesting to see the juxtaposition in the industry as the use of technology progresses alongside a trend of more “vintage” ideas and terminology. Maybe we’ll all go back to referring to ourselves as “personnel.”
What are you most proud of?
Besides my daughter, I’m proud of the fact that the hardest job I’ve ever had is my current one, and that I’ve continued to challenge myself throughout my career. From the top of the organization, it’s been made clear that my role is central to our company’s success over the next few years. That’s incredibly motivating!
Do you have any advice for people entering the profession?
My advice for emerging HR leaders would be to observe and learn, think critically, and speak your mind. Take risks and know you’ll make mistakes – but try to anticipate the ones you can; don’t be reckless. Learn from those mistakes and talk openly about them. Adjust your strategy and try again.