Faces of HR

Faces of HR: Michele Silverman on Championing Well-Being at Veterinary Innovative Partners

Michele Silverman isn’t your average HR leader. With two decades of experience, she’s not just a master of policy and procedure but also an architect of meaningful employee experiences. At Veterinary Innovative Partners (VIP), a network of over 40 veterinarian-owned-and-operated hospitals across nine states, her mission is clear: to empower veterinarians and their teams to thrive, both personally and professionally.

Michele Silverman

In a field known for its demanding nature and potential for burnout, Silverman prioritizes building a supportive work environment that fosters work/life balance. She champions health and well-being initiatives, recognizing the diverse needs of individuals juggling personal responsibilities alongside their passion for animal care.

Silverman’s journey in HR began long before VIP. She spearheaded HR at a 600-location hearing healthcare company, honed her skills at industry giants like Gold’s Gym and Time Warner Cable, and holds a master’s degree from Northwestern University. But her greatest strength lies in her genuine desire to empower others.

At VIP, Silverman isn’t just building an HR department; she’s building a community where veterinarians and their teams can flourish. She’s the healer of HR, ensuring those who dedicate their lives to caring for animals are, in turn, cared for themselves.

In our latest Faces, meet Michele Silverman.

How did you get your start in the field?

I’ve always had deep interest and appreciation for the “differentiated employment experience.” This passion became crystal clear during my early days in Chicago at the MAC counter, where I witnessed the impact of prioritizing employee development. Amid bustling activity and constant lines, the company stood out by not relying on paid advertising but rather investing in training, equipping, and empowering its team members. This experience illuminated a fundamental truth that resonated with me: A brand is truly only as good as its employees.

Since then, I fell in love with the concept of marrying internal and external brand experiences. Following my graduation with an MA in integrated marketing communications from Northwestern University, I took the next step in my career by joining one of the largest consulting firms, marking the beginning of my journey in HR.

Who is/was your biggest influence in the industry?

One of the most influential figures in my career was Jim Kohler, a principal during my tenure at the consulting firm. Jim not only imparted the importance of empathy but also excelled in change management, a skill that really inspired me.

What’s your best mistake, and what did you learn from it?

In my consulting days, a notable misstep occurred when I entered a client meeting with only a cursory understanding of the topics at hand. I hadn’t taken the time to thoroughly grasp the plan or the company involved beyond surface-level knowledge.

Feeling foolish, I realized that I certainly didn’t deserve the respect I was given in the room. Since then, this lesson has been invaluable—I’ve never again stepped into a meeting unprepared or feeling bewildered. I’ve learned the importance of thorough preparation, regardless of the audience or the subject matter, ensuring that I approach every meeting with the knowledge and respect that it deserves.

What’s your favorite part about working in the industry? What’s your least favorite part, and how would you change it?

My favorite aspect of working in the industry is the opportunity to concentrate on the most crucial elements of the company: its people. Constantly seeking ways to enhance both company and employee satisfaction brings me joy and fulfillment. Being able to help transform routine tasks into improved experiences for employees, for example, is particularly rewarding.

On the flip side, my least favorite part involves delivering tough messages. Anyone in HR would know well and true that being relied on to communicate challenging news is not remotely enjoyable. That said, it’s a critical part of an HR professional’s role. I find that delivering tough messages with empathy, transparency, and open communication is key. You should care and show it.

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.

At VIP, we don’t perceive “burnout” as a mere buzzword but rather as a formidable challenge in this industry, given the long hours, limited resources, and trauma exposure veterinarians face. Now more than ever, it’s imperative to acknowledge this as an issue and to understand the factors fueling it so we can actively address and mitigate them. Ensuring our team feels supported and listened to is not optional; it’s at the core of everything we do. Building meaningful relationships with all team members enables us to tailor our support to their diverse needs so they’re able to achieve a healthy work/life balance and thrive personally and professionally.

How can HR most effectively demonstrate its value to the leadership team?

By aligning HR goals with business objectives, the focus becomes directed toward work that contributes to achieving organizational success. Every HR initiative must be oriented and connected to meet these critical business objectives.

Also, a strategic and creative approach to talent deployment is a high-value contribution that HR teams can make to an organization. This goes beyond the traditional parameters of people’s technical skills; it’s a deeper exploration of their diverse, soft skill sets and aspirations for growth.

Where do you see the industry heading in 5 years? Or are you seeing any current trends?

I envision a transformative shift in HR over the next few years, turning it from a siloed functional area into a boundary-less orchestrator of talent and programming. This trajectory involves equipping people leaders and team members to be co-developers of HR rather than mere consumers of it. HR teams will enable leaders and team members to successfully perform more traditional HR work for themselves, freeing the HR team to serve as more strategic and proactive partners rather than employment managers. The trend focuses on the broad utilization of talent and HR professionals who are business-minded coaches as opposed to rule enforcement officers.

What are you most proud of?

My team and their unparalleled dedication. They genuinely care for team members, current and future, and have created an environment that has solidified our reputation as a destination employer. In my 20-year career, I’ve never witnessed such a level of commitment—it’s truly remarkable and unprecedented.

Do you have any advice for people entering the profession?

Not to take yourself too seriously. In this profession, grace and patience to handle the human experience are critical for doing your job well. Care and empathy are essential qualities to cultivate, especially in a field where being a “people person” is key.

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