In an interview with Ken Finneran, VP of HR for eMed, a technology-driven digital health organization that was born in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, he shared with Rocking Talent the strategies implemented to address the challenges he and the company had to face, highlighted several key non-negotiable skills for today´s leaders, and how he envisions the future of HR and Technology. ¡Let´s meet him!
First, tell us a little about yourself, who is Ken Finneran? How would you define yourself professionally and personally?
Ken is a dynamic, innovative, entrepreneurial, global HR and business executive, who seeks to inspire personal excellence and achievement, challenge outdated (HR) best practices, drive business success, build thriving communities, and develop the next generation of creative, inclusive business leaders. On a personal level, Ken is a proud father of two incredibly talented, emotionally intelligent, curious, and creative college-aged children as well as a mentor to start-up organizations and young, entrepreneurial professionals. As a father, published author, business leader, and keynote speaker on topics of the changing landscape of HR and leadership, Ken helps others discover their unique skills and talents and then find roles to use those skill sets as often as possible for peak performance and maximum personal fulfillment.
What is the challenge of being VP of HR of an organization that, although it was born digital and with a very important focus on technology, at the end of the day, watches over and works to provide an excellent service to humans?
eMed was founded with the mission of democratizing healthcare by leveraging best-in-class home diagnostics, proprietary, world-class technology solutions, and industry-leading customer service. eMed has pioneered Test-to-Treat™ solutions, which enable our customers to get a rapid diagnosis and, more importantly if testing positive, the necessary treatment for their respective illness in a fast, convenient, accessible and affordable manner. One of the biggest challenges of being VP of HR for a disruptive, innovative, technology-driven digital healthcare company is ensuring that the team members we bring on board are not only some of the best and brightest minds in the business, but that they are equally bought into our mission of democratizing healthcare. Being brilliant and competent in using cutting-edge technologies is good, but it’s not sufficient at eMed. Those who are most successful at eMed go beyond that, constantly learn and develop their skills and strive to be the disruptors within their respective areas of expertise, thus ultimately facilitating eMed leading the way to the successful democratization of healthcare.
Is democratizing healthcare with a digital point-of-care platform that provides fast, easy and affordable at-home healthcare testing, supervised and guided online by eMed Certified Guides. eMed delivers prescribed tests and treatments directly to patients, driving better and more cost-effective results.
What are the must for today’s leaders? What are the skills that perhaps in the past were a ´maybe´ and today are not negotiable?
Some of the skills that are must-haves for leaders in today’s ever-changing work environment include:
-A commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging in the workplace. eMed’s mission of democratizing healthcare is leading to the mass disruption of our broken healthcare system by providing greater accessibility, equity, and transparency within healthcare. Furthermore, eMed’s senior leadership team reflects its strong commitment to these principles, including having Dr. Patrice Harris, an African-American female as our CEO and Samantha Rassner as our Chief Technology Officer (CTO);
–Emotional intelligence in the workplace, including an interest in the overall well-being of all team members;
–Growth mindset, especially in the midst of the constant change and need to adapt accordingly.
Diversity + Equity + Inclusion + Emotional intelligence + Growth mindset = Nonnegotiable skills
It’s unthinkable to believe that there can be a strong business or strategy without data. Having said that, if you had to make a prediction about the future (and I dare to say present, too) between HR and Tech, what would it be?
I concur that the future is a data-driven one, and that those businesses that leverage data through advanced data science, business intelligence, AI, machine learning, and more will be best prepared to succeed in this VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous) world. If I were to make a prediction about the intersection of HR and Tech, it would be that the HR tech space, including integrated HRIS (human resources information systems) platforms, talent/people success platforms, specialized assessment, engagement, performance management, and learning platforms will be the fastest growing segment of technology between now and 2030. Not only are companies and private equity/venture capital (PE/VC) firms recognizing the critical importance of effective people operations and talent management for overall business success, but they also have discovered that advances in HR technology, tools, systems, and practices have severely lagged advancements in other functional business areas over the last several decades.
“At eMed we strive to simplify access to innovative, cost-effective, and efficient testing and treatment for individuals and communities. Our disruptive approach allows for disruptive results, which brings us closer to our mission of democratizing healthcare”.
We noticed you have an outstanding experience which enables you to teach many outputs/outcomes. Nevertheless, eMed is a whole new world. Could you share with us your experience of leading an HR team that was born in the middle of a pandemic and has the characteristic of having to look after the well-being of the entire company?
Being an (HR) leader in the midst of the pandemic created challenges that had never before been experienced, starting with the collective trauma of an entire workforce thrust into a global pandemic and its ramifications. At eMed, we have been at the forefront of helping individuals conveniently and accurately diagnose for COVID-19, receive a verified lab report to be able to travel or go into an office with peace of mind, and receive effective treatment if testing positive. Internally, however, we have taken a number of steps to ensure the engagement and well-being of our team members. Beyond the physical testing twice a week and the implementation of an enhanced Employee Assistance Program (EAP) with mental health consultations to ensure the health and safety of our team, we implemented a Slack channel for employee comments, concerns, and suggestions, an online newsletter to keep team members informed about company developments and new hires, leadership training focused on listening skills, mentoring and coaching, and providing feedback as well as more frequent team building and engagement activities.
Some advice for the youngest generations who are searching for new employment opportunities or getting their first job, what can you tell them about the future of work and some suggestions?
For those younger generations, who are searching for new employment opportunities or perhaps for their first job, below are a few helpful tips. First of all, be curious and embrace a growth mindset, recognizing that you still have a lot to learn as you enter the workforce. Find a company that puts a priority on learning and development as well as mentorship and advancement from within. Second, interview and select your manager. This might sound counter-intuitive since you will be the one being interviewed for a role but recognize that your immediate supervisor will be the greatest single determinant of your early career success, so find one who is committed to your growth and development. Third, be open and eager to take on new tasks. It is ok to explore projects outside of your area of studies, as these will help you discover your strengths and what you enjoy most. Fourth, be introspective and self-aware. Take assessments and seek feedback from your leaders, then apply that learning to help you find the ideal role and to be the best version of yourself in the workplace. Fifth, be a life-long learner. The modern workplace is changing more rapidly than ever, so continue to learn about new technologies that are impacting the workplace and our world at large, because this will only broaden your skill set and your attractiveness to employers. Sixth, be an innovator, change champion and process enhancer. Even early in your career, you have valuable insights and a fresh perspective on the way things are done in an organization, so share your suggestions for improvement. Not every innovation has to be a “moon shot” item; often it is a series of small enhancements that lead to the greatest wins. Finally, although you should always work hard and smart, commit to adding value and not “just” to being busy or working hard. There is a fallacy in the workplace that busyness equals good business. Find the ways that you can make a meaningful contribution to the company, then focus on the actions that will bring you closer to that target.
A book: Hillen, John and Mark Nevins: What Happens Now? Reinvent Yourself as a Leader Before Your Business Outruns You, 2018.
A Podcast: The People Purpose Podcast from The Workforce Institute at UKG
A piece of advice you´ve been given: After all is said and done, there’s a lot more said than done, so commit to adding value, delivering on your commitments, and holding yourself and others accountable.
A quote you live by: “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain.” – Vivian Greene
A movie: Forrest Gump
A role model: Historically, likely Abraham Lincoln; currently, Satya Nadella, CEO, Microsoft.
A dream: That every individual feels respected, that every person recognizes his/her unique abilities, skills, and talents, and that leaders of the future work to enable and unleash greatness within each and every person and team.