Enhancing effectiveness at Michigan Medicine: Q&A with Paul Sturgis, MSHROD, SPHR

February 11, 2021  //  FOUND IN: Strategy & Leadership,

A mere three months before the COVID-19 pandemic uprooted operations, in December 2019, Paul Sturgis, MSHROD, SPHR, joined Michigan Medicine as the senior director of Human Resources Strategy and Organizational Effectiveness.

On top of learning all about the organization, Sturgis spent his first year managing ever-changing conditions and policies as the Department of Human Resources played an instrumental role in supporting the daily operations and organizational management of the pandemic.

Among his many duties, Sturgis oversees organizational effectiveness, non-nursing talent acquisition, learning and development, recognition, employee engagement and HR analytics. He is also involved in various committees and partnerships across the organization, including the Anti-Racism Oversight Committee, where he co-chairs the Diversify the Workforce subcommittee.

Headlines recently had the opportunity to catch up with Sturgis to learn about his role within the organization, and to discuss diversity in the workforce. Here’s what he had to say:

Q: How does your work influence the day-to-day operations at Michigan Medicine?

PS: On any given day, I have the privilege of being able to influence how effective we are in attracting, developing, engaging, acknowledging and retaining top talent at Michigan Medicine. Certainly a responsibility I could never take lightly. After all, I get to work with a great team of people committed to doing what they can to making a difference on many levels and, together, I believe our work has impact.

I like to think that at the end of day, influence in one’s role is a combination of outcome and process. Not only is what you get done important to advancing and improving daily operations, how you get it done is indicative of your commitment to the values of the organization. In my line of work, it is very easy to see the strong link between the two. Being able to partner with so many willing individuals in implementing key positive cultural initiatives while contributing to ways that HR aligns and supports Michigan Medicine’s tripartite mission has been rewarding.

Q: How has the COVID-19 pandemic shifted your work within Human Resources? 

PS: I am technically a newbie to Michigan Medicine, and started with the organization just months before the pandemic significantly impacted our workforce. It led to immediate, and long-term, shifts in a number of ways for the HR team and how we conduct business. It could be said that it impacted the employment life cycle from beginning to end. For example, we recruit differently and have found that the market has changed as a result of COVID-19’s far-reaching implications. We have adjusted to a 100% remote talent intake process.

Like everyone else, we needed to increase our adoption of remote working and virtual environments for a significant portion of our workforce. That included helping managers adjust to not having face-to-face interviews, or in-person sessions to support engagement in departments. Providing internal training and consulting services has been impacted, leading to several redesigns in order to deliver meaningful content and dialogue in a virtual setting.

Admittedly, the pandemic also acted as a catalyst for us to re-evaluate our services in order to ensure that we were providing access in new ways that benefit employees. Our HR team has been remarkably flexible and we continue to identify ways to embrace new solutions.

February celebrates Black History Month – which serves as a valuable opportunity to reflect on the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion – both within the organization and across the U.S.

Q: Why is diversity and inclusion so important in our work force, especially in the health care industry?

PS: In the workplace, I have always viewed diversity and inclusion as a means to stimulate the absolute best in someone. By adhering to these tenets, we allow each and every one of us to bring our whole selves to the job and share our unique talents and viewpoints for the benefit of the whole. I think that recent times have shown us that we have an opportunity to truly make broad strides in this area.

Over more than 30 years in various industries, (automotive, energy, government, manufacturing education and health care), I can recall the importance of inclusion, representation, diversity and equity being part of the ongoing conversation in all. I have seen that DEI is part of an evolving dialogue that continues to show its importance through the enduring nature of the discussion. In industries like health care, where the priority is on providing equitable, quality care to the surrounding community, we have an added responsibility to embrace the principles that equate with human dignity, respect and inclusiveness.

Q: What advice do you have for the next generation of minority leaders?

Paul: I’m asked this question often, and my advice has remained primarily the same. I believe that future successful leaders (minority and majority) will need to depend more heavily on their ability to efficiently integrate multiple streams of information — disciplines and schools of thought — into their work. This ability acts as fuel to stimulate new ways of addressing the challenges that they will encounter on a daily basis, both expected and unexpected. When the pandemic first hit, I noticed how quickly leaders began to assess approaches from multiple sources in order to establish the best solution for their situation. It is this orientation that increases awareness and resourcefulness.  

The need to be adaptive, while maintaining quality relationships with their teams and other leaders, will be paramount to maintaining buoyancy in ever-changing tides. There are always great mentors who will make it their mission to support and help you navigate the challenges. I also tell advice seekers to not be shy about asking for feedback, but make sure you remain courageous enough to act upon it when you receive it. Finally, I mention they should not be afraid to take on tough, undefined projects, just clearly establish a support and communication network to call upon.

Q: What is one thing you look forward to doing again once the pandemic subsides?

PS: That is an easy one. I absolutely love going to the movies with my family. While I am grateful for streaming and cable options as we continue to socially distance, I do miss the days of over-priced snacks, sticky floors and watching a good, loud movie with fifty or so other movie-goers.

Sturgis also took the time this week to sit down with The Wrap employee podcast to talk more about his role and Black History Month. Check it out via the YouTube link at the top of the page or media player below. Please note, the media player is not compatible with Internet Explorer, so open in a new browser or find The Wrap on your personal device to take a listen!