Despite being both an innovator in health-care workforce solutions and the largest provider of health-care staffing services in the United States, AMN Healthcare was challenged in the wake of the last recession. However, 2012 was a strong recovery year, with Wall Street analysts projecting the company’s annual revenues to be nearly $950 million. That, in part, is due to the talent strategy overseen by Julie Fletcher, AMN’s senior vice president of human resources. We caught up with Fletcher to learn more about her role.
When did you know you wanted to go into HR?
Fletcher: I was fortunate enough to take both business and psychology classes in high school, and I saw the opportunities presented by those two fields coming together. Businesses could have the right vision, but, without the critical talent to bring that vision to life, strategies are often times challenging to execute.
How did you get started?
Fletcher: While working at the Disneyland Resort, I received an undergraduate business degree, with an emphasis on human resources, from California Polytechnic Institute at Pomona. After spending some time in an hourly role, I worked as an HR intern which exposed me to a number of HR disciplines, including compensation, recruitment, and development. After many years of evolving my HR career at Disney, I was fortunate to land an HR strategy role. In that position, I had the wonderful opportunity to launch the organization’s first HR business partner model, wherein HR directly supports the business, ultimately providing greater strategic value.
How did you end up at AMN?
Fletcher: I was at Disney for 18 years, after which I was in a senior HR role at the Tribune Company, supporting the Los Angeles Times. I then moved back to Orange County to work for Option One, the mortgage arm of H&R Block. In 2008 I accepted a position at AMN, in San Diego, California. I was attracted to AMN because Susan Salka, AMN’s CEO and president, had a compelling vision that I wanted to help execute. When I interviewed with her, she asked if I could create an integrated talent-management strategy. Since I’ve had the opportunity to launch new and innovative approaches to talent in my prior roles, we collectively agreed that this was an ideal match.
How do you approach talent management?
Fletcher: The best CEO’s and boards invest much more in talent management today as compared to even 10 years ago. That is definitely true here at AMN. Our fully integrated talent-management strategy is woven into the fabric of everything we do in HR to support the organization. To highlight the importance of this at AMN, we have an explicit corporate goal for 2013 to increase team-member engagement and development. We bring this strategy to life in everything we do. Our HR leaders work closely with our business leaders. Our business leaders seek out our HR leadership to help them execute on critical business issues. In every way, our HR team is there to support the business, from identifying the right talent and onboarding that talent to developing our team members to succession planning. At AMN, talent management is not an HR strategy, it is a business strategy.
What makes AMN’s talent strategy unique?
Fletcher: Our talent strategy is focused, targeted, disciplined, and integrated. We are in our fifth year of driving our integrated HR system forward. It is embraced and supported from our C-suite down to our newest team members entering the company. We review talent strategy every year and refresh it where needed. Part of the success of our strategy is that we have provided a consistent message year over year, allowing time for people to embrace and adopt the message and tools. The consistency of our fully integrated talent strategy is what makes it enduring, useful, and successful.
A lot of people talk about core values. Is that something you believe in?
Fletcher: We have a stated employment value proposition we call the AMN Difference. The four attributes of the AMN Difference are: Our Core Values, Collegial Work Environment, Leader and Team Member Quality, and Development and Career Opportunities. Our Core Values—passion, respect, trust, continuous improvement, customer focus, and innovation—are probably not unique compared to many other companies. What is unique is the fact that our values are discussed in our offices every day. This is the first time that I’ve worked in an organization where people are truly held accountable to the company’s values. It is the mark of an organization that cares passionately about our people and our culture.
What has helped the company find so much success?
Fletcher: First and foremost, our core purpose of helping achieve professional and personal goals every day is a guiding principle. We apply this to our clinicians, physicians, and our corporate teams. We look for quality talent, which is critical, because our people reflect our reputation. Our collegial and collaborative work environment helps us work seamlessly across functional areas and achieve our business goals. Finally, since we want our people to be ready for the future, we’re committed to providing career development and training opportunities at every level. We take this function and succession planning very seriously so that we are well-positioned for future success.
What’s helped you be successful?
Fletcher: I believe in managerial courage. You have to say what needs to be said, even if it’s not the popular answer, because it helps an organization become stronger.
Do you have any advice for up-and-comers in the field?
Fletcher: I believe in raising your hand and asking to be given stretch assignments. Take chances, even when you’re not sure you can succeed, because doing so will make you stronger.