Over the course of eight years, Overland Park, Kansas-based Netsmart Technologies has grown from seven hundred associates to reach more than two thousand associates. The substantial growth necessitated that the company find a senior executive capable of building out its extensive human capital goals while effectively partnering with business objectives. Both human resource and traditional business units rarely have much in common, but Wendy Hill doesn’t see it that way at all.
The inaugural Netsmart chief people officer has built a successful career in HR because she comes from the business side. Hill has some big ideas for driving better results by doing what is best for the growing number of Netsmart associates: integrated health services.
Hill first dipped her toe in to HR at accounting company Arthur Anderson. “I’m really not an HR person by education,” she confesses. “My major was in business and information systems, and I started on the business side. But I think that’s why I’ve been successful in the HR space.”
After nearly three years at Arthur Anderson, she joined Cerner Corporation as an HR partner. It’s there that Hill spent the bulk of her career to date—close to seventeen years with progressively broader job titles.
Even in the HR space, Hill still says she didn’t ever inhabit a pure HR role and instead focused on being a generalist. She never operated in a benefits or payroll position where most HR experts spend their time.
“It was our team’s job to understand what the business needed from a human capital perspective, and taking those needs back into HR to create the right programs in support of the business,” Hill explains. “On the flip-side, we would implement central HR programs and processes back into the business to ensure consistency across the organization.”
Part of the reason Hill was able to professionally mature with so much breadth was because the pace of growth at Cerner, like Netsmart, was extensive. “When I started, there were about five thousand associates and twenty-nine thousand when I left,” Hill says. “Every year was a challenge, figuring out how to do something new and do it to scale.”
Hill enjoyed her time at Cerner so much that she really wasn’t looking to leave. “I had been there for so long; I loved my team, and was in a really good spot,” Hill says. She had responsibility for fifty HR partners across the globe from India to the UK to North America, with all of those units reporting up to her. Then Netsmart CEO Mike Valentine got in touch.
“I think part of what he and Netsmart was looking for was someone with a background like mine. He didn’t want an HR purist but someone who had business exposure and understood how to bring those two things together,” Hill explains. “I thought it was an amazing opportunity to be part of the growth of a company that is headquartered in my hometown and find a way to take a good foundation and really run with it.”
“If our goal is to provide the right support to our associates to keep them engaged and delivering the best value to our clients, we need to provide the right level of support.”
Hill arrived at Netsmart in February 2019 and her impact was immediate. The chief people officer has taken a business-minded approach to an issue not typically associated with the bottom line.
Netsmart focuses on a wider range of health that includes not only the physical but also the mental and financial health components. If any of those three are off kilter, Hill says there can be impacts at work and at home. It simply doesn’t make good sense for associates to be in need and not have the support necessary.
“If our goal is to provide the right support to our associates to keep them engaged and delivering the best value to our clients, we need to provide the right level of support,” Hill says. “Most employers, until recently, thought of physical health as the primary driver of what it means to support our associate population.”
As more direct links to mental health, work engagement, and productivity come to bear, Hill says she’d rather Netsmart be at the front of the integrated health movement than waiting to play catch-up.
Part of that connection comes with the fact that Netsmart provides electronic health records and other services to the behavioral health and post-acute sectors. “Part of our client base is focusing on the patient and helping them work through whatever mental health situation they might be struggling with,” Hill says. “If we’re going to provide a high level of service to our clients, we need to make sure we’re doing the same thing inside our own walls.”
Netsmart offers mental health first aid training to all of its associates to help address early warning signs of a colleague in distress and how to help transition them to a healthier journey. The company offers mindfulness support via applications to help associates be more engaged with their feelings and emotions.
“If we’re going to provide a high level of service to our clients, we need to make sure we’re doing the same thing inside our own walls.”
She has worked closely with RxBenefits to provide another important benefit: pharmacy services. “Pharmacy is a frequently used and critical employee benefit, but it is also a significant driver of cost,” says Kimberley Grebe, vice president of account management at RxBenefits. “It has been our distinct privilege to partner with Wendy to develop a balanced pharmacy approach that prioritizes employee health while helping contain costs. Her drive to do right by both employees and the organization makes her a valuable leader.”
Telehealth services will be online in 2020 and Hill says that given newer generations are more apt toward sharing difficult information by text, that option will hopefully be available as well. In 2020, Hill says the company will be engaging in more education as to how associates can benefit from the services provided. “We need to think about how to meet associates where they are to best serve them,” Hill says.
Focusing on integrated health wasn’t an issue burning in her pocket when she arrived, Hill says, but the focus Netsmart has on its people really spoke to her. Now, she’s all in.
“I get to focus where I know we can make a large impact to the associates and on making Netsmart even better,” Hill says. “I would love for us to be leading this effort and to help other employers understand how to best support their associates with all components of health—including medical, mental, and financial health.”