Maura Stevenson’s interest in data and human behavior preceded her interest in human resources. In fact, the now chief human resources officer for MedVet, a growing group of veterinary hospitals, studied organizational and quantitative psychology at the doctoral level with the intention of going into academia.
When Stevenson opted instead to explore her coursework’s practical applications inside organizations, her knowledge of data and analytics set her apart from other HR candidates. “I became part of what was essentially a big data function before big data existed,” she explains. As unusual as it may have been for Stevenson to enter HR as a statistician, her unique vantagepoint––one driven by values numerical and cultural alike––propelled her to success.
Stevenson pinpoints joining wealth management company Merrill Lynch in 1999 as her first major career pivot. Building on her prior experience at insurance company The Hartford, Stevenson held multiple HR and non-HR roles at Merrill, including in the employee research group. The rapid pace of the financial industry suited her. As she puts it, “If an organization doesn’t move fast enough, it won’t be a great fit for me.”
Her desire to work for an ever-evolving company factored into Stevenson’s decision to accept an offer from coffeehouse chain Starbucks in 2004, as did the opportunity to collaborate with the existing HR leadership in a global capacity. “It was an exciting time because the head of HR at Starbucks had a vision for how HR could become more data-driven,” Stevenson says. “I was brought in to build out that vision.”
Starting out in employee analytics at Starbucks, Stevenson moved next to an organization development role at the company before climbing to an executive-level HR business partner position. Through her contributions, she helped the leadership navigate a time of massive change and transformation from a talent and capability perspective.
When she and her husband moved to the Midwest to be closer to family, Stevenson found a role as head of talent at Wendy’s, the fast-food restaurant chain. The position marked Stevenson’s first executive-level talent role––a hurdle compounded by the presence of a new CEO at the company. Still, Stevenson delivered: she developed and executed a three-year plan that shaped leadership and talent under the new CEO.
In 2017, Stevenson took on her current position at MedVet, a specialty and emergency veterinary care provider. As a first-time CHRO, she needed to leverage her HR knowledge to lead diverse functions across the company while maintaining a big-picture focus on MedVet’s status as a growing business in a growing industry. Fortunately, this very status attracted Stevenson to the role. “I’m at my best when an organization is rapidly evolving, and the talent needs to catch up with the business,” she says.
Stevenson also admired MedVet’s values, which MedVet is working to preserve as the company scales. “Culture is MedVet’s key differentiator in the veterinary profession. It’s a competitive advantage, and it’s why I came here,” she elaborates, underlining the importance of continuing to foster the company’s care-first approach. “A lot has to change as we grow, but we need to stay true to our core values in the process.”
Stevenson’s emphasis on positive culture extends to her work on diversity and inclusion at MedVet. She led the team that built the company’s D&I approach from scratch, taking into account larger challenges within the veterinary profession as they determined what MedVet could do to address those challenges internally.
In addition to deepening company culture, Stevenson has been concentrating on recruiting and retaining talent and on emerging strong from the COVID-19 pandemic. After having introduced executive assessments and launched a “leadership in action” development program, she hopes to continue increasing quality of hire, especially at the leadership level, heading into 2021.
“We used data and alignment to make progress in terms of hiring talent that could scale with MedVet, and we’ve already seen significant increases in our survey scores around quality of feedback, manager ratings, and other people management components,” says Stevenson of changes that she’s led at MedVet.
Other changes include developing an employee experience framework and survey, refreshing the MedVet employee handbook, and implementing wellness offerings for all employees. As with human healthcare workers, veterinary workers often experience “compassion fatigue” as a result of their jobs’ emotional demands. MedVet made available to everyone tools and resources dedicated to mental health management and suicide prevention. Further benefiting employees and their families, she led efforts to increase base pay and launch an employee relief fund to cover unplanned financial hardships.
As MedVet keeps growing, Stevenson will continue to rely on her understanding of human behavior, data, and the intersections between the two, as she’s done throughout her career. “People have taken some great bets on me,” she admits. “Now, I’m betting on the ability to drive business growth at MedVet through culture, quality of talent, and leadership capability, without losing sight of our values.”
We congratulate Maura for being recognized as a Top CHRO! She is certainly deserving, and Everhart Advisors is blessed to be one of her strategic partners. We have enjoyed supporting her many significant initiatives at MedVet—focused on improving employee engagement and overall wellbeing. Maura is an elite leader, with a clear vision and extraordinary passion for the team members of MedVet.