Bob Huynh: How to Truly Care for Employees as an HR leader

Fond of Work is an interview series that explores challenges, trends, and changes in HR. This time for Fond of Work, we interviewed Bob Huynh, VP of HR and Talent Acquisition at Clover Health. 

Clover Health is a data-driven health insurance startup improving the overall state of healthcare in America. As VP of HR and Talent Acquisition, Bob Huynh manages the strategy and processes for retaining an exceptional team of professionals. Bob has over 20 years of experience in HR and holds a master’s degree from the University of San Francisco in Organizational Development.

How did you first get into the HR space?

I didn’t plan to get into HR. In college, I was studying design arts and exploring a career in advertising or industrial design. However, I came to the conclusion that I lacked the talent to make a decent living. 

In college, I was working at an art gallery when the owner suggested I consider HR. He had a friend who was looking to hire an HR Assistant. It was very fortunate that I was able to have real, practical HR experience along with my education. I received a degree in Business Administration with a focus on HR and consider myself lucky to have worked at some great companies and with wonderful people.

How did you start at Clover Health?

I was recruited by an executive search firm, and the more I learned about Clover Health and the company’s mission, the more I wanted to get involved with the company.

Why do you think HR is an important department for every business to have?

Employees are tied to almost every functional need of a company. To attract and retain the right people and navigate through the changes companies face from internal and external pressures, you need an HR department.

What’s your management philosophy?

My management philosophy is servant leadership, a term coined by Robert Greenleaf. It is an ethical perspective on leadership that focuses on the success of the organization and the people you work for — your team, employees, management, and all the stakeholders. Servant leadership asks you to put aside your own self-interest. This builds trust throughout your organization, and that reputation of trust has allowed me to take a more proactive approach to management and HR. This is especially useful when scaling an organization and adapting to the changing needs of a company and its employees.

How do you apply your management philosophy at Clover Health?

We are in healthcare, and we serve to better the lives of our members. To care for our members, we have to start by caring for our employees. I’m here to give my team as much guidance and support as possible so they can be successful. I listen and try to understand their needs and goals, including their career aspirations. I provide resources, clarity about our mission, and teach while hopefully being a good role model to others.

How do you reward and recognize your employees at work?

We recognize anniversaries and milestones and give shout-outs during team meetings to highlight work that has a significant impact on our company. We also give spot bonuses when appropriate for a job well done. I, personally, like to purchase gifts or take the team out for breaks in recognition of the difficult but impactful work they do.

Why do you think employee recognition matters?

Appreciation is a fundamental human need — people want to be appreciated for their work and contributions. Recognition does not need to only come from managers. It strengthens relationships between employees and management and among colleagues, fostering a collaborative and supportive work environment that ultimately makes it easier to achieve the business results companies want.

What are some of the most pressing issues HR leaders face today?

HR leaders must adapt to internal and external changes while trying to provide guidance for the stakeholders they are tasked to support. For example, we currently have a strong economy with low unemployment, which can make it difficult to hire and retain employees. Yet, we have a fear of a recession, which has a direct impact on business. HR leaders also have to navigate geopolitical issues and legal at multiple levels — international, federal, state and local. Lastly, HR leaders and their executive teams have day-to-day responsibilities to run a business, along with attracting and retaining quality employees.

What’s something you know about the HR industry that might surprise people outside the industry?

HR is more than just compensation and benefits, hiring and terminations, and policies. Quality HR leaders understand the employee life cycle and can identify and remove blockers that prevent employees from achieving success. HR teams are company and employee advocates, business partners, and trusted advisors that put in a tremendous amount of work and care to meet the expectations of people with differing and often competing needs. It isn’t an easy role, but it can be extremely rewarding for the right person.

Any advice for future HR leaders?

Be a strong generalist, and learn as much as you can about the business. Educate yourself on how internal and external forces can challenge a company, and know when to ask for help. Identify problems, but develop solutions. Like a business, your ability to push for change and deliver results matter as much as how you treat others. Lastly, surround yourself with good people, especially in your personal life. Work can be stressful, but you’ll have family and friends to support you.

Thanks so much to Bob for taking the time to speak with us. By the way, Clover Health is hiring, so check out their website to view their open positions.

Fond is a global SaaS platform that seamlessly consolidates employee rewards and recognition processes into one easy-to-use solution. For more information on how Fond can help you, request a demo today! And if you’re an HR leader (or know an HR leader) interested in being interviewed for Fond of Work, email marketing@fond.co and let us know!

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