This time for Fond of Work, we interviewed Joe Bozza, Chief Human Resource Officer at Banyan Treatment Center. Joe is an experienced HR executive with over 25 years of experience growing HR departments from the ground-up. He is particularly talented at creating HR departments from scratch, and implementing brand new processes and programs for companies. Read more about his journey below.
How did you first get into the HR space?
During college and for some years after I graduated, I worked in customer service gaining management expertise at American Express and had an opportunity to go through their management training program — I even managed some customer service teams there. I really enjoyed the times when I interacted with HR teams, and during my career as a manager, they always really stuck out for me. Recruiting efforts, interviewing, and payroll tasks that you do in a leadership role are somewhat HR-related, so I felt a connection to the department from the start.
That really began my interest in human resources. When I pursued HR positions, I was offered an opportunity to be a project manager in the healthcare industry with a hospice in-home care provider. They received periodic audits and their HR department was in disarray. Their HR files in records for credentialing for the medical staff simply weren’t there.
I had the opportunity to take on this challenge temporarily and audit hundreds of personnel files, communicating my findings with the management team. It was a lot of manual processes and difficult work with only 60 – 90 days to complete it, but I had the needed support from senior management. I essentially helped them implement an entirely new HR reporting system and they hired me as their HR manager. From there, I set up their initial HR department. Any job I pursued after that was focused on finding places that offered an opportunity to establish the first HR department and put it together. I wanted to help the company grow from just establishing HR to recruiting tons of people. Now, it’s 27 years later.
How did you end up at Banyan Treatment Center?
I was invited to participate in a conversation with the President of Banyan at a point where they were about to hire an HR executive. Banyan shared with me they had interviewed some senior HR executives, as they were growing and had a number of acquisitions in-play. So, in 2018 they knew they didn’t have the HR department they needed to support these acquisitions, payroll and HR systems for a growing staff, and more. They were doing the essentials of getting people new hire packets, enrolling new employees in their benefits, and running their payroll, but that was basically the knowledge depth. Banyan was about to more than double in size over the next six to ten months, but the organization did not have anyone with comprehensive HR knowledge. Since I’m an HR leader with decades of tenure, I’m always advising people on HR and hiring. I love to do it.
The owner of Banyan asked me some questions about the HR people they interviewed and what he should be looking for. My intent was just to provide my expertise and be helpful, but he ended up asking for my card and resume. I sent my resume thinking it was unlikely, but one of his leaders spearheading the recruitment effort contacted me immediately and asked me to come in right away. Turns out, I was the best fit for what they were looking for!
Why do you think HR is an important department for all businesses to have?
I believe that HR is essential. If you look at the lifecycle of an employee, you have to put forth the full recruitment efforts to identify, attract, and acquire new candidates. HR also establishes employee handbooks, payroll, basic policies and procedures, and what a business needs to function.
Even if your company is only somewhere between 50 and 100 people, you’re wise to bring on your first HR generalist, or at least person in a manager-level professional level to be an expert on all things HR. Someone on your team should be attuned to what you need to stay in compliance.
When it comes to recruitment, HR helps managers hire and onboard, keep all the payroll and benefits intact, and help with terminations. It’s so important to have HR professionals who can do all of that themselves or with a small team.
If you’re going to grow, you absolutely need an HR team to help you scale. I’ve been with companies in the middle of a growth spurt and it was essential that we had HR there to support their scaling as more and more employees onboarded.
What’s your management philosophy, and how to you apply it at Banyan Treatment Center?
My style is to communicate information about tasks that need to be done and describe what we want to accomplish. Give advice or suggestions when needed, especially if you have experience with this task from previous work, but don’t dictate exactly how to get something done. Let others invent their own processes.
Guide your employees, always teach them new things while helping them learn on their own and develop their own working styles. I apply this at Banyan with my eight-member HR team at three locations. I try to live by my management philosophy with them all day every day.
How do you reward and recognize your employees?
Some Banyan treatment centers have operated for 2-5 years and some 30+ years, so we have a mix of very long-term employees at certain locations and very new employees at others. We’ve never had a formal recognition program — we currently do staff appreciation at holiday events, end of the year, and such. When we do celebrate, we give gift cards and other giveaways. I’ve also implemented a bi-monthly company-wide newsletter from HR where managers can “shout out” recognition to employees. We do try to recognize colleagues frequently, but it’s not as structured for formal as some programs I’ve seen.
When it comes to my team specifically, I mostly recognize them with food. When we have a big project that we’re either planning or that we’ve accomplished, I’ll treat them. We have lunch together, even if we just do a Zoom meeting so all teams can be together and celebrate each other’s work.
What’s the best advice you’ve received in your career?
Stay focused on the things that are most important. Define “most important” because every HR role will come with a lot of interruptions during the day. Come into the office with your top three to five things that need to be done today and focus on those instead of letting those five things pile up every day until you’re cramming in 30 tasks in one workday.
What are some of the biggest challenges HR leaders face today?
There’s a lot of talk about a talent shortage. I think businesses need to take charge in fostering education and development in the workplace. When people have opportunities to grow in position and pay at work, the organization will have better employee retention. There’s also a lot of talk right now about new and changing marijuana laws and how HR departments adapt to those. How do they affect drug-free workplace policies? How do recovery and treatment centers like Banyan address these changes — changes that often work in direct contradiction with our message as a treatment center? It’s a direct conflict we’re navigating right now. Keeping pay increases within budget while managing employee expectations and employee dissatisfaction with their pay is a big challenge. How do we achieve some sort of employee satisfaction with pay when annual pay increases are so modest? I don’t have the answer, and I’m open to hearing from other HR executives with their experiences, successes, and suggestions.
Do you have any advice for future HR leaders?
My HR philosophy is the role as an HR professional is to work closely with your organization’s owners and senior executives and help them run the company in the best way possible. That means something different for every company, but to achieve growth and maintain a great place to work, you have to work closely with senior management.
Look for those opportunities in your HR role to help the owners and seniors run the company in the best way possible. Leadership will most likely have growth goals, so do whatever you can to work with them to achieve those goals and maintain a great place to work.
Thanks so much to Joe for taking the time to speak with us for Fond of Work. Stay tuned for the next interview in the Fond of Work series, coming soon! By the way, Banyan Treatment Center is hiring, so check out their website to get in touch.
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