HR Excellence: 'Listen with the intent to understand, not to respond'

Lin Rice
Kristina Brannon

Getting up the courage to switch careers can be daunting for anyone. But that courage can also be the stuff good leaders are made of.

Human resources coordinator Kristina Brannon used a bit of that courage a little less than two years ago when, after working a decade in the education field, she realized it was time to take stock of her career goals and decide what direction she wanted to take.

“I was a manager of about 25 hardworking teachers (at the Primrose School of Pickerington) before switching to human resources,” Brannon says. “Within that role I found a love for recruiting top staff for my building, and the whole onboarding and training process that comes with being a new hire.”

And although she lacked a formal background in human resources, her job experience and motivation carried her into her first HR position at Summit Orthopaedic Home Care. A company of 350 employees, Summit provides in-home health care in the areas of orthopedics, neurology, cardiovascular care, infusion services and assisted living. Headquartered in Columbus, the company also has offices in Cincinnati and West Virginia.

As Summit's human resources coordinator, Brannon takes care of recruiting and conducting interviews, onboarding and orientation, employee relations and conflict management. She manages the employee handbook, adding or updating policy as needed, and a laundry list of other duties.

Now, just one year and seven months into her new career, Brannon is winning leadership awards.

“Kristina shows a great deal of compassion and caring for our employees as well as our patients and is a great example of having the servant leadership style that Summit Home Care embodies,” says Rob Becker, chief operating officer. Brannon's efforts allowed the company to establish a true HR department for the first time, Becker says. When she began, the company had no formal job offer process, little structure and very basic file maintenance.

Brannon started right away with updating Summit's Ziprecruiter account and establishing its presence on LinkedIn. She designed a new onboarding process, implanted training rates per position and set up an orientation tracking system for payroll. When the company's payroll coordinator left abruptly, Brannon picked up the responsibility and learned the payroll system, overseeing everyone's paycheck until a replacement could be found two months later.

All in all, Summit managed to recruit and train 184 new hires in Brannon's first year, bringing their total to 350 company-wide.

“She has been able to recruit quality clinicians and office staff and most importantly, she has been able to find individuals who are a fit for our culture,” Becker says. “Kristina shows a great deal of compassion and caring for our employees as well as our patients.”

Brannon says working with teachers at Primrose taught her some habits, particularly how to listen, that proved invaluable in changing gears to a human resources career.

“I can tell you with 100 percent certainty that if you're in the people business, you should be listening with the intent to understand, not with the intent to respond,” she says. “A successful leader does not lead from the top down. You lead by being in the trenches with your staff daily, by being accessible, offering guidance and support, and understanding that what they do is impactful to the whole company.”

Future Leader recognizes a rising star in HR with less than five years of experience.

Lin Rice is a freelance writer.

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