5 minutes with … Heather Kobbe

Heather Kobbe
Heather Kobbe

One in a series

NAME: Heather Kobbe

JOB: Senior director, talent management, Office of Human Resources

STARTED AT THE Health Science Center: October 2010

Tell me about your job. “At the highest level, I provide strategic coaching for Human Resource-related issues for our organization. Specifically, I oversee professional development, staff recruitment and employee relations activities. All the HR Partners who work within the organization to help support the “people practices” are generalists. I lead that team. I also serve as an HR Partner for many internal clients within the president’s office and the School of Medicine. There is an HR Partner assigned to every school and administrative unit. Our role is to really understand what staffing challenges, concerns and opportunities there are with the leaders of those areas. We work together with the staff on whatever staffing issues come up as well. What we try to achieve is a single point of contact within HR so that our services are easy to use and are supportive as we work collaboratively to build a better work environment.”

“HR helps to solve business problems related to our most important resource–our employees. One of the deans said to me, and I believe this was a compliment, ‘Thank you for cleaning up messes you don’t make.’ That was a sincere thank you. Many times that may be what we have to do. However, the fun part of our job is helping to take down barriers and build new solutions that help us work together better… things like rolling out new tools for the staff, tools for performance management, etc. We had a new leadership program we rolled out a couple years ago that has been well received and very positive for our emerging leaders.”

“Ultimately, we help with change. We understand change is difficult. It is hard work to do and to manage.  We understand, empathize and prepare for constant change as it is inevitable. A good and supportive HR team helps make that heavy lifting easier.”

What’s the biggest challenge for HR? “The biggest challenge I think is that there is not a clear understanding of what HR does and how we can help support. Organizations tend to be very reactive…we’re not different. If (HR) is engaged at the right time we can introduce new and innovative ideas, solutions and outcomes for the very unique situations that occur here. We have physicians, faculty, and staff that are experts in their disciplines. However, having expertise in people management isn’t necessarily a given. Management skills are not something people are born with and we are here to provide that expertise and resources to help build this skill set, which will allow us to compete for and to retain the very best employees.”

Do you have a favorite experience or memory of the Health Science Center? “Yes. Oftentimes in these roles we are stuck in the minutiae of problem solving, and it’s sometimes hard for us to remember the major reason we’re here. Every once in a while I have to step back to remember the mission…. Dr. (Glenn) Halff, the head of the transplant team, invited me into his operating room to watch a transplant from an adult son to his mother. I believe it was a kidney transplant. I got to observe him taking the kidney through laparoscopic surgery. He was educating me as well as the residents. And it was amazing! It re-energized me. It helped bring me back to why we’re here.”

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