Chris Browning, Senior Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer, was named the 2014 HR Excellence Executive of the Year by Columbus CEO magazine. The Executive of the Year award recognizes an individual who demonstrates significant achievements in the HR profession. Below is the feature story that appeared in Columbus CEO magazine, as well a photo of the awards ceremony:
Photo by Tim Johnson
From the August 2014 issue of Columbus CEO
Last year, Mount Carmel Health System’s Live Your Whole Life health and wellness program won the HR Excellence Award for Best Practices.
This year, the [executive champion] of that program is being feted by Columbus CEO, as A. Christine Browning, Mount Carmel’s senior vice president of human resources, takes home the award for Executive of the Year of a large company. “Chris is a very important part of our leadership team,” nominator Claus von Zychlin, president and CEO of the health system, says. “She has common sense and advocacy. She is a true executive, who happens to have expertise in human resources, and that makes her a valuable part of the leadership team of Mount Carmel.”
Browning’s passion for human resources, which has been cultivated over 30 years, was actually built on a strong business foundation. She launched her career in industrial sales, followed by a degree in business management from the College of Mount St. Joseph in Cincinnati.
Browning sought to understand “how and why businesses run.” Her realization: people are a big reason how and why businesses operate.
A desire to understand how employees are motivated to do work, and what systems can and should be in place to optimize the “human element,” led Browning into HR at a management level with Mercy Health.
“My first job, I was selected because I had first-hand experience hiring and firing, and handling business operations first,” she says. “A lot of people don’t have that. I have a different perspective of how to engage in HR work.”
Browning came to Mount Carmel in 2011 by way of Hill-Rom Holdings, Inc., where she served as vice president of talent and international human resources before the medical supply company relocated to Amsterdam.
She says she was attracted to Mount Carmel’s faith-based mission to work with the poor and underserved, and desire to participate in community outreach. She also welcomed the opportunity to help the people who serve the hospital’s clientele.
“People make the difference,” she says. “I hate the term ‘human capital,’ but the power of the individual to build relationships and deliver great care is what makes or breaks organizations. It’s about creating an environment where people thrive in the right role for them, to find their success and their fulfillment, where their values are aligned.”
Toward that end, Browning’s team created initiatives like Live Your Whole Life, in recognition of the fact that before Mount Carmel can care for others, it must care for caregivers first. The program helps the hospital system’s team members maintain life and emotional balance, with a focus on everything from financial wellness to fitness and coping with stress.
“Right now we are holding a contest, the Amazing Race…where one of the elements of the first week is going to a bookstore to read something different,” she says. “That is not something most people think fits in health and wellness. Next week it will be something physical. Each week we are asking you to think differently about something in your life.”
Mount Carmel employees are also invited to think differently with the Innovation Council, a social media platform that allows employees to present ideas--or engage in ideas presented by others--to advance such areas as patient care, learning and development, the supply chain and IT.
Browning has also implemented a merit-based pay system that recognizes and rewards high-level performance, while concurrently working to develop leaders and identify up-and-coming employees to be mentored through the Nurse Residency Program and Clinical Leader Boot Camp.
Browning says her philosophy for Mount Carmel echoes a view offered by University of Michigan professor David Ulrich: “The conversation does not start with what HR is about; it starts with what the business is trying to accomplish.”
“We can act different,” she says. “We can impact many more people and the work in a more effective way working with a strategic leader. It causes us to focus on things in a more proactive manner."