Debby Routt joined OurHealth as the interim VP of People & Culture on August 19. She brings more than thirty years of HR leadership and a passion for people and their development. Read on to hear more about her decision to join the company and how she’d spend her perfect day.
OurHealth (OH): Tell me about your decision to join OurHealth…
Debby Routt (DR): I’ve been a fan of OurHealth since the very beginning, having made the decision to add the clinic benefit for our associates at OneAmerica which made us the second customer after Interactive Intelligence (now Genesys). Through that partnership, I developed a strong relationship with Ben, Jeff and many of the team members. They were instrumental in helping OneAmerica overcome a number of challenges with increasing premiums and a dated work environment. I’ve so enjoyed my interactions with everyone on the team and when Shelly and I began talking about the leadership opportunity, I was intrigued. I left OneAmerica in March and five months into my “retirement,” I realized I missed the excitement of being part of a team and building something. When Shelly offered me the opportunity, I knew I wanted to come on board, and we agreed to structure it as a six-month contract so we could both be sure it was a good fit. Two weeks in, and I’ve been super impressed. It’s an absolute pleasure to be here. When I made the OurHealth decision at OneAmerica in 2011, my benefit consultant told me that out of the three pitches, one would be totally different. As soon as Ben and Jeff started talking, I knew he was referring to OurHealth. What you do is special and has the potential to make a huge and meaningful impact, not only on an employer’s health plan spend, but on people’s lives. I’ve seen it personally, and I’m thrilled to be on the inside to help grow the business. This is an exciting time for OurHealth, and I feel lucky to be here.
OH: Tell us about your family
DR: My husband Terry and I celebrated 44 years of marriage last Thursday! We met in Cincinnati when both of us worked at the local Burger Chef. We have a daughter, Amy, who works for the NCAA, and our son Stefan is a Psychiatrist that lives in Atlanta with his wife Emily and our only grandchild – an 18-month-old girl named Sawyer James. Let me tell you more about her name…Stefan played competitive basketball, and he and Lebron James are the same age. He never played directly against him, but he’s a big fan. So big that he gave Sawyer the middle name James in his honor. We also have two grand-dogs – Cosmo and Raisin. Terry is retired from his accounting career and when we’re not traveling, he spends his time defending his record as the Indiana state ping pong champion for his age ranking and group (we even have an Olympic regulation ping pong table that he purchased from Germany!).
OH: What do you like to do in your free time?
DR: Terry and I are travel addicts. Terry’s early career took us to Germany where we lived for nearly six years. Stefan was actually born there, which is why he has a German name. Most of our trips take us through Atlanta to see Sawyer these days. Hawaii is our happy place and we visit every year in the winter. The most interesting place we’ve been recently is Cuba. Alaska, Portugal and the Panama Canal are all on our list to visit that we haven’t been to yet.
OH: Describe your perfect day
DR: If I’m not traveling – working out, breakfast at Rosie’s café or Café Patachou, reading a good book and fixing a nice dinner with no stress. If I’m traveling, a perfect day would be on a beach at sunset with a margarita in one hand and a book in the other.
OH: Do you have a motto or quote that defines your leadership style?
DR: From an HR standpoint, if it’s not illegal, immoral or unethical we can at least talk about it. Other than that, human resources is not rocket science. Let’s not take ourselves too seriously and do the right thing.
OH: How’d you get into HR? What do you love about it?
DR: I landed in HR accidentally. I’d just graduated from college and had been offered a fabulous role at Levi Strauss & Co., but turned it down for the opportunity to move to Germany with Terry. I got a job with Boston University’s overseas program and after a few months, the head of HR announced she was returning to the US. I walked down the hall to the VP of the University and explained why I was the right person for the job even though I’d never done it before. He hired me on the spot, and I started the following Monday. I spent five years in the role and traveled all over Europe. I loved it! When we move back to the States, I became an underwriter for five years (which I wasn’t nearly as passionate about), found my way back into HR at Allstate and never looked back. I love working with people, and I love being able to impact the culture of an organization. Culture is the most important thing. I can do HR for any company, but I choose to do it for organizations that have the best culture and where I can have the greatest impact.
OH: You’ve been here two weeks – what are your first impressions?
DR: Everyone I’ve met has been great. I love the interactions and camaraderie I’ve seen among the leadership team – it’s refreshing. I haven’t had a lot of interactions with them yet, but I’m intrigued. I love the enthusiasm of the HR team and their desire to do what’s in the best interest of the organization. It’s an interesting transition going from the buyer of OurHealth to a leader on the inside. It’s great to see all the things I thought to be true about the business be reinforced internally. I also love that the office is downtown – love the vibe!
OH: 70% of OurHealth employees work in our clinics – how do you personally plan to engage with the field? What should the field expect from the HR team under your leadership?
DR: I want to build strong relationships with our team members in the field, and I’m planning a lot of clinic visits in October. I want to understand their day-to-day, what’s going well? Where can we improve? Do they feel communicated to? Engaged? I’ve worked closely with the Tower clinic team over the last 8 years through our partnership at OneAmerica, but I know that each clinic and each clinic team is unique. I’m anxious to see the different locations up close. As an organization we should be much more focused on the field than headquarters. I love that there’s a desire here to flip that focus, and I’m excited to think about how we can achieve that.
OH: What will you be focused on over the next 6 months?
DR: Right away we’re going to dig into the HR basics – audit of all the things we do to make sure we have all of our risks identified and processes documented. We’re a small and lean team, and we need to make sure we can keep up with our growth. I also want to look at compensation programs, how we hire people, performance review systems, career development, leadership training and development…We want to provide all of our team members with a career path. Above that, I want to get to know people and learn what’s top of mind for them. I want to help build and reinforce a culture that we can all be proud of.
OH: Anything you want to add?
DR: Thank you to everyone for being so open and helpful during my first couple weeks! It’s hard being new, but I’ve loved our time together so far.