Excellence in HR Awards Honorees: Denise Morris

Denise Morris, Executive Director, Human Resources (HR) at Cleveland Clinic Florida. An HR professional with over 21 years of healthcare HR experience. Previously, she served as Senior Director, HR for Cleveland Clinic Weston, Executive Director, HR for University of Miami Health System and School of Medicine, and Regional Director, HR at Broward Health. Ms. Morris earned a Master’s in Business Administration and Masters in Human Resources from Nova Southeastern University.

Favorite Quote: “You live life forward, but you understand it backward.”

Fun Fact: I started my healthcare career as a Certified Nursing Assistant at the age of 15.

How do you unwind after a long day of work? After a long day at work, I love to relax with some music, singing, and dancing. It helps me to completely disconnect from the day and transition to a relaxed state.

What challenges have you faced in your career, and how did you overcome them? One of the biggest challenges I have faced in my career is the desire to make a difference in the lives of all the caregivers that I serve. I had to take a step back and see things from the lens of the caregiver. Then, think about ‘What are their daily challenges?’ ‘What will success look like for them?’ ‘What value can my team and I add to individual caregivers, service teams, and the organization?’ these questions led me to realize that HR’s role is to be the ‘Hospital for the hospital, impacting one life at a time.’

What has been the most monumental moment of your career thus far? I can think of so many monumental moments. The one that had the most significant impact, was an encounter I had with a caregiver that was being separated for performance issues. I took the time to make the moment personal for that individual, treated them with respect, and turned a very negative situation into a positive one. I helped the caregiver look at how she could further herself and her education and never be placed in a similar position again. A few years later, the caregiver found me at another place of employment and told me about her accomplishments of obtaining her degree and landing an amazing job. The caregiver further expressed that the conversation and mentorship were so impactful, that it inspired her to accomplish something she had been afraid to do. In finding me, the caregiver wanted to express her gratitude for the positive impact I made in her life. This encounter remains with me to this date as a gentle reminder of why I am passionate about HR.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten? “Trust but verify and always do the right thing even if it hurts.”

What qualities make for an outstanding HR professional? The qualities that make for an outstanding HR professional would be a strong level of integrity, being above reproach, consistent, fair, and trusted to do the right thing all the time for the employees, leaders, and the organization that we serve.

How have you adapted your HR skills to COVID? COVID really challenged the healthcare industry to instantaneously intensify its innovativeness and responsiveness. Thus, having to quickly adapt to the needs of our community, our patients, our staff who themselves were being impacted by COVID, and balancing work-life needs for all. My HR skills took on a ‘super cape’ as we are generally agile and adaptable professionals, but I had to take that to the next level. Honing in on my HR skills, I had to ensure that we are taking care of our caregiver’s every need and supporting them every step of the way so they can focus on caring for our patients and community who were ravished by the pandemic.

What are some misconceptions about HR and how do you combat them? Some misconceptions about HR are that we only listen to one side: the manager or the employee, and that we are not strategic. To combat this misconception, it is crucial that we maintain a strong level of integrity, fairness, openness, and transparency, regardless of management or employee status. We are here to serve the people and be the advocate for doing the right thing. HR has become a more strategic business partner within organizations. We are required to be more aligned with our leaders and help them strategically manage the most valuable asset of the organization, the Human Capital.

What do you like most about working in HR? What I like the most about working in HR is the people. It’s helping and mentoring people succeed by achieving their career goals. The right attitude is everything! Being in a role whereby I can help people adopt the right attitude and mindset, setting them on the right path is extremely rewarding.

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