Kim Davis | Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer | NFP

Kim Davis: Creating a People-centric Work Culture

Employee’s engagement and performance are critical to the overall success of an organization. You will accelerate growth in the business if employees feel that they are valued for the work they do and the ideas they have. People centric management allows you to build processes and programs that bring “interconnection” between the organization and its people. Kim Davis, Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer of NFP, with her expertise in HR leadership and people centric management is bringing value to the organization and engages the employee to excel and manage their own career growth and success.

Below are highlights from the interview conducted between Kim and Insights Success:

Tell us about your first entrepreneurial venture: How did you come up with the idea and how did you start your business? 

In 2000, I joined the private equity firm Icahn Enterprises. I managed portfolio-wide HR and benefit programs by negotiating economies of scale to improve benefit program pricing while maintaining individual contracts and high levels of service for each portfolio company owned. Private equity firms were starting to hold their portfolio companies longer, and working to increase their value before selling. It made sense that if we were having success managing portfolio programs and reducing the double digit health care increases for a single private equity firm, then we could apply the strategy on a grander scale. With encouragement from several business contacts and the support of my family, I started HR Metrics, which later became Alteritythrough a joint venture with another benefits consulting firm which was also having success in the private equity space Alterity became a gold standard for consulting in private equity HR and benefits. It is still a highly regarded private equity consulting firm as part of the NFP family.

Give a brief overview of your background and your role in NFP Corp. 

As Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer, I continue my career’s work of supporting strategic empowerment programs. I lead a variety of integrated initiatives to ensure NFP attracts, engages, and retains an innovative workforce dedicated to empowering and celebrating diverse perspectives for the betterment of the entire organization. Prior to transitioning to this new role in January 2019, I spent six years as NFP’s Chief Human Resources Officer, creating a unified, peoplecentric culture throughout NFP. One of my major initiatives in this work was crafting a program known as PeopleFirst, which underpins NFP’s efforts to make people the priority. I was also appointed to the NFP board of directors, allowing me to contribute to the success of NFP at multiple levels. I joined NFP through the acquisition of the company I cofounded, bringing entrepreneurial benefits consulting and high-level HR design expertise from the private equity space. Prior to NFP, I spent over 20 years building and leading HR teams within large companies such as GE, Carlson Wagonlit Travel, MCI, Equity Residential, and Icahn Enterprises.

What is the biggest challenge for you as a woman in business? 

For me, its feeling comfortable with my accomplishments. Call it imposter syndrome or any other name, but as a woman who is a successful entrepreneur and C-suite level executive, there are times when I still struggle with feeling worthy of the success I have achieved. I know that confidence and acceptance of myself are key and work externally to always bring those to the conversation, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t times when seeds of doubt creep in. I do have to take a step back sometimes and remind myself that I deserve to be where I am given my hard work and accomplishments. It’s also critically important to remember that my voice as a successful female executive and entrepreneur is a vital part of the business conversation today and for the future businesswomen who come after me.

How do you maintain work-life balance? What helps you in being diligent in business? 

I think that telling people you can have work-life balance all the time and still become a senior leader and successful entrepreneur is not honest. I think you can have balance on any given day or week or year but that comes with tradeoffs where sometimes work has to come first and sometimes family. There are definitely more opportunities in the business world today for flexibility and work-life balance but it isn’t easy and requires thought, commitment, and family support.

What have you learned about entrepreneurship, leadership, and guiding others? 

I think some of the most important lessons I have learned in my career are to value your time and that of others, and to be willing as an entrepreneur to take on any role needed at any given time. You have to provide guidance and share knowledge and experiences willingly, but then get out of people’s way and let them do what they do. You have to stay inquisitive about how things work, ask questions of people who think differently than you and consider those ideas when creating or innovating.

How is temperament critical to success in business, according to you? 

If you want people to listen to you, collaborate with you, support you or believe in you, you have to be consistent with your words and actions. Remember that other people’s life experiences are different from yours, which means you must be patient and strive for mutual understanding. I believe that anger will quickly disassociate you from others (even if they don’t show it to you) and won’t make trust or progress sustainable.

What strategies do you undertake to make your employees resourceful? 

You have to engage employees with what’s happening in the business and show them how their work and their success can be directly related to the business’ success. Provide people with the tools and resources to think creatively and learn new skills or technologies. Employees need communication tools and the time to network, and that also helps to create long-term relationships and foster team building, belonging, and commitment. With those practices and a fierce pace of acquisitions, NFP has become one of the top global insurance consulting firms with over 5,800 employees each making a difference in the success of NFP and our clients.

What are some of the vital attributes, in your opinion, that every leader should possess? 

Honesty, authenticity, strong communication, passion, dedication, accountability, and a desire to empower everyone around them. All of that and a side of humor helps!

How necessary is it to align business with technology and what are its outcomes? 

Technology is in every aspect of our lives today and being both comfortable with it and using it in business is critical for competitive advantage. It can increase productivity and operational efficiency, improve communications with employees, customers and vendors, build business culture, provide access for research and innovation and offer security for business and client information.

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