Profiles in HR: Tim Huval, CHRO, Humana Inc.

By Desda Moss Aug 25, 2016
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​Tim Huval, CHRO for Humana. Photo courtesy of Humana Inc.

As senior vice president and CHRO at Humana Inc., Tim Huval gives a lot of thought to well-being—the well-being of the company, its 52,000 employees and the communities Humana serves. He also understands that the first step to building a vibrant culture that promotes healthful living is to be the change he wants to see.

That's why, shortly after joining Humana, he reflected on his own health and began exercising more and paying closer attention to his diet.

"I knew I had to start with myself and take an honest look at my own habits," he says. "It's important to model healthy habits as a leader."

It was the beginning of a cultural transformation. Humana, a 55-year-old Fortune 500 company focused on health insurance and services, was ripe for change after a new CEO, Bruce Broussard, took the helm in January 2013. As one of the first C-level executives Broussard hired, Huval was in a unique position to shape Humana's leadership by helping the CEO assemble the executive team. "We've built on a platform that was here when I got here," Huval says. "We've formalized some processes and given some areas more focus."

Quick to credit his HR team, Huval downplays his accomplishments. In a 2015 Forbes article, contributor Mike Myatt ranked him No. 1 on a list of the top 10 CHROs, calling Huval the "total package—a team player people love to work with and for," thanks in part to a diverse background in human resources, information technology and operations.

Before joining Humana, Huval served in senior-level roles at Bank of America for 10 years. "What's impressive about Tim's career at Bank of America is that he was handpicked on several occasions to solve critical business challenges in areas that go well beyond the scope of traditional HR," Broussard said at the time of Huval's appointment.

Creating Culture Change

Huval continued the process of cultural transformation by working with the executive team to bring renewed focus to the five principles that guide Humana: inspire health, cultivate uniqueness, rethink routine, pioneer simplicity and thrive together. He and his team integrated those values into everything from the organization's performance review process to the talent profiles that outline various job roles.

Huval also introduced a program this year that offers associates opportunities to try out different responsibilities within the company.

"Experiential moves allow people to move between units to get a different perspective and become more well-rounded leaders," Huval says. "We created a simple framework around five areas linked to our business model. It's part of being deliberate about how we move someone from role A to role B."

In addition, he led his team to launch a new onboarding program called QuickStart. The goal is to get new employees engaged and productive as soon as possible by personalizing their experience and simplifying practices. The process includes a technology platform that allows managers to monitor new employee activity via a dashboard. It also gives recent hires a virtual orientation and a single point of contact to handle the provisioning of equipment and computer access.  

"We want to provide an onboarding experience that is second to none," Huval says. "Our ability to make it easy for new talent to quickly become productive and engaged directly impacts how we care for our customers and remain agile as our industry evolves."

In 2016, Humana announced a new initiative, dubbed its "Bold Goal," of improving the health of the communities it serves by 20 percent by 2020. Huval and his team are leading efforts to support employees in reaching the same ambitious goal even earlier—by 2017.

Data already show positive results: 42 percent of employees have improved their health and reduced health risks, and 37 percent of those who had elevated blood pressure have lowered their levels.

In 2016,  Humana earned a perfect score in the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index report for the fourth year in a row.

In addition, the company's annual 100-Day Dash encourages associates and their families to track their steps using a pedometer or wearable device. The event attracted more than 21,000 participants in 2016. Employees logged 16 billion steps, up from nearly 6 billion in 2012 when the challenge started. "With every year, participation and engagement continue to grow, helping energize well-being within our culture," Huval says.

Last year, HR also implemented a program that gives all employees one paid day off each year to volunteer at a charitable organization of their choosing, with many individuals supporting activities that focus on health.

Helping workers and external customers to lead healthier lives is the core of Humana's business. "It's behind what we do every day," Huval says. "All of our associates have permission to focus on achieving their best health and even an obligation to do that because of the business we're in."

Shared Success

Huval credits Humana's diverse workforce—more than half of its employees are women, and more than 30 percent are black or Hispanic—with playing a key role in how the company connects to its values. "Each of us is unique, whether by gender, age, race, military status, physical ability," he says. "We want people to bring their entire selves to work."

In 2016, the company earned a perfect score in the Human Rights Campaign's Corporate Equality Index report for the fourth year in a row.

"We apply a diverse lens to everything we do—how we communicate, how we train, how we market, how we create solutions, even how we work," Huval says.

About 10,000 of the company's 52,000-person workforce belong to employee resource groups that contribute to the business in the areas of consulting, social consciousness and collective action.

Sense of Community

Growing up in Covington, La., a small town on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain in St. Tammany Parish, gave Huval a strong sense of community and shared purpose. His late father was an offshore oil worker and his mother was a homemaker. "It's a place that has great people, great food and great fun," Huval says with pride. "You go back and it's exactly the same as when you left."

Even though his father's job required him to work seven days on an offshore oil rig, followed by seven days off, Huval says he and his siblings never felt deprived by his absence.

"We had such a strong family bond—even with my extended family—that the support network we had filled the gap."

On visits to his hometown, Huval looks forward to digging into an oyster po' boy and relaxing with his family.

He credits his wife, Brenda, and his two children with giving him the foundation to excel in his career. "Without them, there is zero chance I'd be what I am today," he says.

Huval is keenly aware of the increasing pressures on business leaders to deliver tangible results. He advises aspiring CHROs to take a stint in operations to learn the business and to develop the skills they need to become trusted advisors to the management team and the board.

"You can never lose sight of being purpose-driven in what you do," Huval says. "I always say, 'Don't say it. Be it.' Push yourself to get experiences that make you a more effective leader. Exist to propel the company and the culture."

Desda Moss is managing editor of HR Magazine.

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