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Make a Difference Every Day: A Q&A with Humana's Tim Huval

Humana's chief administrative officer, Tim S. Huval, has a relentless focus on his life's purpose and making a difference for others.

A bald man in a suit and tie posing for a photo.

As chief administrative officer of Humana Inc., Tim S. Huval has a long list of responsibilities. He oversees HR, health and well-being, marketing, enterprise change and agility, workplace experience, inclusion and diversity, and safety and security. As a member of Humana’s management team, he helps set the strategic direction of the health insurance company, which is based in Louisville and had revenue of $83 billion in 2021.

None of that seemed very important three years ago, when Huval was struck out of the blue by a mysterious, life-threatening illness. Doctors were flummoxed by his condition—he was in a coma and on a ventilator—and unable to identify a cause. They feared he would not survive, but Huval rallied and ultimately recovered.

“I came out of that with a relentless focus on the purpose of my life and on making a difference for others,” he says. 

Huval will be a main stage speaker at the SHRM Annual Conference & Expo 2022, to be held June 12-15 in New Orleans. We asked him to share some of his views on HR and on life. 

Your responsibilities at Humana go well beyond human resources. In what areas would you recommend that HR practitioners increase their exposure, and why?

At Humana, we believe digital, data and analytics will be critical to creating value. Technologies like artificial intelligence, machine learning and automation have enormous potential to transform how we do business. It’s important to create value not only by using these technologies, but also by making sure they enable new ways of working that can be scaled across the whole organization.

Also, culture is more important than ever. Evolving hybrid ways of working are a differentiator and are changing the way companies think about talent strategies.

The last few years have been difficult emotionally and physically for workers. What has Humana done to support its employees during this time? 

We care for our teammates on every level. We created special benefits and resources—like helping employees with young children get child care, providing special paid time off for those who needed it, and providing virtual care from doctors and therapists. We covered all of our employees’ COVID-19-related medical costs and ensured that workers had access to vaccinations when they became 

We also learned a lot about how we can work differently. Virtual ways of working prompted a new way of thinking about what work environments should look like. As we head back to the offices, we are keeping flexible ways of working in place so people can better balance what’s needed at home and at work.

“Cause the Effect” is the theme of SHRM’s Annual Conference. How can HR professionals Cause the Effect in their organizations?

HR has a unique view of how an organization’s actions affect employees at every stage of their work experience. From recruitment and onboarding to ongoing professional development, HR has an opportunity to make a difference. We strive daily to create exceptional employee experiences with every interaction and make Humana a place people want to be to grow their careers. Even when employees leave the organization, we want them to leave as advocates. There have been a lot of situations where someone leaves only to return, and we are better for it.

Your career has taken you from computer manufacturing to banking to health care. Would you suggest other HR professionals try to gain experience in a range of industries?
Yes, I strongly encourage others to be open to working across different industries, even in different line and operational roles. It can help you be more effective because you are exposed to different perspectives that you can build on. That being said, I’ve also grown and learned by taking on stretch opportunities within the same organization. The bottom line is that whether a person works in different industries or seeks different opportunities in their current industry or company, it’s important to keep taking risks in order to learn and grow.

You recently recovered from a life-threatening illness that puzzled doctors. What do you take away from such a sobering experience?

Sobering is one word for it. When you’re suddenly faced with a serious illness with a very small chance of survival, your perspective changes quickly. One day I was healthy. The next day I was fighting for my life, fighting for one more chance to talk to my kids and wife, fighting for the chance to make a difference. I remember thinking what I would do if I was given one more chance. It made me fearless in pursuing things rather than overthinking them. I now have a relentless focus on the purpose of my life and try to make a difference in someone’s life daily. I try to be more present—at work, at home, with friends and family. I live each day to the fullest.

Interview by Tam Harbert, a ­freelance technology and business reporter based in the Washington, D.C., area.


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