[How We Hire] Backing up the rock stars of public health

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When Heather Brooks became Director, Organizational Effectiveness at The Task Force for Global Health in 2010, she already had many years of experience in international HR—and she wasn’t looking back. “I like to tell my colleagues that global HR is the sexy side of human resources,” she says with a laugh. Like others at the Task Force, she’s energized by the complex challenges of her role, and by working with some of the “rock stars” of the public health field. Overseeing a rapidly growing organization, she’s turned the HR department from a one-woman show to a team of five, ensuring a high HR-to-staff ratio that means great support for staff. “Our employees are hands-down our most important asset, so focusing on them is a big part of our ‘high touch’ strategy.”

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My pitch for potential hires: The first part addresses who we are, and our mission: We’re building a world where all people have equal access to the means for good health. If you believe that this can be done, and would like to help us achieve this mission together, join our collaborative team. The other part is where we are: Nestled downtown in the beautiful city of Decatur, Georgia, with miles of bike paths, greenspaces, and great places to eat and shop. We have most generations represented in the Task Force staff, and our location appeals to all of them.

What people love about working here: People love our mission, our diverse staff, and our caring, compassionate, collaborative culture. We offer a flexible work environment, and a profound mission that provides a lot of personal job satisfaction—most of our staff travel globally, so they get to see the impact of our work on the ground. We work in 154 countries, so there are many places to make an impact and to visit. Our energetic, cool location is also part of it—we also have great in-office amenities, like full showers for staff who enjoy walking and biking to work.

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One essential trait for employee success: Strong interpersonal skills are very important for us. We’re a collaborative organization, and though we’re growing rapidly, we’re relatively small—so we get our work done by working with others. 

My favorite interview question: I like behavioral questions—asking people how they’ve handled real experiences. But in addition to those, one of my favorite questions is, “If I were to ask your peers what it’s like to work with you, what would they say?” We put a lot of emphasis on how well people work together.

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How we onboard new hires: Something we do that’s simple but cool is to display each new hire’s name on our lobby welcome board on their first day. We’re all Emory University employees, so we utilize their online process for the basics, and then hold face-to-face meetings with HR, finance, IT, and building services, followed by program orientation. Typically, that happens in the first couple of days. Within the first two months, new hires have a breakfast with President and CEO Dave Ross, and sometime between the 6th and 9th month we schedule a lunch with Dr. Ross so he can see how they’re acclimating. But since we can always do more, we’re currently working to enhance our onboarding process. 

Something cool we do to support staff: We care about our people here, and we show it in many ways. We provide support for significant life events—births,  birthdays, bereavement—like providing a fully-equipped breastfeeding room for staff. As an affiliate of Emory University, staffers enjoy educational opportunities such as courtesy scholarships to attend Emory University. We also throw awesome staff cookouts and holiday parties.

The Task Force for Global Health works around the world, and with dozens of partners, to provide all people with the opportunity to lead healthy, productive lives. Find out more about them on their website, or follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

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