The finalists for WashingtonExec’s Chief Officer Awards were announced March 25, and we’ll be highlighting some of them until the event takes place live, in-person May 11 at the The Ritz-Carlton in McLean, Virginia.
Next is Chief Human Resources Officer (Private & Public) finalist Kerri Morehart, who’s CHRO at The Cadmus Group, Inc. Here, she talks primary focus areas, taking professional risks, learning from failures and more.
What has made you successful in your current role?
You’ve got to re-recruit your people every day because that’s why they stay. My background is in business development and project management, and I bring a lot of those qualities to the HR role. With a sales-oriented mindset, I try to demonstrate the value proposition of being a part of the Cadmus community to our employees and recruits every day.
I’m also a creative problem solver and I encourage my team to try new things — I don’t let what currently is prevent me from thinking about what could be. Of course, pushing the envelope with senior leadership is important when you’re advocating for out-of-the-box solutions — it’s critical that you show your leaders the impact of decisions on employees and on our brand.
What are your primary focus areas going forward, and why are those so important to the future of the nation?
One of the things I really love about Cadmus is that as a sustainability-focused firm that provides services to the federal government, all the work we do is so important to the future of the nation — from safeguarding our nation’s clean water to helping decarbonize our energy grid to enabling communities to become more resilient to natural disasters.
We’ve also made a major commitment as a firm to prioritize diversity, equity and inclusion in all aspects of our operations and client services. That’s why I’m focusing on flexibility in the workplace for all employee generations, meaningful work that moves the needle in society to create better outcomes for everybody in the areas we serve, and creating space for people of all backgrounds to participate in the amazing work we’re doing here at Cadmus.
How do you help shape the next generation of government leaders/industry leaders?
One of the most important parts of my job is providing both professional and personal growth opportunities, so that when employees look back on their time at Cadmus, not only has their work enriched Cadmus, but they have grown as professionals in their time here too. I want all our employees to feel that they ended up being better than they even knew they could be because they met the people they did, solved problems together, cared about another person.
To that end, my team and I are always asking: “What can we do to make each other better? What training and opportunities can I give you to enrich you?” That includes formal and informal training, mentorship and teaching people how to be resilient and look for opportunities that might not be obvious.
What’s one key thing you learned from a failure you had?
There is no such thing as overcommunication when you need to communicate change. You may think you’ve communicated adequately and that your message has landed with your audience, but that’s when your job as a communicator is just beginning.
What’s the biggest professional risk you’ve ever taken?
Moving out of my comfort zone from a customer-facing role to a corporate role was a huge risk. When I was tapped by Ted Legasey, the CEO of SRA International at the time, to go to HR and lead SRA’s recruiting function, I wasn’t an HR expert. My background was in sales and business development. But Ted knew we could leverage those skills to transform the organization to bring great people on board and keep them there.
Looking back at your career, what are you most proud of?
I’m so proud of all the work I’ve done for individual employees that no one knows about. All the people I was able to get assistance for, all the quiet work, support and creative problem-solving that was done behind the scenes. These are never the big initiatives that make headlines on the company intranet, but being able to mobilize Cadmus and its resources in times of crisis to help employees and their families makes the biggest difference in people’s lives and really shows what our company is all about.
What’s your best career advice for those who want to follow in your footsteps?
There are a few important pieces of advice I want to share:
- Don’t say no to new opportunities because they didn’t fit into your ideal framework of what your career should look like. Opportunities don’t always present themselves based on your outline — you’ve got to be open to them.
- Work with lots of different kinds of people that have different perspectives.
- Seek out mentorship. Be a mentor. You’re going to learn in both directions.