Jason Whitehair has spent over three decades in human resources, including in his current capacity as senior vice president of global HR at Argon Medical Devices. However, before finding his way to the field, he cut his teeth as an internal auditor at manufacturing conglomerate Rockwell International.
“The best thing that came out of my job as an internal auditor was that it made me realize what I didn’t want to do for the rest of my life,” Whitehair says. The other major upside was his exposure to an alternative profession. “Rockwell would place their auditors in a variety of different jobs in plants or divisional offices throughout the country, and I chose to go into the personnel department, now known as HR,” he continues.
Whitehair’s passion for HR only grew in the years since first discovering it. His work at Argon combined this passion with his desire to help others, whether the company’s global network of employees or the patients benefiting from its lifesaving medical devices.
Jason Whitehair joined Argon in April 2018 after several years in the hospital business. “It’s very rewarding to work in the healthcare space, because you indirectly improve the lives of patients and caregivers through the innovation, manufacturing, and delivery of best-in-class medical devices,” he says. “Argon has a huge growth trajectory I wanted to be a part of. Our headcount has grown 40 percent , and revenue has increased 53 percent, over the four years that I’ve been here. We also expanded globally, increasing our operations in Europe and China.”
To keep pace with Argon’s growth, Whitehair focused on bringing greater discipline to the HR function, especially as it relates to headcount planning. He began by standardizing the company’s processes for documenting the employee lifecycle. The next phase of this project includes transitioning all aspects of the involved workflows from paper to electronic.
“The goal is always to be aware of where we stand relative to the headcount plan. We’re now tracking and monitoring on an ongoing basis as opposed to ad hoc reporting on the fly” Whitehair says.
Other recent initiatives include implementing a comprehensive leadership development program, developing set job descriptions and job families, and establishing a common pay band structure for each region where Argon operates. “Before, we had no effective metrics to manage the HR business. We implanted several key metrics to assist in guiding our strategy and decision making,” Whitehair explains.
Ensuring competitive employee pay within each local market is just one of the challenges Argon faces. Whitehair cites the unknown long-term impact of the COVID-19 pandemic as another major obstacle to recruiting and retaining top talent. “With the exception of our manufacturing and field sales and clinical personnel, Argon’s corporate office maintains a hybrid schedule, which means that we’re not going to attract people who want to work in the office 100 percent of the time, and we’re not going to attract people who want to work from home 100 percent of the time,” he elaborates. “Making the candidate pool significantly smaller than pre-COVID.”
Accordingly, Jason Whitehair ramped up Argon’s benefit programs and started leveraging technology to attract qualified candidates. “We’ve implemented an applicant tracking system and optimized our use of social media to enhance our recruiting efforts,” the SVP says.
With every change in process or procedure, Whitehair puts in the time to bring both Argon’s leadership team and his own HR team on board. He also keeps the company’s broader corporate objectives front of mind as he weighs possible new HR strategies.
“We have three primary, overarching goals for the organization: to expand our geographic presence, to expand our product portfolio, and to attract and retain the best and the brightest,” he says. “I don’t implement a goal or strategy in HR unless it ties, directly to one of those three overarching goals.”
With additional company growth on the horizon, there’s no chance of an HR slowdown at Argon any time soon. But that’s exactly how Jason Whitehair likes it. “The fun thing about HR is that you never know what a day is going to bring. Being in a growth or build mode is infinitely more exciting than maintenance mode.” he says. “The variety and diversity of the work is what first drew me to HR and what has kept me passionately hooked for the past thirty-some years.”
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