From retail to academia to healthcare, Susan Marsico has worked in human resources and total rewards across a variety of sectors. Her vast experience in these fields has allowed her to create unique yet competitive total rewards programs for employees at Central Ohio Primary Care (COPC). Now a seasoned HR professional, her journey in human resources began in college.
“I started out as an accounting major, but then became intrigued by well-being so changed to dietetics, but ultimately learned about a new degree in human resources at the time, and it sounded interesting to me, so I just went for it,” she remembers.
Upon graduation, Marsico picked up her first HR job at the Central Ohio Transit Authority, where she was given a unique opportunity. “The comp and benefits person was leaving her job to have a baby, which meant her role would be open, and she told my manager that I would be a great fit for the role,” she recalls. “I said, ‘Sign me up!’ That was my first introduction into the total rewards space.”
The role served as a launchpad for Marsico’s compensation and benefits career, which propelled her to a manager-level role at Bath & Body Works and then a director-level role at Ohio State University.
However, when she moved on to her role Ohio State, she didn’t jump right into the director level. “It was interesting because I had always been the top person doing benefits, but I took sort of a step down at Ohio State, and I reported up to the director of benefits,” she explains. “I did that because I really wanted to learn from someone.”
This type of mentorship, Marsico believes, taught her a valuable lesson for her career, which is also a piece of advice she thinks is important for all HR professionals. Don’t be overly focused on job titles to the point where it limits your growth. “If I hadn’t been willing to take that step down, I would never have done the work to really grow into my role,” she attests. “I think because I have truly done the work and I have held the roles that my employees have, that builds a special type of trust and respect between us.”
Following her time at Ohio State, Marsico went on to work in the technology and private equity fields at OCLC and Vertiv, which further diversified her experience and gave her valuable exposure to different policies and processes.
“By having worked in all of these different industries, including transit, technology, retail, healthcare, and academia, I have a broader perspective,” she says. “I know what is happening in different industries, working with both higher- and lower-income employees, in both fast-paced and slower-paced industries, and all of that has combined to set me up for my current role.”
Now, Marsico serves as director of total rewards at COPC, where she has been able to scale a full team and spearhead a brand-new wellness and well-being program for their employees. “Prior to my joining, COPC didn’t have any wellness programs,” she says. “And I thought, ‘We take care of our patients really well, but we need to take care of ourselves too.’”
Marsico organized a wellness committee to service both the employees and physicians at COPC and align employee needs with wellness offerings and options. This program not only focuses on the mental and physical health of employees, but also financial wellness and offers employees resources such as free financial advising services.
Additionally, Marsico helped develop and roll out a new career ladder program for COPC’s patient service representatives. “The new program outlines several new higher-level jobs to help enhance these employees’ development and create career progression within COPC,” she says. She also created a new recognition program that allows managers and employees to recognize others publicly for their achievements.
At the core of all she does at COPC, Marsico believes that clear communication and messaging is how she has best been able to support her employees. While her experience provides her a lot of know-how, she emphasizes the importance of listening to what employees find valuable so she can provide them with the best resources to be successful both in and out of the workplace.
“We have worked really hard to create communications in the benefits space, because before I joined, there were very limited written communications,” she says. “I wanted to create benefits and enrollment materials to enhance communications and make sure every person knows what’s available to them so they can take advantage of our comprehensive benefits package.”
For those looking to pursue a career path in human resources, Marsico has another piece of advice: be open.
“At the start of my career, I just assumed that HR was employee relations or recruiting. I didn’t know what this job could be until I was open to trying that first role in comp and benefits,” she says. “Now I’ve been exposed to so many other areas like rewards and wellness. It’s incredibly important to be willing to explore other things. You might be surprised at what you find.”
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