Coworking with Valerie Louissaint

She’s the manager of people and operations at Darvis
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· 5 min read

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Ask Valerie Louissaint about her title at the Nashville-based AI tech company Darvis, and she is careful to emphasize that it’s manager, people and operations. Louissaint says the separation of people and operations into distinct entities is important to her because it emphasizes, as she puts it, “the sweet spot. You kind of have the ability to do anything without [anyone] saying, ‘Hey, this is not this person’s function.’ It’s like you can touch anything in the company…It’s more fluid.”

We recently spoke with Louissaint via phone and email to find out more about her approach to HR at Darvis, which has close to 100 employees and counts among its clients USPS and Bosch.

This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.

How would you describe your specific job to someone who doesn’t work in HR? My job involves the management of people in the organization, as well as helping bridge the gap between my employees and their success at the company. The goal of our organization is to treat employees of our company as people and not solely human capital.

What’s the best change you’ve made at a place you’ve worked? Process improvements, for example, career paths and succession planning…After the onset of the pandemic, people are starting to feel the need to find a further purpose. The purpose of our career paths is to encourage our staff to not only work to a higher level but also grow in their role from a personal and professional development standpoint. According to a July 2021 poll conducted by Monster, 80% of workers “do not feel their current employer offers them growth opportunities.” The idea behind this is that we make this a priority.

What’s the biggest misconception people might have about your job? A huge misconception people may have about a position in HR/people operations is that the job is easy or doesn’t require a lot. To head a department such as people operations requires a considerable amount of emotional intelligence as well as logic. It is a position where you are forced to look at things objectively, while still trying to find the best solution for your company and its employees. You have to satisfy both sides of the spectrum as much as possible.

What’s the most fulfilling aspect of your job? The most fulfilling thing about my job is being able to help people. I know it’s a cliché, but I truly do enjoy giving and helping others find joy in their career. I have had several experiences that were not the best, and I want to help the next person be happy to get up to work for us every day they come in.

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Could elaborate on one of those experiences? I believe wherever I was working probably had a lack of focus on the people of the organization. And when I say “a lack of focus on the people of the organization,” I more referred to—I don’t like to say it—but human capital. So it’s kind of like you’re just a body, right? You’re not really a person they’re working with.

But with companies who look forward and really try to make sure to establish not “family,” but a community-like environment, it’s a lot easier to work in. And when I say “family” versus “community,” it’s because “family” is not the word I like to use, because you don’t want to give people the idea that this is an almost uncomfortably close environment where personal boundaries are close, but more of people trying to help others and help others elevate, take care of each other, make sure they’re succeeding in their position. That's what’s really important to me…And I think that’s key because in those other positions, where you were referred to as “human capital,” they don’t care what hours you sleep, they don’t care what you do. They don’t care who's stepping on each other’s toes. They don’t care about any of that, as long as the work was done, and that’s a very toxic environment to be in, I believe.

What trend in HR are you most optimistic about? Why? Four-day workweek! I believe the majority of salaried professionals constantly work over their scheduled hours on a daily basis. If they are factoring this in and removing the Friday of their weekend as a workday, this would for sure boost productivity and morale.

What trend in HR are you least optimistic about? Why? Only utilizing technology to recruit. The in-person experiences, talking with potential candidates, helped build relationships. When everything is virtual all the time, less of that sticks, compared to the in-person conversations.

Tell us one new or old HR tech product or platform that’s made your life easier, and why: SutiHR. It encompasses all HR functions and integrates them into one platform. It has made our lives easier by regionally subdividing our sites into several different ones while still remaining somewhat integrated.

Quick-to-read HR news & insights

From recruiting and retention to company culture and the latest in HR tech, HR Brew delivers up-to-date industry news and tips to help HR pros stay nimble in today’s fast-changing business environment.