Stryker HR Director in the Hot Seat

Erin Cramlet is HR Director (ANZ) at Strykerthe business she’s worked in since 2000. One of the world’s leading medical technology companies, with over $11 billion in global sales, Stryker is consistently voted as one of the best companies to work for. Last year, Stryker was ranked #2 in Australia for the BRW Best Places to Work.  Originally from Chicago, Erin is passionate about what she does and loves building teams and organisations that “knock your socks off.” In 2007, the US Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association named her as one of the industry’s rising stars – and she’s never looked back. Erin has studied at Harvard Business School, given birth on a Stryker maternity bed and, in her spare time, enjoys refinishing old furniture with Chalk Paint.

Erin, congratulations on the awards Stryker have earned over the last few years! Reaching #2 ranking in the ‘BRW Best Places to Work’ is fantastic. What do you attribute this achievement to?

Whilst receiving awards is always a nice form of recognition, the real litmus test is asking people at Stryker, “How do you feel?” I love hearing stories about somebody who has become a better person because they work here. A woman who just joined us after leaving an organisation that wasn’t good for her said to me, “Erin, working here is good for my soul.” I think that’s beautiful.

Over the years, we’ve spent an enormous amount of time on recruitment to ensure the people we employ are a good fit with the business. We work on the Gallup strengths-based model. By this, I mean that we don’t try to fix weaknesses but instead build on people’s strengths. Our people appreciate that they are not locked into a predetermined path and we believe this makes for ultra-engaged employees.

A colleague named Ryan is a great example of this. He was brought into the finance side of the business. Not only is he great at numbers, but he enjoys developing teams and has a real knack for seeing opportunities within a market segment. He became managing director and now oversees marketing and sales for our Medical division. This agility enables the business to nurture talent and stay very diverse.

We understand that you ask every candidate that you interview to undertake an interview through Gallup. Can you tell us about the emphasis you place on this and why?

Gallup has studied more than one million work teams and conducted more than 20,000 in-depth interviews with leaders. The Gallup interview means that we can do everything possible to place the right people in the right positions according to their individual talents and strengths. This process starts from their first recruitment interview when ‘talent and strengths’ is always part of the hiring equation.

It then continues throughout someone’s career through a range of development opportunities, from tuition reimbursement to mentorship and leadership programs.

In practice, this means that we can match people and get the right strengths on a team. Over time this approach builds an incredible framework that underpins the organisation and ensures a strong culture throughout the business.

What are two of your strengths?

One of mine is ‘focus’ which means I am able to sort through a lot of information and say to my team, “Here are the three or four things that we need to focus on to get the highest return for our effort.”

I am also a ‘learner,’ which translates to me being really curious about how things work at a deeper level. For example, after a full day’s work, it is more relaxing for me to watch a documentary on the London tube system than a soap opera or movie. I’m also an ‘achiever.’ During the weekend, I still like to work – in a different way – and weirdly enough, I like to clean and paint old furniture!

Does Stryker offer anything out of the ordinary in terms of benefits?

We are always thinking about how we can help people be the best versions of themselves. Some of the unique benefits we offer in Australia help achieve that outcome:

• $3,000 for the primary healthcare giver returning from maternity leave to help with childcare expenses
• Development programs such as Management Exposure Program, Emerging Leaders Program and Strengths Coaching
• Women Without Limits, in which Stryker South Pacific sends women on a bespoke adventure experience to push themselves for personal growth

Have there been any roadblocks in the journey?

The journey in getting to where we are today has not been quick or easy. Initially, it took time for managers and leaders to understand that long term they were better off hiring people that not only have the qualifications for the role but also the innate talents took time to build. Now this mentality is built into the fabric of our organisation but we must always be diligent about ensuring that our discipline around hiring, developing and retaining top talent continues.

Whilst there must be a sense of purpose for employees at Stryker and the medical devices you develop, how have you created this prestige around your brand?

I believe the purpose behind what we do is significant. Aside from working in the medical profession, there are not many people who can say they are saving lives with the products they are developing.

My dad has our knee in him and my grandfather actually passed away on one of our beds. We have a unique opportunity, not only from an HR standpoint, to create a great work environment and through our products and services, to impact peoples’ lives every day.

We also love it when our people think outside of the box! A Vietnamese surgeon who came to Australia now wants to go back to Ho Chi Min to train doctors in the city’s main trauma hospital. These types of organic initiatives, whether it’s organising a big barbecue contest on the weekend or a fund-raising project, demonstrate the entrepreneurial spirit of the organisation.

What about yourself? How has Stryker helped you grow?

It’s often the challenging experiences where I’ve learned the most. When I was 26, Stryker had just acquired a small division in Quebec. I didn’t speak French but I moved from Michigan to a little village of 300 people and lived there for a year.

I was completely outside of my comfort zone but it taught me so many things about myself, such as how to reach out to others and surround myself with great people. I came back with a greater confidence knowing that I could face whatever challenge was thrown at me.

While the success of the business is clear and well deserved, what strategy do you have in place to maintain this level of employee satisfaction?

We must always be disciplined about recruiting the right people with the right strengths for the job and we must make sure we have the right managers and programs in place to grow and develop those individuals. The HR team must always stay connected to the rest of the business. We always say we are first business leaders then we are HR leaders.

What challenges do you anticipate for the business over the next 5 years and how will HR combat these?

We are a growth company and we must continue to develop an internal pipeline of great talent that can continue to fuel our growth. One of the challenges at the moment is keeping up with that growth and quickly growing our next generation of sales reps, managers and leaders. In order to reach our goals, we also need to further promote our brand so that more people outside of the industry learn about Stryker.

On a personal note, what have you found the most rewarding part of your role at Stryker?

The favourite part of my role is helping to bring great people into the organisation and develop them. There is no greater feeling for me to watch people become amazingly successful (both inside and outside of work) and knowing that I had a small part in that.

I saw that firsthand way back in 2001 when I was just starting at Stryker as a campus recruiter. One of my first hires was a man called Richard from the University of Wisconsin. He was amazing product design engineer and we had to fight against other organisations to hire him.

Like me, Richard still works with Stryker today. He ended up marrying my roommate at that time and they now have two beautiful children. During his career he has helped design numerous beds – including the one I gave birth to my second child on. So when I think of our organisation, I can see how we positively impact people’s lives and that’s very rewarding. At Stryker, we have an opportunity to leave a legacy, not only from a business perspective but to make peoples’ lives better. I love that!