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2012 Game Changer: Julie Hoff

Senior director of HR strategy, planning and communications, Express Scripts Holding Co., St. Louis

November 29, 2012
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Related Topics: HR Services and Administration, Employee Communication, The HR Profession, Awards, Game Changers, HR & Business Administration, Talent Management
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Pharmacy benefit manager Express Scripts Holding Co.'s acquisition of Medco Health Solutions Inc. stirred up controversy among lawmakers and consumer groups and marked a difficult time for the company, but for Julie Hoff it was the opportunity of a lifetime.

The $29 billion deal finalized earlier this year that brought together Express Scripts and Medco was a complicated merger of distinct cultures and 33,000 employees from across the country. It doubled the size of Express Scripts, which is now the largest PBM in the country.

Hoff, 36, was responsible for developing and executing human resources strategy during the acquisition.

"It's so massive in size and complexity that it could become overwhelming," says Hoff, who started at Express Scripts in 2003 as an entry-level HR generalist and now is senior director of HR strategy, planning and communications. "There is so much pressure. We were navigating things that we haven't dealt with before. Once you come together as a new team, you have to start building new relationships. I'm working with a team of people who don't know me. At the same time, you have pretty aggressive goals to meet. Sometimes I'm not their favorite person."

Hoff says the experience was a "career changer," but it wasn't the first time she stepped out of her comfort zone to tackle a unique challenge. In 2010 she accepted a position in sales as a senior director, account management, at Express Scripts after completing her MBA. Senior management thought it would be a good opportunity for her to learn the PBM business.

"I had 90 account managers, and I didn't have that kind of experience," she says. "The integration was difficult, but making a cross-functional move was also tough."

She says it was worth the challenge. "You're a better HR person if you know the business well."

Rita Pyrillis is Workforce's senior writer. Comment below or email editors@workforce.com.

Workforce Management, December 2012, p. 26 -- Subscribe Now!

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