Connecting with others seems to be a calling for Rodney Byrd. It’s an ability that has served him well, both as a human resources director and as an ordained minister. He says that being a good listener is the key.
“Someone said that if you can deal with a church full of Christians, you can deal with any problem in the workplace,” says Byrd, who is assistant director of HR at the University of West Georgia. “A few weeks after he hired me, my previous supervisor said, ‘You seem to have a natural talent for dealing with people and problems.’ ”
Byrd, 38, seems to have put that talent to good use when he was asked in 2010 by his former employer, Medical West Hospital in Bessemer, Alabama, an affiliate of UAB Health System, to tackle its high turnover rate. At the time UAB was also trying to improve customer service and needed employees that supported that mission, he says.
“Our costs per employee hire were getting out of control,” he says. “We started doing exit interviews and surveys of new hires. We found that we were hiring employees with the right skill sets, but they weren’t a good fit due to behavioral traits. We wanted to make sure that we were hiring employees that fit into the customer service culture that we were trying to grow.”
Byrd implemented the hospital’s first behavioral assessment tool to screen potential recruits—an initiative that reduced turnover by 3.6 percent and saved the organization about $800,000 a year, according to his supervisor.
A former financial analyst, Byrd says that he’s a strong believer in human resources metrics, but it seems that it’s his knack for the human touch that sets him apart.
“Our employees and people in general seem[ed] to open up to him, and he has shown a penchant for improving employee relations,” says his former supervisor, Gannon Davis, vice president of human resources and compliance at UAB. Byrd left his position in June to take the job at the university.
His years as a minister—he became ordained at 25, following in his grandfather’s footsteps—have taught him how to be a good listener and how to empathize with others, he says.
Every weekend Byrd, who is married with four children, drives 2½ hours to his church in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, where he ministers to about 50 congregants.
“The best part is giving a message on Sunday and having someone come up to me afterwards and say, ‘I really needed to hear that,’ ” he says.