Joseph P. Messina: A Talent Innovator Leading the Charge in Transforming Healthcare

Joseph P. Messina

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The healthcare industry is a complex and rapidly changing landscape that demands personnel with distinct characteristics such as compassion, love, accountability, and passion. These traits are essential in ensuring that patients receive the best care and support throughout their health journey. In order to attract, train, and retain employees with ideal qualities, the health sector also requires leaders who can lead by example. These ‘talent leaders’ must possess an innate curiosity for people, as well as the ability to build strong relationships in order to foster a culture of compassion and care.

One such compassionate leader is Joseph P. Messina (Managing Director, Talent Strategy ChenMed). In this exclusive interview, Joe shares the importance of these human qualities in healthcare. He discusses the challenges of creating a culture that value and rewards these essential traits. He also shares practical tips for healthcare leaders who want to be role models.

A Subway Ride that Sparked a Passion for People

Joe’s path to a career in human resources began with his curiosity for people’s stories. He has always been fascinated with learning from others’ experiences and building meaningful relationships with them. While in college, his love for travel led him to study recreation and leisure services, as well as hotel, restaurant, and tourism management, all with dreams of running a cruise ship or a hotel. However, a professor’s recommendation led him to pursue law, which eventually parlayed into a switch to human resources. After graduating summa cum laude from East Stroudsburg University in 2005, he began his professional career in HR in the hospitality industry. That start later defined his career path.

In September 2005, Joe took a subway ride in New York City and noticed that nobody talked to each other or even tried to interact, not even two people wearing Yankees gear and seemingly sharing a common passion for their team. That moment sparked something within him, and he realized that helping people make connections was what he loved to do.

Fate intervened when Joe interviewed for an HR coordinator position at a local staffing agency. The CEO of the agency sensed something special in Joe and said to him, “I get recruiter vibes from you. Have you ever considered recruiting?” The agency hired and placed him on the financial services desk, and his journey in recruiting began.

From Corporate Success to Life-Changing Mission

Joe’s early years in recruiting were fast-paced and energetic. He worked for large investment banking organizations, such as Pershing LLC (Bank of NY Mellon subsidiary) and United Bank of Switzerland (UBS), as part of the Talent Acquisition team, supporting their fixed income, currency, and commodities groups. He was promoted a few times, won Recruiter of the Year twice, became one of the youngest AVPs at the time, and eventually, owned the largest group of business units, 11 of the 13, as a Talent Leader. However, he wanted to do something bigger, something where he could make a difference. It became his mission to work for an organization of faith, one where he could impact people outside of just the bottom line and perhaps even build something from the ground up.

However, it wasn’t until Joe reflected upon his personal and professional experiences, that he found his calling. Joe thought about the people he loved and the many mentors that he had in his life, like his mother who dedicated her life to raising him, and his father who mentored and taught him important life lessons. He thought about a beloved grandfather whom he had lost to an aortic aneurysm. He thought about his wonderful wife, Courtney, who supports him every day and who had her own medical issues. He thought about his second child, who had a serious medical problem while in the womb. He also thought about his current and former leaders who taught him valuable information.

All of these blessings and life experiences pointed him to a small company called ChenMed, in Miami Gardens, Florida. “ChenMed turned out to be the purpose and the “why” I was looking for and a way to give back for the many blessings I’ve had in my life,” Joe recalls.

ChenMed: Glorifying God by Spreading Love and Better Health

ChenMed was founded in the 1970s as a result of a family’s experience with the healthcare system, which left them vulnerable and frustrated. The experience was a wake–up call for ChenMed founder Dr. Jen-Ling James Chen, who was diagnosed with cancer and given only two months to live. He and his family realized navigating the healthcare system was like swimming with sharks.

“There is no relationship more sacred or important than the doctor/patient relationship.”

Driven by a desire to revolutionize the healthcare delivery system, Dr. Chen created ChenMed to provide accountable, compassionate and coordinated physician-led, family-oriented primary care. At the heart of ChenMed’s vision is an enduring mission that began with Dr. Chen’s first primary care practice in Miami Gardens, Florida: Offer affordable, human-centered care to medically underserved communities.

“To glorify God by spreading more love and promoting better health to all who come into contact with ChenMed,” the Chen Family’s purpose states. ChenMed is on a mission to honor seniors with affordable VIP care that delivers better health. The company’s aim is to be America’s leading primary care provider, transforming the care of the neediest populations, through love, accountability, and passion.

Our value of love is about serving others with empathy and selflessness. It is also about investing in our team members and helping them to grow and develop. This means having the managerial courage to offer both “reinforcing” and “redirecting” feedback. 

Accountability is about taking ownership of commitments and following through – it means building trust and sometimes even humbly acknowledging weaknesses.

Our value of passion is about aiming high and bringing inspiring energy that encourages others to do more. These values, when combined, have helped ChenMed in transforming the lives of patients and employees… and created an environment in which recruiting becomes a calling for Joe Messina rather than a job.

In the Right Place at the Right Time

“At ChenMed, whether you are a recruiter, a finance, a marketing, or a medical professional, the love, accountability, passion, and energy you bring to work each day could positively impact somebody’s life in a profound way.”

Joe joined ChenMed in 2012 and discovered this place truly was his calling. At ChenMed, Joe found meaningful and purposeful work, in an innovative environment where he was allowed to truly build something.  He noted, “This culture and role is what many people strive for, which he was blessed enough to find.” He was inspired by the Chen family’s mission to change the healthcare landscape, disrupt the “status quo” of the industry, and transform lives. He was driven to help make that transformative change a reality, one great hire and one senior medical center at a time.

“I realized ChenMed is something very unique and very special, and I was in the right place, at the right time, both in my life and in my career,” Joe adds.

Furthermore, Joe discovered that ChenMed was a place where everyone, regardless of job title, could truly be a hero. After more than a decade at ChenMed, he is still as enthusiastic as he was on day one. He considers the company’s founders and their families to be the most authentic, genuine, and good people he has ever met, and he perceives himself very fortunate to have the opportunity to work alongside them.

Putting Patients First: High-Touch Approach to Change Lives

In a world where profits often take precedence over patient care, ChenMed is leading the charge to change the status quo. It is a privately-owned medical, technology, and management company that has taken the healthcare industry by storm with its high-touch and personalized primary care solutions for Medicare-eligible seniors. With more than 125 senior medical centers operating in 15 states, the company is revolutionizing the industry by providing concierge-style medicine and delivering better health outcomes to the neediest populations.

ChenMed has an outstanding team of primary care physicians and specialist doctors who are empowered to go above and beyond to provide VIP service. They detect and effectively manage high-risk diseases and reduce hospital sick days for Medicare-eligible seniors who often suffer from multiple and major chronic conditions. This approach sets it apart from the competition and ensures that its patients receive the care and attention they deserve.

ChenMed’s brands, which include Chen Senior Medical Center, Dedicated Senior Medical Center, JenCare Senior Medical Center, and IntuneHealth™, along with healthcare technology organization, Curity™, are highly regarded by the industry for their unique physician-led primary care model, proprietary technological capabilities, and impressive results. These accolades have earned ChenMed recognition from prestigious organizations such as the White House, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the U.K. National Health System.

ChenMed has also been featured in publications such as Modern Healthcare, Health Affairs, Forbes, The Economist, The Wall Street Journal, The New England Journal of Medicine, The Guardian, and Medical Economics, which rated ChenMed the “Best Primary Care System in the United States.”

Leading with Strategic Vision and Operational Excellence

As the Managing Director of ChenMed, Joe leads the Center of Excellence (COE) which oversees the centralization and measurement of key metrics to support various talent functions throughout the organization. His primary responsibility is to ensure operational excellence and strategic measurement of people, processes, and tools within the talent group and across the overall talent strategy.

At ChenMed, Joe has implemented several focus verticals, including Process Optimization and Improvement, which defines work processes and efficiencies to improve overall operations. He has also built Training, Assimilation, and Onboarding Programs for both internal talent and business-facing teams. In addition, his team leverages modern talent technology, such as Talent Data Analytics and Insights to develop Candidate Experience Initiatives that attract and retain top talent. He set up a Data Governance framework to drive data integrity, engage data stewards, and escalation processes.  His team also focuses on University Relations & Preceptorship Programs, Veterans, and Diversity & Inclusion Programs to ensure a diverse and inclusive workforce.

Additionally, Joe oversees budgeting, workforce planning, and forecasting to ensure that ChenMed has the right resources to execute its talent strategy.

ChenMed’s People-Centric Talent Strategy

ChenMed’s Talent Strategy and Effectiveness structure is built on multiple pillars. It is designed to provide more personalized support for the business through decentralized resources, with key centralized resources to support the model.

To ensure strong localized talent, ChenMed has established Centers of Excellence (COEs) for various subgroups, such as talent strategy and effectiveness, centralized sourcing and competitive intelligence, talent management, HR operations, and shared services, among others. These COEs promote internal mobility, monitor productivity, and enable talented teams to flex across multiple verticals.

ChenMed has specialized recruiters and talent verticals focused on distinct profiles, with subject matter experts in these respective spaces. The model promotes tiered promotion opportunities, not just vertically, but through strong rotational and training programs that also allow for strategic resource allocation as recruitment ebbs and flows.

The key to ChenMed’s success lies in adhering to a single source of truth, employing consistent processes, utilizing advanced data for quick decision-making and influence, and creating skill redundancy at all levels. The company leverages centralized tools and technology to ensure that all Talent COEs speak the same language, leverage the same tools, and report the same data.

Joe oversees Talent Operations (Strategy and Effectiveness) with direct influence through his teams work on the Talent Acquisition and Talent Management pillars, ensuring that the recruiters have the necessary support mechanisms in place to shed the administrative burden, thus focusing on what they do best: bringing in amazing talent, influencing leaders to make great hiring decisions, and maintaining effective relationships with candidates and leaders alike.  

Talent Acquisition in a Candidate Market

In today’s modern world, talent acquisition has become a highly dynamic and constantly changing landscape. Joe, as a talent innovator, understands that many of the traditional strategies and philosophies that once worked are no longer relevant in this new era. He believes in challenging the very foundations and core beliefs that have “always worked in the past.”

Joe follows the principles of “HIRE RIGHT, TRAIN RIGHT, AND TREAT RIGHT,” as outlined in the book “Disney U” by Doug Lipp. Hiring the right employees is a crucial first step and Joe emphasizes the importance of filling positions with the best quality applicants based on character, competency, and chemistry.

According to Joe, it is essential to find a balance between “selling” a candidate for a company and being authentic. It is also important to sustain a relationship with a candidate, even when not interested in hiring them, as this can lead to boomerang hires in the future. He recognizes that high-potential candidates have many opportunities available to them, and maintaining engagement even after an interview hinges on the relationship with the recruiter or the way the candidate is connected to the company from pre-interview engagement. In order to succeed in the pre-hire phase, he suggests creating unique processes centered on optimizing technology and providing a much tighter candidate experience.

In addition to hiring, Joe also supports a strong focus on the ability to train, retain, and ensure that employees thrive in their roles, as the best talent can be difficult to attract and retain in today’s candidate market.

Talent Acquisition Framework

The best recruiters in their respective industries have an average successful hire rate of 46%,” according to the book “Hire for Attitude” by Mark Murphy.

Joe follows a talent acquisition framework based on a philosophy that focuses on enhancing the candidate experience, promoting cultural fit, taking calculated risks, and measuring results. To begin, he recommends streamlining the interview process to maximize the candidate experience. This entails allowing each interviewer in the process to focus on one “C” (Character, Competency, or Chemistry) instead of expecting the interviewer to decide candidate validity from a massive skill set list. This also allows the Interviewer to become an “expert” in their vertical, thus increasing the probability of a successful hire. He also emphasizes the importance of making the application process easy, mobile-optimized, and efficient for every candidate. According to him, speed, efficiency, authenticity, and candidate experience are crucial for any organization looking to compete in today’s job market.

Organizations also need to recognize candidate engagement does not end with the hire. A strong focus on employee engagement, performance management, up skilling & succession planning, amongst other criteria should continue through the entire candidate-to-employee journey.  Hiring right is only the first step in a successful hire, hence the “Train and Treat right” which comes after the “Hire right” step.

Moreover, Joe suggests the importance of changing the traditional mindset of “what can the candidate do for us” to “what can we do for each other.” This shift in mindset allows organizations to offer candidates something unique and valuable, which will attract top talent and increase retention rates.

Joe also stresses the significance of providing realistic job previews and having transparent discussions upfront. He notes that not every candidate will be the right fit for the organization, and vice versa. As a result, it is crucial to communicate the organization’s culture, values, and mission from the start so that candidates can opt in or opt out accordingly. This allows the organization saves time and money and still leaves the candidate with a sense of appreciation for transparency.

Furthermore, Joe encourages organizations to take calculated risks and innovate to truly disrupt. While failing is okay, he highlights the importance of learning from failures, applying science to decision-making, analyzing the output, and communicating results. He also emphasizes the importance of focusing on brand initiatives, internal mobility, local partnerships, referral programs, and immersing key clients in Talent Strategy decisions to strengthen the talent-business relationship and leverage our Brand Ambassadors to get recruiting for the organization.

Finally, Joe believes in measuring and holding people accountable. He loves measuring the success of people, processes, and tools and suggests looking at training/compliance adherence, recruiter effectiveness, interviewer effectiveness, sourcing effectiveness, and program effectiveness in real-time. It’s also important to look at trends over time and begin to form correlations that may be driving productivity or tool performance, As a result, talent and the business can make strategic pivots quickly and confidently take risks.  These small tweaks will also help change the perception of HR/Talent to a more truly consultative and strategic thought partner.

Pushing the Envelope

Joe prides himself on effectively communicating a story through the use of data—both up and down—and his blend of tactical work and strategic influence is an important foundation. He tries to lead by example and motivate others through his action. He has a more innovative and strategic vision approach that helps people rally around as they understand the “why,” while also prioritizing the “now.”

Moreover, Joe’s adaptability to fast-changing landscapes, as well as his tendency to ask questions and challenge the status quo, are attributes that he believes helping him excel. He is always pushing the envelope to do something differently or that has never been done before and is willing to take on calculated risks when others shy away from them.

On a personal level, Joe is passionate, honest, and authentic, with a high moral compass, strong integrity, and a focus on collaborative relationships and building unwavering trust with people.

Building Consensus and Shared Ownership

Joe understands that a strong team dynamic and structure are essential for success in a mission-driven environment. He emphasizes the importance of a shared purpose, vision, and common goals to bring together immediate and extended teams.

Joe is known for his active listening skills, regularly asking team members how they feel and getting to know them on a personal level. He recognizes that connecting beyond business and showing empathy are key characteristics of a good leader. To build strong relationships with team members, Joe encourages leaders to have “Love Calls” with new team members before their first day.

At ChenMed, there is a focus on trust and open dialogue, with ideas and accountability shared among team members. The consensus–building environment allows for all members to be heard and actively participate in developing shared courses of action. This approach creates a sense of shared ownership over projects and initiatives.

Joe also believes in a tactical approach to team-building, regularly conducting meetings with icebreakers or team-building events that encourage cross-collaboration. He often starts a meeting with a fun game like “Two Truths and a Lie” or has team members share their favorite song. These activities not only promote fun and camaraderie but also help team members connect with their leader on a personal and professional level.

“A strong leader will allow their team to take the driver’s seat, be willing to sit in the backseat and focus on praising, educating and providing consistent feedback, all while realizing this isn’t a threat to them, but rather, an ode to their leadership style,” asserts Joe.

Balancing Act: Living Life to the Fullest

Joe’s secret to striking the perfect work-life balance is founded in family and faith. Those values are also the foundation of ChenMed and they’re crucial to a successful balance of work and family life. Joe believes in the power of the “positive no” or taking a 30-second break outdoors or away from the computer to ground oneself. He underlines the value of pursuing health and exercise and even holding walking meetings.

When it comes to family, Joe centers his priorities around his loved ones, ensuring he never misses a life event or a small moment, such as taking his children to school in the morning or attending “Daddy and Daughter Donut Day.” Spending time with his wife, Courtney, and watching his daughters, Maddalena and Giovanna, grow up, inspires him.

“Having a solid family support structure at home is critical in ensuring a well-balanced outside of work life,” says Joe. “I’m grateful for my wife for supporting me in my work, taking care of our home, and his children’s love and affection which motivates and ground me daily.”  

In addition to his love for family, Joe is an avid traveler and enjoys experiencing new things and cultures off the beaten path. He also has a passion for cooking and bird watching/nature walking. As a self–proclaimed hobby strategist, he enjoys watching various sporting events on mute, predicting the next move, and strategizing on how to defend the possibilities. 

Joe Messina’s dedication to maintaining a healthy work-life balance has been a cornerstone of his success in the world of human resources. He encourages others to find their passion and make time for what matters most.



Also read: The 10 Robust Healthcare Leaders of 2023.

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