News > Outlook 2024: Lisa Mazzoccone, St. Mary’s Healthcare's chief people officer

Outlook 2024: Lisa Mazzoccone, St. Mary’s Healthcare’s chief people officer

This article was originally published by the Daily Gazette, written by Joanne McFadden on February 22, 2024. 


After listening to Lisa Mazzoccone talk about her employer for any length of time, one might be tempted to quit their current job and find one at St. Mary’s Healthcare, an institution that has been serving residents of Fulton and Montgomery counties since 1903.

Mazzoccone joined the St. Mary’s team in September as executive director of human resources and chief people officer. Since then, she’s been part of the systemwide expansion, improvements and upgrades continued by the institution’s new president and CEO Jeff Methven, who took the helm in January of last year.

Mazzoccone, who grew up in the Schenectady area, graduated from the SUNY Oneonta in 2005 with a bachelor’s degree in political science. After working as an executive assistant for the New York State Assembly, she took a job as office administrator for the national defense litigation firm William Elser. It was her next position — as senior director of operations at Jackson Lewis, P.C., a national law firm focused on labor and employment law that operates 63 offices in 39 states — that augmented her skill set and made her a great candidate for her current position at St. Mary’s, she said.

Mazzoccone’s track record of success in building and sustaining supportive work environments is one reason St. Mary’s brought her on board.

Ironically, she had never pictured herself working in the health care field before she applied, but she has found that there’s something special about it. Her work allows her to make an impact in the Capital Region community as she supports St. Mary’s employees who are seeking to do the same.

Mazzoccone’s desire to have a career with an impact is what prompted her to leave the large law firm after 15 years. “Things were changing, where we were looking to make different decisions that weren’t putting people first,” she said. “I realized that after 15 years I had done everything that I could do,” she said. “I had an amazing career and mentorship path. I wanted to use those skills somewhere that would make an impact.”

She describes her desires and the needs of St. Mary’s as puzzle pieces fitting together.

“They needed someone with a different background and I needed a place where I could make an impact in a positive way. It’s most rewarding going home every day and realizing that you make a significant impact.”

That’s exactly how she wants every St. Mary’s employee to feel.

“I think [human resources] is one of the most impactful professions because you work for your people,” Mazzoccone said. “We have this nuanced opportunity where we touch every single person in every department.”

The HR field has unique challenges, including job descriptions, benefits and compensation, Mazzoccone said. She knows she cannot make all 1,475 staff members happy, but that’s not her goal.

“I do want to make sure that everyone feels respected, validated, safe and challenged,” she said. “Patients are their priority; associates are my priority. This has a domino effect of strength and passion that makes us work together as a unit and be stronger.”

She wants employees to leave at the end of the day feeling satisfied that they were able to help someone in the community or a fellow co-worker.

To that end, Mazzoccone places a high priority on making staff feel valued, employing a variety of strategies to accomplish that.

One is through education, which Mazzoccone believes is key in getting people to come to St. Mary’s not just for a job but for a career. One of her short-term goals is to bolster both the clinical and nonclinical educational opportunities for employees.

“Education is the foundation of all things,” Mazzoccone said. “It assists in recruitment and onboarding, and also helps with retention,” she said, noting that recruitment and retention are “all day, every day” duties for her. To improve education, the hospital system restructured its education department and brought on new resources for the education of staff working in acute, ambulatory, clinical and nonclinical areas, as well as informatics.

Professional development goes hand in hand with education, and one of Mazzoccone’s long-term goals is to expand the health care system’s mentoring programs to ensure that employees have opportunities to develop professionally and feel there’s a career path for them at St. Mary’s.

Another long-term goal is furthering the improvements in the company culture that the health care organization has made in the recent past.

“Culture is something you build on and improve on every day,” Mazzoccone said. Her staff puts on what they’ve dubbed the “HR Roadshow,” where they go out to some of the 15 St. Mary’s locations in Fulton and Montgomery counties to talk about what human resources means and solicit feedback from St. Mary’s associates.

“Then we come back to our office and look at what are the issues and challenges,” Mazzoccone said. “We use that so we can roadmap what we’re going to do, revamping policies to address concerns.”

She and her staff monitor the labor market to make sure St. Mary’s is offering competitive wages and encourage work-life balance through a wellness program with CDPHP, gym membership reimbursement and an employee assistance program that has two full-time staff members on campus. They also recognize outstanding employees with the help of St. Mary’s Associate Recognition Team.

“I think that makes employees feel really valued,” Mazzoccone said.

The changes in community culture have netted benefits, helping Mazzoccone in her recruitment and retention goals. In 2023, 85 employees who had left the organization came back to work after hearing about the changes. Lead X-ray technologist Tabitha Sabater is one of them. Former co-workers reached out, encouraging her to apply.

“That is what I missed the most — the people,” Sabater said. “Once you join the team here, you develop great relationships. Your associates become friends that turn into family. I know that what we have here is unique.”

All that Mazzoccone does is working toward building a supportive work environment.

“It’s a challenge to attain but once you have it, it’s a very special thing,” Mazzoccone said. “Everyone comes together, all working for a larger cause, and that’s really special.”

In the long term, Mazzoccone plans to focus on diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I).

“When we go out to find new associates and revamp departments, we do that with DE&I at the top. This includes developing relationships with additional colleges within a three-hour radius of Amsterdam. St. Mary’s is also widening its application pool to include bilingual and trilingual staff so that it can better serve and support the community.”

In addition to the traditional job fairs, another recruitment tool the HR department uses is “Walk-in Wednesdays,” where job seekers can come to the campus between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. to learn about open positions at St. Mary’s.

While Mazzoccone considers her position at St. Mary’s as her greatest professional accomplishment, being a mom to a 10-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter tops her list of personal achievements. They got to experience their mom’s new job one day when she couldn’t find a babysitter and her kids had no school.

“They thought because of the gift shop and the cafeteria that this is the best place ever,” she said, laughing. “It’s a very family-friendly environment here.”

To relax, she makes pasta with her kids in their Loudonville home, a nod to her family’s Italian heritage.

She speaks the language fluently, too. “There’s something about making the dough by hand and then rolling it out and then we cut it,” she said. “The almost methodical process that you go through can be really de-stressing.”

Mazzoccone’s enthusiasm for her new position is palpable.

“There is something really special about St. Mary’s,” she said. “It’s almost intangible. It’s electric. And you want to work here. And you want to be a part of what is happening here.”

Q&A with Lisa Mazzoccone

Question: What are St. Mary’s post-COVID hiring challenges?

Answer: I don’t really think that we have many. I think with the impact of 85 people coming back to St. Mary’s as rehires, our retention and our longevity speaks for itself. I think that if I had to say there is one challenge, I would have to say it would probably be the hybrid-remote effect that has gone across the whole country, but we’re addressing that. We’re looking at different positions that don’t have to be on site all day, every day. Obviously patient-facing — like the emergency room — that goes without saying, they have to be there every day. But we’re looking at some of our operations, some specific to billing and collections. We’ve done some remote there. We’re also involved in telehealth and telemedicine when it comes to behavioral health and dieticians. So I think that’s been a really good opportunity for us to test the toe in the water of what remote and hybrid looks like.

Q: What is the labor market like?

A: The labor market I think is strong. We got over 4,700 applicants last year. We hired almost 700 people in 2023. We do probably about 100 or so applicants a week depending on what the position is. I think it’s impactful that we had 26 people come in this week on Walk-in Wednesday. It was the middle of the week, the middle of the day, and you have that many people coming in to really hear about the opportunities, fill out an application, meet the hiring manager, and some of them go on a tour in different parts of the hospital if they can, depending on the position. I think it’s strong. I think that our community stands with us, which is such a great and fulfilling experience. I think it’s only going to increase in 2024, and I think we have all good things ahead with respect to labor and market.