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Nichole Hahn – Valiant Integrated Services

HR leader makes ‘Valiant’ efforts to ensure company growth

Nichole Hahn | Senior Vice President and Chief People and Diversity Officer | Valiant Integrated Services

Nichole Hahn | Senior Vice President and Chief People and Diversity Officer | Valiant Integrated Services

Nichole Hahn had more than 20 years of experience leading human resources, 16 of them supporting more than 3,000 employees in the government services division of engineering giant AECOM when she was recruited to join Valiant Integrated Services in January 2019. 

Her experience made Hahn a good fit for Valiant, which provides services such as Warfighter training and readiness, interpretation and language support, logistics, and intelligence and analysis solutions for agencies including the U.S. Department of Defense as well as governments and military branches around the world. 

When Hahn joined Valiant, the company had ballooned from 500 employees to more than 5,000 due to a recent acquisition. Valiant needed someone to build an HR team, develop policies and procedures and create one culture that combined the best parts of Valiant’s legacy companies, she says. 

Nichole Hahn | Senior Vice President and Chief People and Diversity Officer | Valiant Integrated Services

“I learned more in my first year at Valiant than I had in my combined 20 years as an HR leader,” says Hahn. “And what I’m most proud of is the incredible HR team we’ve built and all of the work they’ve done to create a culture that’s conducive for innovation, collaboration and excitement.”  

Sending in the specialists 

Based in Herndon, Virginia, Valiant was formed in 2017 from four legacy companies. Today, the company has employees working in every U.S. state and territory, as well as on five continents. 

After joining Valiant, Hahn spent her first year determining how the HR department would meet the demands of the company’s growth—specifically in how to attract and retain the best talent while creating a work environment they never wanted to leave, she says.   

She first focused on creating a compensation strategy that was competitive with the market, while also building a talent development program that provided opportunities for growth. Hahn and her team created the NextExec program, which focused on developing Valiant’s high-potential employees for leadership roles, and Leadership Mastermind, a program focused on leadership development for Valiant’s new managers.   

COVID-19 arrived as Hahn was concluding her first year, forcing her and her team to work through changing workplace safety regulations and requirements as well as shifting to a remote work environment where possible. Although most of Valiant’s workforce was unable to work remotely due to the services they provide, Valiant still had a few corporate offices whose employees who could.  

Nichole Hahn | Senior Vice President and Chief People and Diversity Officer | Valiant Integrated Services

“Now, my new challenge is getting employees excited about returning to the office,” Hahn says. “What we have found through this COVID experience is employees want options on how, where and when they work.” 

Valiant is now implementing collaboration days that allow employees a few days a week in the office for in-person collaboration while maintaining flexibility with a hybrid schedule. Hahn and her team are also instituting meeting-free “Focus Fridays” to enable employees to concentrate on their work and wind down before the weekend. 

Becoming exceptional 

Like other companies,  Valiant is also coping with the great resignation. In response Hahn and her team have created “Building an Exceptional Valiant,” a staffing and retention strategy that focuses on benefits and wellness; diversity, equity and inclusion; and talent development to help improve the workplace and promote overall employee engagement. 

The program was fully launched in October 2022. Some of its components had already been implemented, such as employee resource groups for women’s initiatives, as well as for veterans—who comprise 25 percent of the workforce. There’s now a newly formed employee resource group for their Hispanic workforce and Hahn says Valiant will also launch a Pride employee resource group for LGBTQ+ employees in the summer.  

Nichole Hahn | Senior Vice President and Chief People and Diversity Officer | Valiant Integrated Services

Hahn and her team addressed DEI in part by adding Mathison I.O.’s Diversity Sidekick to help diversify the recruiting pipeline. The tool provides 20 diverse candidates for 10 job openings per month. It also has training modules for all employees and surveys that allow Valiant employees to give real-time feedback on Valiant’s DEI program.  

Valiant has also improved benefits such as increasing leave for both parents at the time of birth or adoption. The company also offers a  benefit to offset the cost of in vitro fertilization. 

To address employee physical and mental health wellness, Hahn implemented Virgin Pulse, an online wellness platform offering counseling and outreach services, wellness challenges and friendly competitions, and webinars with wellbeing tips and ideas. While adding the platforms and benefits, she says Valiant was able to keep benefits renewal costs flat for 2023.  

A valued resource 

Valiant also implemented Businessolver, an Iowa-based software as a service benefits technology and service provider of supplies needed administrative support to her benefits team. The platform has helped the company administer COBRA health care benefits for departed employees, as well as offering live customer support and portals and a virtual assistant for employees to help them select the proper benefits plans 

“Businessolver offers targeted communications to different eligibility groups,” Hahn says. “This allows us to send personalized messages to large groups and they only see what is applicable to their benefits offering, which has been a game changer for us.” 

Nichole Hahn | Senior Vice President and Chief People and Diversity Officer | Valiant Integrated Services

Don Smith, Businessolver’s chief client officer, says Hahn and her team have made the collaboration beneficial. 

“We’re thrilled to work with Nichole and the Valiant team,” he says. “Their thoughtful approach to benefits delivery makes our work as an extension of their team even more meaningful.” 

Training for retention 

Also in 2022, Hahn’s team launched Valiant University, a collection of 9,500 online courses that cover topics such as leadership development, risk management, soft skills and safety. The content can be tailored to specific operations and training plans can be assigned and accessed from any device. 

“We want to train our employees and provide stretch assignments so that they can excel and grow while creating an employee-first culture that they never want to leave,” Hahn says. 

Hahn has been working in HR for more than 25 years, but it wasn’t her initial career choice. She came to the field on a temp assignment at Wells Fargo in Charlotte, North Carolina. She was also HR and operations manager at Deloitte before joining AECOM. 

Nichole Hahn | Senior Vice President and Chief People and Diversity Officer | Valiant Integrated Services

Though she says her time at Valiant has been a whirlwind, Hahn says the learning experience was priceless and the success in helping Valiant grow is  attributable to every member of her team. 

“As I see it, my primary role is to build an HR organization that develops the ideas, talent, and solutions that drive success for the organization,” Hahn says. “Every day, we’re turning ideas into tangible programs and initiatives, defining excellence, and doing the hard work it takes to build an exceptional Valiant.” 

View this feature in the Vol. III 2023 Edition here.

 

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