Rhonda Larimore, the hospital’s chief human resources officer (CHRO), considers herself a bit of a daredevil. The Pennsylvania native has rappelled off a cliff, white water rafted, fished for sharks (she caught a 225 lb/7-foot lemon shark!), rode a horse in Red Rock Canyon, got re-married by Elvis in Las Vegas, and most recently, went skydiving.
She describes her career in human resources as a field she fell into.
“My first official ‘adult’ job was a secretary for an IT firm where I scheduled interviews all day,” she said. “Fortunately, I was able to move away from that and focus on other areas. I love employee retention and culture work. I thrive on looking for the next best idea and always try to improve what is being done.”
Below she shares a peek at her life inside and outside of work.
Tell us a little about your background.
I have a bachelor’s in business management from Carlow University and a master’s in industrial and labor relations from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. I’m very proud of the fact I attended night school most of my college career. I had to balance working fulltime while going to school Monday-Thursday for four hours and every other weekend. For my master’s degree, I balanced 40 hours of work (or more) with being a mom to two toddlers. I missed two years of bedtime stories and bath times (don’t tell, but I didn’t really mind missing the bath time because it made my back hurt)!
Prior to joining Akron Children’s, I was vice president of human resources at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, a part of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
Tell us a little about your role as CHRO.
As CHRO, I have a wide array of responsibilities. I most enjoy trying to balance employee needs and business needs related to compensation, benefits and work culture. During the pandemic, a lot of my focus has been on creating ways to help employees balance their multiple responsibilities. This includes helping to change mind-sets regarding working at home and higher levels of flexibility.
What do you like about working at Akron Children’s?
Akron Children’s is a great place. I came from a very large health care organization, which meant a lot of layers to go through making it tough to accomplish goals or to accomplish them quickly. It is easy here to make a difference. At Children’s, I find that leaders and employees are open to feedback because they realize it’s to help us be better.
Why is employee engagement important to you?
Engaged employees provide better care and services to our patients and families. I like to focus on the fact that we spend a lot of time together at work. We potentially know the good and bad about each other. We know about each other’s lives outside of work and we even become friends. It’s important that our employees have great relationships with each other. Supporting each other and thinking the best of each other helps us all be the best we can be which carries over to our patients and families.
If you didn’t work in health care leadership, what would your dream job be?
I would either be a bartender at a beach side bar on a Caribbean island or a zookeeper working with elephants.
Tell us about your family?
I have been married for 26 years to Jason. We met through Dear Abby as pen pals when he was in the Army and stationed in Korea. For the first eight years I was an Army wife. Because of this, we lived in many places (some good, some not so good). We have a 23-year-old son, Dylan, who graduated from the University of Pittsburgh this past December. He is now a head trainer at a gym in Pittsburgh that focuses on athletes. My daughter, Emilee, 21, “was” a rising senior at Pace University in New York City until she recently withdrew and told us (did I mention she was going to be a senior?) she wanted to go to Vet Tech school.
How do you relax?
I love to read (non-work books!)
Most interesting place you’ve been and why?
Cabo San Lucas, Mexico for the overall beauty of the ocean, beach and the Arch of Cabo San Lucas.
What was your first paying job?
I worked at a local ice cream store starting at age 15.
What would you change about yourself if you could?
Nothing. We are who we are and should accept the positive and use the perceived negatives as ways to become better.
Favorite quote or mantra you live by?
You’re not here to be average; you’re here to be awesome.
Tell us something about yourself that most people don’t know.
I was a competitive swimmer when I was young. I won the PA state championship for the 50-yard butterfly. I held almost all the swimming records in my club until about five years ago when one of Dylan’s friends started breaking them. I still have two swimming records that are 32 years old. Yes, I keep track of this.