When Mike Northcott, Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO) for Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA), was asked to help build the future health system for the people of Saskatchewan, he saw it as an opportunity of a lifetime. His optimism in a new, provincial health system can only be matched by his passion for health care in his aspirations to develop the Human Resources (HR) team of SHA.
Mike Northcott, Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO) for Saskatchewan Health Authority.
“A leader’s job is to develop more leaders. Really develop the people,” shared Northcott, who is a big believer in leadership as a means to creating an engaging work environment.
While Northcott’s philosophy on leadership has evolved throughout his 16-year career in HR, he has always paid close attention to the human side of HR. He is a strong advocate for the value of the human spirit and encourages leaders to focus on building on each other’s strengths and think and act as one.
“There is only so much influence one person can have, but you can multiply influence and gain really great results by having many strong leaders on your team. Leadership is not about title, it’s about how people show up, handle themselves and interact with one another.”
As CHRO, Northcott is accountable for a wide range of HR functions, many of which center around enabling, engaging and empowering employees. The HR portfolio plays a key role in creating employee experience and, as a new organization, building a culture to ensure that people feel valued, respected and supported along every step of their journey within SHA.
“Motivation and engagement take shape when people are able to find meaning in their work. Individuals feel able to bring their whole selves into the organization and go home each day enriched by the contributions they make.”
Mike Northcott's daughters, Hailey and Lexi and their puppy, Tucker.
Drawing inspiration from his work and being able to tell his wife of 19 years, Peggy, and daughters, Hailey, 11, and Lexi, 9, about it at the end of the day is something that Northcott genuinely values. When asked ‘what is one thing you can’t live without?’ Northcott immediately answered, “Family.”
Mike Northcott with his wife, Peggy.
The Northcott crew pride themselves in being a cheer family – both daughters are actively involved in cheerleading – but you won’t see Mike wearing a “cheer dad” sweater anytime soon. You will see him with his family’s newest edition, a bull mastiff puppy named Tucker, who has completely stolen his heart. Northcott’s family loves bull mastiffs and has enjoyed raising them for the past 15 years. You can also find Northcott watching the Bachelor/Bachelorette on Monday nights, cheering for the Edmonton Oilers, attending country music concerts with his daughter and spending his summers at the lake with his family.
Mike Northcott doing one of his favourite things – fishing.
His daughters have already proven their leadership ability, while highlighting their kind, artistic and entrepreneurial spirit, through their passion for raising money for the SPCA. Northcott proudly shared his daughter’s love of animals and art through stories of them going door-to-door selling their artwork and baking to fundraise for the local animal shelter.
Mike and his daughter Lexi in Calgary for her first concert, Luke Bryan
Northcott’s first degree was in Kinesiology. He began his career in exercise therapy and sport and leisure management in Saskatoon. It was the health aspect in this position that really sparked his desire to further his career in health care. “When I went back to do my Commerce degree, I knew I wanted to do HR, but I also knew I wanted to do HR in health care,” recalled Northcott.
After about five years working in healthcare HR in Alberta, he and his family moved back home to Saskatchewan, where he began working in HR in health care as a Senior Labour Relations Consultant with former Saskatoon Health Region. Northcott became Manager and eventually Director. At the same time, he began the Master of Human Resource Management (MHRM) program through the Kenneth Levene Graduate School of Business. “I always knew I wanted to do a Master’s degree,” shared Northcott.
While in the program, his accountabilities as Director grew, becoming wider in scope, until eventually he was responsible for the entire Human Resources portfolio. In January 2017, while still actively involved in his MHRM program, Northcott was presented with the opportunity to become a member of the Ministry of Health’s Transition Team, tasked with amalgamating 12 health regions into one provincial health authority.
“There were plenty of long days, but to be part of the Transition Team was the opportunity of a career. We were building a system for the future,” said Northcott. He led the Human Resources and Change Leadership work streams, respectively.
Northcott completed his Master of Human Resource Management in 2017 and was appointed the Chief Human Resources Officer for SHA later that year.
“I am grateful for the opportunity to complete my Master’s. It helped me grow as a leader and Human Resources practitioner and I anticipate this will continue to benefit the residents of Saskatchewan as long as I serve in health care in the great province of Saskatchewan.”
Northcott has had various mentors throughout his career who have helped him grow his leadership values and business acumen. He believes that everyone has strengths and if you can take different pieces from different people and make it your own, over time, you really have the power to grow.
He shared stories of former bosses, one with a social work background who taught him the true values of compassion and empathy and one with a larger than life personality who taught him that anything is possible. He recognized the outstanding leadership of a few professors in particular who have had a strong influence on him and pushed him to succeed. He also gave thanks to his wife for supporting him throughout his career and sharing his same admiration for health care, as an occupational therapist.
In his usual calm, well-thought-out manner, Mike encourages employees to “Believe in your strengths and find your perfect balance. The balance between continued education and application, because work experience balanced with theory is what gets you to the sweet spot, and the balance between work and family. Your focus on family always needs to be there because nothing is more important.”
Northcott believes in celebrating the little wins along the way and says that when we take a moment to reflect and look back, we realize those were actually pretty big wins. “I always try to look at it as though we’re climbing the mountain, looking forward and making progress. But then, once in a while, we need to look back and realize that we went pretty high in order to gain that perspective.”
“We’ve made good progress as a provincial health authority,” shared Northcott. He credits the people around him, his Executive Leadership Team and HR Teams, respectively, for their exceptional work during this transformational time.
In times of change, he always recognizes the people who rise to the occasion and do great work to pave the way for others. “I’m always so happy for those people when they decide to step up and show their strengths. That’s when true leaders shine.”