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Staff Snapshot: Cheryl Lloyd, puzzle solver and football fan

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If Cheryl Lloyd’s name sounds familiar to you, it’s likely you’ve come across her thoughtful work, or benefitted from it, over the course of her 24-year career at the University of California. Today, she is UC’s vice president of Systemwide Human Resources and Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO). She was formally appointed to this position just this past August, but the leadership approach and programming initiatives she demonstrated during her two-year interim appointment have already earned her recognition on a prestigious 2021 Top CHRO list.

Cheryl’s path to her human resources (HR) leadership position is a bit atypical. After graduating from UC Berkeley with a degree in mass communications, she built a career in insurance and risk management. This culminated in a position as UC’s chief risk officer, where one of her many notable accomplishments was developing UC Care, the university’s self-insured employee health plan. She also worked closely with HR staff on elements of employment tied to risk, including introducing strategies to prevent harassment and discrimination. 

“Coming from a background in risk, my perspective is a little bit different,” explains Cheryl. “It’s common in HR to say that every organization’s greatest asset is its workforce. That’s true, but my experience has taught me that the workforce is also a company’s greatest risk — if you don’t treat employees well, you can cause injury and harm. I always envision possible risks before implementing a new program, and I balance them against what we’re trying to accomplish.”

As an example of this balance, she cites the future of work. “We aren’t in tech — we can’t all ‘go mobile.’ At our heart, we are based in brick and mortar, in institutions that serve our students. But at the same time, many of our employees are having positive experiences working from home and they want to maintain those benefits. I think higher education institutions have an opportunity now to develop a new model for what the future of work will look like for universities. We need to continue to develop new ways of doing business that benefit everyone.”

“To me, it’s all about caring for the people who make your enterprise run,” Cheryl says when asked about her leadership philosophy. “I’ve always led with the perspective of ‘How will this action affect someone down the line?’ It’s so important to consider how an organization’s actions will impact employees. I would also add that I have learned to thrive in ambiguity. Working through uncertain situations and finding your way to answers that aren’t obvious can be challenging for some people, but it’s something I’ve always enjoyed.”

What’s next on her agenda? Restructuring Systemwide HR to better support all UC locations. “We want to be a resource and strategic partner for our campuses, and make sure we’re staffed appropriately to help them with their HR initiatives,” Cheryl says.

Meet Cheryl

When did you start working for UC? I started on January 15, 1998 – 24 years ago in January. The date stands out to me because it is Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. UC was the first place I worked where this was a holiday. I always used to take vacation on that day so I could spend it with my son.

In 10 words or less, what do you do for UC? I find a way to get to yes. Especially when you work in risk, when people come to you to ask if they can do something different or new within the organization, they are hoping you’ll agree but expecting you to say no. Saying no is easier, but it doesn’t help us grow or achieve our mission. I’m a person who likes puzzles and I apply this to my work. I start with what we can do and build from there. If we can’t do something because of a policy, I’ve been known to reconsider the rulebook.

Why do you love working for UC? I love being challenged every day and meeting interesting and smart people who have done some amazing things. I can’t think of another company where I would get to work and talk with people who are building stoves in the sub-Saharan desert, making spaceships and having fascinating perspectives on science and health care.

What’s something people don’t know about you? I am a huge football fan, which some people think is kind of weird. I usually work six days a week, but on Sunday, I have brunch with the morning game, then I put on my red and gold jersey — I’m a 30-year season ticket-holder with the San Francisco ‘49ers — and I go out to the game and shout at the players. Then I come home, put on dinner and watch the evening game. I also watch the Monday and Thursday night games, and I play on a fantasy football league with a bunch of guys. In my role, I need to be pleasant and kind all the time. But on Sundays, I sometimes need to yell a little.

Who’s your dream dinner guest (living or dead) and why? This answer would change for me every week, but this week, I would say MacKenzie Scott, who used to be married to Jeff Bezos. After her divorce, she became one of the richest people in the world. Then she turned around and gave a lot of this money away — not in a traditional way, like by setting up a foundation — but right away in large batches to a lot of organizations that focus on racial equity. When I did a deeper dive, I learned that she’s a native San Franciscan like myself and that when she went to school back east, one of her instructors was Toni Morrison. I’d like to know more about what she’s about.

What’s the best career advice you’ve ever received? That I don’t have to know everything. A lot of people think that to be a leader, you need all the answers. But what you actually need is a knack for finding the people who do. Then you hire those people and let them do what they do best. And you succeed together.

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