National Conference on Public Employee Retirement Systems

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Public Pension Profiles: MERS of Michigan’s Director of HR, Diversity, and Inclusion, Steve Hazime

“I attribute MERS' recognition as a Great Place to Work and Best-in-Class Employer to our steadfast commitment to ensuring that people and culture play pivotal roles in our organizational strategy and success,” said Hazime.
NCPERS Public Pension Profiles: MERS of Michigan’s Director of HR, Diversity, and Inclusion, Steve Hazime

By: Lizzy Lees, NCPERS

As part of an ongoing series of public pension executive profiles, NCPERS spoke with Steve Hazime, Director of Human Resources, Diversity, and Inclusion for the Municipal Employees' Retirement System of Michigan (MERS). He is currently serving as a program director for NCPERS 2024 Public Pension HR Summit and is an active participant in the HR Roundtable.
What drew you to the field of human resources?
I was drawn to human resources because I am passionate about solving complex problems and helping organizations ensure they have the right people to achieve their goals. HR allows me to make a tangible impact on both individuals and organizations by creating and implementing strategies that drive success and growth.

What does your role as Director of Human Resources, Diversity, and Inclusion for MERS entail?
As the Director of Human Resources, Diversity, and Inclusion at MERS, I spearhead the development and execution of a people strategy, with a strong emphasis on cultivating our organizational culture. Collaborating closely with senior leadership, I ensure that our people strategy aligns seamlessly with our organization's mission and objectives, leveraging culture as a central driver of our overall strategy.

My responsibilities encompass all facets of HR, including talent acquisition, employee development, and performance management, all aimed at nurturing a culture that supports both organizational triumphs and employee well-being.

MERS has been recognized as a certified Great Place to Work and Best-in-Class Employer. What factors or policies do you think have contributed to these successes?
I attribute MERS' recognition as a Great Place to Work and Best-in-Class Employer to our steadfast commitment to ensuring that people and culture play pivotal roles in our organizational strategy and success. MERS is made up of a team of people who care passionately about what they do, and that translates directly to value for our members. Our deliberate focus on crafting a people strategy that allows employees to bring their best self to work, has enabled us to attract and retain top-tier talent, driving both employee engagement and performance.

Looking more broadly at the public pension industry, what do you think are the biggest challenges and opportunities for HR professionals in the next 5 years?
Looking ahead, HR professionals in the public pension industry will grapple with challenges such as the reduction in labor force in general as more Americans are aging out of the workforce, the unique recruiting and retention challenges the public sector continues to face, adapting to technological advancements like artificial intelligence, and retooling the workforce to meet evolving job demands.

While these challenges are substantial, they also present opportunities for HR professionals to innovate and lead change, particularly in areas such as talent management and workforce development. Successfully navigating these challenges will be crucial for HR professionals to ensure that their organizations remain competitive and effective in the evolving landscape of the public pension industry in the next five years.

How do you keep up to date with the latest developments in your field?
In addition to networking with other HR professionals through the Public Pension HR Roundtable, I stay informed about the latest developments in HR through membership in external organizations such as SHRM, attending industry conferences and seminars, and participating in online forums and webinars. These activities help me stay current with best practices and trends in HR, while also providing valuable networking opportunities.

You've been engaged with the Public Pension HR Roundtable for five years. How has this group evolved over the years, and how have you benefited from participating?
Since joining the Public Pension HR Roundtable in 2019, I have witnessed the group's evolution into a dynamic community of HR professionals dedicated to driving excellence in the public pension industry. The Roundtable has been invaluable in facilitating the exchange of ideas and strategies, particularly during challenging periods such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the Great Resignation, allowing members to draw insights from each other's experiences and tackle challenges collectively. Participating in the Roundtable has enriched my leadership skills and informed my approach to HR strategy at MERS, providing me with valuable insights, best practices, and networking opportunities.

This year, NCPERS will be hosting the Public Pension HR Summit for the first time. Can you tell us about the history of this program?
We are excited to see NCPERS take on the hosting of the HR Roundtable and Summit, and we believe that this partnership will offer significant value to participants. The Public Pension HR Summit has a rich history of bringing together HR professionals and administrators from public pension systems to discuss key industry issues and trends. The program serves as a platform for attendees to network, share valuable insights, and collaborate on solutions to common challenges. With a diverse range of speakers and topics, the summit provides attendees with valuable insights and networking opportunities.

As a program director for this year's event, what do you think fellow public pension HR professionals and administrators might gain from attending the Summit?
I believe that public pension HR professionals and administrators stand to gain a great deal from attending the Public Pension HR Summit. The program is designed to address the unique challenges and opportunities facing the industry, offering attendees the chance to learn from experts, network with peers, and gain practical strategies for enhancing their HR practices and driving organizational success. The Summit's focus on networking and knowledge-sharing makes it a valuable opportunity for professionals looking to stay informed and connected within the industry.

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