Employee Spotlight – Nicole Miller Knows the Importance of the Human in Human Resources

Kinesiology is the scientific study of body movement, including physiological, biomechanical, and psychological movement and how it impacts health and wellbeing. On the surface, a degree in kinesiology doesn’t appear to be related to a job in Human Resources, but Nicole Miller, HR Generalist at Velocity Risk Underwriters, found a way to combine her passion both in and out of the office.

After graduating from the University of Tennessee, Nicole began her professional career as an administrator in the field of medicine and assisted in various human resources projects where she discovered her real passion. She took several leaps of faith as her career progressed, taking administrative roles before advancing to roles of greater responsibility. While she was Operations Manager at a staffing agency, another agency reached out to tell her about an opportunity at Velocity Risk Underwriters.

Nicole wasn’t really interested in taking on another administrative role, but after doing some research and meeting the team, Nicole was impressed with the small MGA. The leadership team assured her that she could easily grow with the firm. When CEO, Phil Bowie, stayed late for the interview to accommodate her schedule, Nicole thought that “spoke volumes” about the integrity and culture of the company.

When she was hired in June 2018, there were just over 50 employees, and she offered to take on many of the human resources responsibilities, utilizing the Associate Professional Human Resources (aPHR) certification she had earned the year before. At first, H.R. was only a small portion of her job, but as Nicole grew with the firm, she demonstrated the need for a full-time person and was promoted after only six months to HR Generalist.

Lauren Eckford, Corporate Accountant works with Nicole on payroll and benefits management. “One of the best things about working with Nicole is that she always has a positive attitude, even through tough projects. She stepped into the HR role at a time when Velocity was expanding, offering new benefits and programs, and changing processes, and she has greeted each day and task with a smile and an eagerness to provide the best service to everyone.  She’s not afraid to roll up her sleeves for anything you send her way.”

This past year has been a tremendous challenge and a great sense of pride for Nicole. Onboarding new hires, scheduling employee check-ins and supporting employees who needed counseling was not easy when all employees began to work remotely due to Covid-19. Velocity hired 47 new employees since March 2020, and all had to be onboarded, trained and managed remotely.

Nicole also realized that the informal conversations she had with employees was an important part of her job. Her reassuring smile or simple questions about wellbeing were important to so many. After moving to a remote environment, she recognized when employees were stressed during phone calls or emails and was able to help several employees deal with the unfamiliar isolation they now faced every day.

One of the new employees hired in 2020 was Carey Elzey, Head of HR. The company had grown enough in two years that the need for a larger human resources department was evident. Carey was grateful for Nicole’s leadership, stating “Nicole embraces every challenge with creativity, positivity, and a can-do attitude. She demonstrates a genuine desire to help others, and through this, creates an environment others want to be part of.”

When Nicole is not at work using her degree to positively impact the health and wellbeing of employees, she practices kinesiology at various charities where she volunteers on a regular basis. She volunteers every week to help children with disabilities, such as spina bifida, cerebral palsy, autism and more. She helps kids learn to swim, ride horses and build confidence; some children even compete at Special Olympics after training with Nicole. She also provides disaster relief in communities hit hard by disaster, such as the Nashville tornado that struck just before Covid-19 caused a decrease in volunteers.