The modern HR executive wears so many hats. From ever-growing government regulations and coping with the chronic shortage of employees, to maintaining health care policies and trying to encourage a positive company culture.

How do you prioritize all of those responsibilities?

Sheila: It helps to have a company purpose of “People Over Plastics.” At Sportech, we prioritize culture first and do our best to keep recruitment, benefits, and compliance moving along, knowing there will be hiccups on the way. I believe HR professionals are most successful and effective in prioritizing when they have the support of the company’s key leaders. Our team has that! We’ve been empowered to be partners to the business and that is impactful. We strive to provide a culture true to our values, a calendar of fun events and celebrations, relevant company metrics, and solutions to our business needs. We currently have over 300 employees in three buildings on six different shifts, but we consider ourselves one rock star team!

How are you dealing with the worker shortage?

Sheila: We want to retain our amazing and talented people; we also know we need to continually grow our bench. We are working hard to develop people internally who can continue to stretch in their roles. In 2014, we created the Sportech Leadership Academy. We annually select a group of 10 to 14 employees who go through a yearlong program to develop into strong leaders for the organization. We include team members across all levels and departments within the organization. More recently we’ve added a Sportech Leadership Academy 101 and SLAM (the academy’s master’s program). These courses have been significant in providing our team the tools and resources they need. More than 40 people applied for 12 spots this year. Our director of training and development produces new curriculum annually that we tweak based on needs or trends we have identified. We make our staff selections based on business needs, employee performance, and an interview process. It takes time and a financial commitment but has been a huge differentiator for us.

You are a founding member of the HR Peer Council facilitated by Enterprise Minnesota. What value do you get out of it?

Sheila: The HR Peer Council has been a game-changer for me. I’ve been a member for about four years, and I highly recommend it. There is such a fantastic feeling of affirmation when I meet with other HR leaders who are dealing with similar concerns, whether it be a compliance issue, employee concern, request for policy advice—the list is long! It’s wonderful to converse with peers, talk through various scenarios and seek suggestions. Michele Neale is my current peer group facilitator, and she is outstanding. She provides great energy, the agenda for the meetings, and relevant topics for discussion. Again, I highly recommend it!

You started out as a one-person HR department at Sportech. What advice would you give to those who are working at small or medium-sized manufacturers?

Sheila: Definitely join a peer group! HR professionals are tied to confidentiality, and yet we need a safe place to discuss real time topics. SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management) is an outstanding resource as well. They provide the latest legislation updates, templates, tools, and resources online. Finally, find a mentor, they can be invaluable.   At any career stage, there is more to learn and share in the HR arena.

Featured story in the Winter 2019 issue of Enterprise Minnesota magazine. 

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