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HR in America: An inspiring visit

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Lynn StarsmoreHR manager Lynn Starsmore shares her experiences of a month-long exchange trip, which saw her visiting Southern California to expand her knowledge of HR across the pond. This week, she is shown some inspiring HR practices that she will be implementing in her own workplace.


Area 2: Temecula

By the time we had travelled across the state, we were exhausted, so I had the afternoon free to spend time with my host family, Al and Rita Rubio. This proved to be my first chance to watch a real American football game in which Al and Rita’s eight-year-old grandson, Anthony, took centre stage.

We also enjoyed a trip to the local community theatre to watch some of the local kids put on an adaptation of The Little Shop of Horrors, which was fantastic. They even came outside to see their British cousins and have pictures taken with us. Again, this highlights the fact that these guys really ‘go the extra mile’ in all aspects of life.

“They had detailed plans for how to improve employee retention, and also to gain respect and commitment from employees.”

On the Monday, I went into work early with Al, who is an HR manager at a large car dealership. Al is definitely the type of person that you would expect to be in HR, and be good at it. He is friendly, charming, sociable and always has a smile on his face.

His first job at the beginning of a week is to walk around the entire plant saying hello to everyone whilst checking that all is okay on his way.

I spent time chatting with Al about the procedures and practices that they have in place, which again placed a large emphasis on training and development. Even during the induction stage, various training has to be undertaken before entry into the workforce. They use a lot of online and interactive training tools to help people learn.

I then headed off to Scott’s, a company which manufactures ‘Miracle Gro’, which has numerous plants all over the States.

Employee retention

They had a set HR plan which was followed to the letter and they seemed super-organised and very employee / customer-care focused. They had detailed plans for how to improve employee retention, and also to gain respect and commitment from employees.

“A communication strategy for the entire company is produced detailing everything from financials, new products and recruits.”

A communication strategy for the entire company is produced detailing everything from financials, new products and recruits. The company also prides itself on consistency, ensuring that whatever programs it sets up for staff, whether they be appraisal, staff meetings or social events, are followed through and carried out. Employee trust and buy-in is absolutely essential in creating a healthy workforce.

They tend to run lots of ’roundtables’, which are meetings run by a director in conjunction with HR and with as many staff who want to attend. A different manager is also invited to each meeting to present their information. These meetings are held quarterly, have a strict agenda, have the basic and necessary information and are kept very short, yet to the point.

Scott’s also has little niche ideas such as ‘lunch n learn’ programmes, where lunch is supplied in the staff canteen. Here, the opportunity is taken to promote issues such as health insurance, new company rules, social events, healthy eating, company facilities etc, which I think is a subtle, yet effective way to relay information to staff while also giving something back to them.

This is a something that I will definitely be putting into place in my workplace. I would like to raise awareness of the importance of good health and safety (H&S) within our company and also ensure that a good H&S record is recognised and rewarded. A simple ‘safety lunch’ will have minimal costs, but will be a great way to show appreciation.

Lynn Starsmore is HR manager of The Wensleydale Creamery in North Yorkshire.

  • Read part one of Lynn’s diary here: HR in America: Diary of an exchange visit
  • Look out for part three of Lynn’s diary next week.

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