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HR in America: Big country, big company

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Lynn StarsmoreIn the third instalment of her diary of HR across the pond, HR manager Lynn Starsmore visits a large organisation and discovers that certain policies and procedures are carried out very differently to her company back home.


Area 3: Lake Arrowhead

The third destination was Lake Arrowhead, which reminded me very much of home with its mountains, trees, wildlife and community-based atmosphere.

This was definitely the prettiest destination of our trip, although, due to the fact that it was about 5,000ft above sea level, the temperature dropped considerably (we even had some snow), which definitely did remind me of home.

After a welcome party the previous night, Friday was our planned vocational day, which for me meant heading down to LA to a market leader in selling, distributing and marketing of food products within the States.

“The HR manager was full of passion and enthusiasm for his job and had worked his way up the ladder within various companies.”

I was extremely excited about this, as coming from a small town and working for a relatively small company, I relished the opportunity to experience such a huge global company.

Like all the other places that I had visited, the HR manager was full of passion and enthusiasm for his job and had worked his way up the ladder within various companies before settling into his current role.

Being such a large and successful company, I had expected that they would have had some all-singing and all-dancing systems in place across the board. They were definitely well on their way to developing these, although when I visited they only had these in place for the top line managers and there did seem to be a missing link to the shop floor guys, which was a real shame.

Chatting to the HR manager definitely gave me new ideas of how we could possibly look at doing things here. They focus very much on the employee, their lives and how as a company they could help them and reward them in different and innovative ways, whilst increasing productivity and motivating them within their work.

They seem to focus immensely on appraisal and performance review – ensuring that people are capable of doing their work and are happy while also establishing if there is anything extra that they may need to carry out their role.

“Many of the companies I visited had massive HR departments dealing with recruitment, staff development and policies and procedures, whereas I am the only person within our HR department.”

Within the same company I also spent time with the H&S manager, which was my first proper experience of ‘American H&S’. Again, it was really interesting to see how similar our laws, rules and procedures are, and that we all seem to experience similar challenges across the globe irrespective of what industry or environment we are in.

We had a tour of the facility, which consisted of offices, extensive warehousing and a large transport yard with lots of the stereotypical huge American trucks. In one of their warehouses, they had given up one wall to record all safety information detailing how many accidents they had, and how many days since the last accident. Everyone was divided up into teams and there were rewards for achieving certain H&S targets.

What I did find very different to my current role, was the fact that many of the companies I visited had massive HR departments dealing with recruitment, staff development and policies and procedures, whereas I am the only person within our HR department.

This company was very different to the previous companies that I had worked in due to the sheer size and scale on which things were done. But it proved that with the right people, you could achieve the desired family-friendly atmosphere, work ethics and commitment that you tend to find in smaller companies.


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

Read the first two parts of Lynn’s diary here:

  • HR in America: Diary of an exchange visit
  • HR in America: An inspiring visit
  • Look out for the final instalment of Lynn’s diary next week.

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