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HR in America: The last leg of the trip


Lynn StarsmoreIn the final part of her diary showcasing HR across the pond, Lynn Starsmore visits the HR department of a hospital and medical research centre and flies home ready to put all her ideas into practice.

Palm Springs & San Bernadino

Even though Lake Arrowhead and Big Bear Lake had been fantastic, we were all really excited to be heading back down the mountain, mainly because this entailed a trip back to the dessert which obviously meant lots of sunshine and back to the shorts and vest tops!

Palm Springs is also a very affluent area so we were all intrigued to see our prospective host’s houses. I was not disappointed; my hosts probably had the best house in the area with private swimming pool, tennis courts, and bar. It was just fantastic.

Palm Springs saw me heading back to another specialist cancer hospital for my vocational day. Simply arriving at reception was an experience in itself – this place was amazing and just how one would imagine some swanky private hospital for the Hollywood A-listers to be – it was better than most hotels that I have stayed in.

“Like me she had stumbled into HR by accident with no qualifications as such and no experience in the HR world.”

Once again I met with the HR director. What I found particularly interesting was the fact that no matter how large the company or how busy it was, they were always happy and had plenty of time to spend with me explaining about the business and what they did.

We had a quick tour of the facilities which were amazing and I was introduced to various members of staff. I learned so much from just sitting chatting with the director, as she and I had a very similar background. Like me she had stumbled into HR by accident with no qualifications as such and no experience in the HR world.

Just like my company, Wensleydale, with me, the hospital had seen potential in her and had taken a chance allowing her to take on various duties, training her along the way and allowing her to make her way up through the ranks, which she worked hard to do.

We chatted for some time about how she had grown over the years, gaining additional experience and had eventually been offered the role of HR director. She gave me invaluable advice about the types of training that I should be looking at and what I need to do in order to help my career progression.

The final area was San Bernardino. By this time we were all exhausted and were getting ready for home, so this was very much a wind-down week.

My arranged placement fell through, so at the last minute I headed off to a medical research centre where I joined one of the HR managers on an orientation day. Due to the small size of our company, we tend not to do these days for large groups; we invariably do them on a one-to-one basis. It was therefore really interesting for me to take part in this and experience their way of doing things.

This was a very formal ‘training’ session with a power-point presentation, many handouts and lots of questions and answers. As this was such a large company that had many different positions, the induction had to be quite broad and cover an array of things applicable to professors, doctors, canteen staff and cleaners alike. It was interesting to see how they covered everything without leaving anyone out or making people feel uncomfortable.

“It was interesting to see how they covered everything without leaving anyone out or making people feel uncomfortable.”

Since my return, despite the fact that we hit our busiest time of the year back at the Wensleydale Creamery, followed by Christmas and new year, I have actually had time to reflect and think about some of the things that I would like to try and put into place with the help of the rest of the team here.

These include basic customer service training in line with the three-metre rule, which means that if a person is within this distance of you, you smile, ask them how they are and if there is anything you can help them with. This will, hopefully, help all staff to understand the importance of how you speak to each other and customers and how such a simple change can help make such a big difference in the workplace. This is something that we will start with all existing staff and roll out to all new employees in the future.

I am also working on ’round tables’ allowing staff to have bi-annual meetings with the MD, going through all relevant company information in a user-friendly and easy to understand format.

I am going to use the staff facilities such as the canteen to hold ‘lunch & learns’, relaying information to staff on various subjects starting with things like money advice – savings, best deals etc – and healthy eating/lifestyles, which in turn will, hopefully, help us to improve the overall health of the workforce and reduce the company’s sickness rate.

The whole work experience process has been invaluable for me, I have been so grateful to be able to take part in this and it has definitely opened my eyes to many new aspects of both my work and personal life, giving me ideas that I can and have taken back to the workforce and my life in general.

Overall, it has made me much more aware of the need for staff development through many aspects such as mentoring, work experience, training and communication.

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

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

  • HR in America: Diary of an exchange visit
  • HR in America: An inspiring visit
  • HR in America: Big country, big company
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