By Tim Pershing
There are many HR heroes out there working hard to make workplaces better for employees. I recently had the chance to talk to Corinne Clawson about how she achieves that. Corinne is a People Support Manager at Premier Nutrition Corporation, an active nutrition company that offers food and beverage products including Premier Protein and Joint Juice. Her specialties include benefits administration, billing systems, contract management, customer relations, database administration, finance, hiring, human resources, inventory management, meeting facilitation, proposal writing, recruiting, research, safety, sales and training programs.
HR Hero: Corinne Clawson
Position: People Support Manager at Premier Nutrition Corporation
Years in HR: 10
Location: Oakland, CA
First Job: HR Assistant
What is the craziest thing you’ve ever seen as an HR professional?
In my early years I either witnessed or heard about some insane employee relations issues: from being locked down in the HR office by police due to a drug cartel arrest to a workers comp claims where someone literally slipped on a banana peel! There are lots of crazy stories from my time there!
Luckily, the last few years have been fairly calm. I did have my VP of HR at one former company find a bag of cocaine randomly in the hallway, but there was no evidence of who dropped it. It is always shocking that people would think to do some of the things we all see.
I think that one thing I love about this work is how surprising people can be. Even if you follow the same process and procedures in every situation, someone eventually will have a strange or negative reaction where you will need to use your experience and wherewithal to resolve or de-escalate.
How did you get your start?
I was told to look into HR by my mother since she thought I had such great people skills; I always had a good read on what was going on with my friends or acquaintances. After graduation from CSU Monterey Bay, I was searching for a receptionist or Admin Assistant position in Santa Cruz and stumbled on and HR Assistant role with Threshold Enterprises. That company and HR department taught me a lot about employment law and issues in the human resources field. I learned so much about what type of HR department I would like to work in and what kind of HR professional I would like to be.
How do you make the workplace better for employees?
I feel that employees deserve equal respect when it comes to their questions or concerns. It is basic customer service. I do this by listening and responding in a relatable way. Even if I have to share bad news, I strive to make them respected and their concerns heard. HR is the voice of the company, which is a big responsibility and has been a challenge at times to remember that we are so impactful to our employees work experience.
How do you think HR processes can be improved?
In the past few positions, my title has changed from traditional HR Manager titles to a softer more approachable title. I have been both People & Culture Manager and now People Support Manager. I think these titles are a way for organizations to help change how HR is perceived and how we as HR professionals approach our departments. If you remember that you are there to support the people, the management and the business versus being the “old fashioned policy police” you will gain a different form of respect from everyone in the company. Our stereotype haunts our profession, and it is up to all of us to make sure that we are not only strategic and compliant but welcoming and approachable.
What is the hardest part of your job?
The hardest part is balancing the corporate compliance policies and practices of my current employer's parent company and the entrepreneur and people focused style of my team. We can adopt certain policies and be required to follow others. Sometimes it isn't 100% clear which direction I should follow. I am representative of two very different employers. Our parent is very focused on compliance and my company is more interested in the business.
What do you like most about your job?
I have the best job because I work for a company that cares about its people. I don't have to convince them that culture and people-focused programs are important for the culture and ultimately the bottom line. They already had a great culture; I just need to maintain, support and get creative with ways to improve it.
What can employers do to provide better support to employees?
I think by remembering that each employee wants to know “what's in it for them” and by making sure that managers always address the employee and their individual path or purpose at a regular cadence, so they feel valued. When an employee feels valued their commitment and work product is far superior to those who don't feel like they are considered.
Tim Pershing is a regular contributor to HR Hammer and co-owner of Hammerwold & Pershing. He specializes in a variety of business support services including website, blog and print content; business plans; slide decks; publications; and online editing.