Colleen Rains

Director of Human Resources and Safety, Elford

Posters hanging throughout the headquarters of Elford outline the century-old company’s mission statement: be trustworthy, build lasting relationships, build community, work hard, work smart and keep learning.

“My job is to perpetuate those values and make them more than just words on a wall, but make it how we live and work, how we make decisions, how we interact both inside and outside the building with anyone we view as a customer,” says Colleen Rains, the construction company’s director of human resources.

Rains, 57, worked in retail management before earning dual associate and bachelor’s degrees from Columbus State Community College and Franklin University in business management and human resources, respectively. After graduating at age 40, she worked as regional human resources manager for Consolidated Stores, now known as Big Lots, until joining Elford in 1999.

Throughout Rains’ tenure, retention has been above 90 percent—most recently at 96 percent—in part due to the company’s mentoring program. Starting its seventh class this year, the program includes a three-year commitment by young professionals who are paired with a member of the senior leadership team.

“We were seeing some migration away from the organization at year two or three. Our belief was that if somebody was an employee with us for a year and then got the opportunity to be a part of the mentoring program with us for three years, we’ve got them past the danger zone and we would be able to retain them and build their skill set faster to make them even better contributors,” Rains says. Of the participants who have completed the program, 85 percent were promoted.

Rains also oversees a wellness program, which rewards employees with contributions to flexible spending and health savings accounts, earned through corporate challenges and sponsorship of community events such as Race for the Cure and Pelotonia.

“Our employees are taking full advantage of the FSA and HSA accounts by either a combination of wellness dollars and putting in payroll deduction dollars. That combination is increasing,” Rains says. Elford employs 104 core staff members, but the overall number of employees fluctuates between 150 and 300 depending on what projects the company is working on.

Rains also is committed to diversity, says Tammy Evans, president and CEO of Human Resource Assistance. “We do [Elford’s] affirmative action plan and she is dedicated to having a diverse workforce, equal opportunity employment and equal treatment within the workplace. She takes it seriously and practices it daily and implements practices through her management team that make a difference throughout the community and her workplace,” Evans says.

“I really enjoy the role of being an internal consultant,” Rains says. “To be able to be viewed as someone who can collaborate and come to a great solution. It can be big stuff, it can be little stuff, but the role of being able to be a partner in those conversations is very rewarding to me.”

Outside Elford, Rains shares her HR acumen as arrangements manager for the Human Resources Association of Central Ohio and a résumé writing expert for Franklin University. She’s also a volunteer stage manager for the Dublin Irish Festival.

Reprinted from the April 2012 issue of Columbus C.E.O. Copyright © Columbus C.E.O.