After stops at a few different colleges, Eileen Thomas found herself studying psychology at Rollins College in Winter Park, Fla., and then switching to humanities. But a meeting with a career counselor completely changed her path.
“She told me I should think about human resources,” says Thomas, 24. “There is a very detail-oriented, organizational part to my personality. I knew I wanted to help people in some way. And I started to see how human resources could do that. There is labor law and certain rules you have to follow and be detail-oriented, which fits me. But you also get to interact with people—helping them find work or coaching through their current job. It is genuinely connecting with them.”
That advice, combined with Thomas’s move to Columbus to study at Franklin University, landed her at Portfolio Creative, a staffing and recruiting firm that has been ranked three years in a row on the Inc. 500. There, she proved herself a future leader through her innovations and commitment to the people she serves.
“Eileen takes the initiative to research the best possible benefits for our internal team as well as our placed talent,” says marketing manager Jennifer Brown, who nominated Thomas. “She’s truly committed to improving our work environment, from keeping up-to-date with employment law to providing health-conscious wellness tips. Eileen genuinely cares for each and every employee.”
That commitment to research is part of what landed Thomas at Portfolio Creative, where she started as an intern to confirm her newly chosen career path was the right one. “It seemed like a good fit,” she says. “I was working with benefits. I was helping people. I had the opportunity to do projects. It interested me.”
After her year-long internship, Thomas graduated from Franklin with her degree in human resource management in January 2010 and joined Volunteers of America. When an HR position at Portfolio Creative came open in November 2010, Thomas jumped at the chance.
Among her initiatives is the Illumination Bureau, a new training program that brings in speakers and other learning opportunities. She is also creating an alumni project to keep in touch with former staffers.
Thomas is also in charge of the newly formed wellness committee, which strives to make employees start a healthy lifestyle through activities such as a team weight-loss competition, “Meatless Monday” and “Fruitful Fridays” to learn to eat better, and a new Wii Fit station in the company lounge.
“It’s all about work-life balance,” Thomas says. “We need to make work a place to focus on health and wellness, since we are here eight or nine hours a day. We want our employees to be aware of what they can be doing.
“One of the most important things for me is making the experience for the employees the best it can be,” she says. “What benefits can I bring to the table? What can we add to make the experience better? I am always researching the next thing. I am always seeking a new thing.
“Employee engagement and satisfaction are huge. If we don’t have happy employees, we won’t be productive.”
Nicole Kraft is a freelance writer.
Reprinted from the August 2012 issue of Columbus C.E.O. Copyright © Columbus C.E.O.