HR Excellence Awards 2014

Future Leader: Alison Marker

From the August 2014 issue of Columbus CEO

Alison Marker
Human resources and marketing manager
Thomas & Marker Construction Company

Alison Marker was steadily building her psychotherapy practice when opportunity opened another door.

The human resources director at her family’s business, the Thomas & Marker Construction Company, was retiring, and her father, company president Randall Marker, approached her about the job.

Alison Marker had never before considered a career in human resources, but she realized in this new role she could still help people, while at the same time contributing value to the business that was started by her grandfather, and was also home to both of her younger brothers.

Less than two years later, her work revitalizing Thomas & Marker’s human resources department by putting employees’ needs on the front burner helped make her a co-winner of the Future Leaders Award.

“It’s still amazing to me to win this,” Marker says. “I still feel like there are so many pieces and parts to learn, but we have come a long way.”

The HR aptitude Marker has demonstrated in such a short time is exactly what led Thomas & Marker General Manager and Senior Vice President Bob Butler to nominate her for the award.

“She does not have a construction background, nor one in human resource, but she is learning both on the job and doing a tremendous job,” Butler says. “For a relatively young woman she brings wisdom and insights. If you didn't know her last name you would never suspect she was a family member. She is very unassuming. She just truly wants Thomas & Marker to be the best place it can be for people to work. She truly cares about all of our associates, and seeing their needs and wants met.”

Among her first efforts was to better and more seamlessly connect the two Thomas & Marker offices—in Bellfontaine and Columbus—and help the 100 employees feel more connected to the company as a whole.

“It wasn’t hard to notice when I first got here that people did not feel as appreciated as they should, so that became my biggest focus,” she says. “For me, it helped coming in and seeing how do people like working here. What is the feel? Are they excited? Are the right people on board? Are people happy?

“That is the process of developing a relationship with associates--talking to them, asking questions. What do you like, or not like?”

To that end, Marker tackles everything from compensation, to benefits, to hiring, to strengthening the company at its core. Her efforts include:

Combining sick leave and vacation time into “paid time off”

Speeding up the time frame for employees to earn additional vacation time

Increasing company health contributions from 50 percent to 75 percent

Increasing company diversity by 65 percent

Adding a match to the 401K program

Creating a better-structured bonus program

Development of a company succession vision

Marker says she recognizes that she still has much to learn, having come to human resources by way of a psychology and women’s studies degree from Miami (Ohio) University, and a master’s degree in social work from the Ohio State University. To that end, she has immersed herself in the Central Ohio’s Builders Exchange HR Group and the Society for Human Resource Management.

“I am working way harder than I did before, but I love it, and it feels good to put in the hard work and see the results—people engaged, people excited, new employees coming in, people working together,” she says. “It’s very satisfying to be a part of that.”