HR Excellence: From warehouse worker to HR VP

Laura Newpoff
Shawn Richard

Shawn Richard began his career at Palmer-Donavin in 1997 in the warehouse while he was working toward an undergraduate degree in accounting. Today, as vice president of human resources, he's a member of the executive team and is involved in all strategic decisions for the wholesale distributor of residential building materials.

“He took a simple payroll position and grew it into a full human resources department with a focus on finding ways the HR function can contribute to and positively impact business results,” Robyn Pollina, CFO, says in nomination materials.

One of Richard's recent initiatives was decreasing new-hire turnover. He implemented a hiring process to improve the quality and fit of new employees and began “stay interviews” where they have one-on-one conversations with their hiring manager on their 30th and 60th day at the company. The new employees are asked if they have the resources they need to do their jobs.

“We're trying to identify pain points and immediately take action to remedy those things,” Richard says. “That also has been a huge factor in the reduced turnover.” The company experienced a 66 percent reduction in turnover from 2017 to 2018.

Richard also implemented a learning management system to create a consistent and scalable training platform to serve nearly 500 employees. It includes compliance training and recordkeeping, benefit education, new-hire orientation and cross-training videos. He's also responsible for a company-wide compensation system meant to keep Palmer-Donavin competitive. That initiative gives employees a visible career growth path and development opportunities.

Executive of the Year recognizes an individual who has demonstrated significant achievements that advance both a person's organization and the HR profession.

Laura Newpoff is a freelance writer.

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