On December 7, 2007, The National Provisioner hosted the first of a series of roundtable seminars designed to help processors work together toward solving some of the key concerns and challenges in the human-resources arena. Sponsored by Ameritas Group, The National Provisioner’s first HRoundtable event in Rosemont, Ill., was a successful event that brought together a dozen local HR directors and experts to share best practices and information in an intimate, closed-door setting, to further HR initiatives across the industry. Some of the highlights included:

Shawn Coker, chief diversity officer for Tyson Foods Inc., opened the discussions with his thoughts on diversity in the workplace. Drawing upon experiences garnered during his time designing and implementing Tyson’s Inclusion and Diversity initiatives, Coker was able to lay out a few solutions for attendees’ challenges in fostering workplace culture of respect and inclusion based on the fact that diversity is a complex notion. Coker explained that for every company out there the term “diversity” may have a different meaning — what a company must do is figure out what that term means to it, and then implement initiatives to help employees understand the business strategies behind fostering this culture.

Tara Lindsay, director of human resources for West Liberty Foods LLC, offered her tips for building a strong campaign of employee recruitment and retention. Using West Liberty’s recent efforts at its newest plant in Tremonton, Utah, (opened in August 2007), Lindsay encouraged her peers to use the traditional methods of recruitment, but be innovative about their approach to them — newspaper ads, referrals, etc., are necessary, but there are other methods to finding the best and brightest employees. Furthermore, Lindsay says, a company that practices what it preaches — particularly if the company promotes a culture of care and concern for its employees — will often find recruitment and retention goals an easy task to accomplish.

After a short lunch and discussion period, Leah Glaub, director of member services for Johnsonville Sausage LLC, led a discussion centered on corporate culture and how to create an environment of excellence. Johnsonville Sausage chairman Ralph C. Stayer is known throughout the business world for the management model that Johnsonville has incorporated, and Glaub shared some of those strategies with the group. Glaub challenged her peers to take a hard look at their company culture, and figure out its state: was it in need of an overhaul or simply a re-energizing boost, or was it in great shape? Once the status was pinpointed, the human-resources department could then embark on a series of initiatives to mold and form a new culture that empowered employees and made them want to come to work every day.

Wrapping up the day, Jim Hardison, vice president of human resources for Indiana Packers Corp., shared several tales of challenges and solutions during his company’s worker health and safety initiatives. Hardison explained that there are four steps to improving worker safety in plants. The first thing a processor must do is change the negative attitude about safety, in the sense of it making it a top priority equal to or greater than other efforts. Second, no worker-safety program can get off the ground without employees being empowered to make decisions and corrections. Third, once employees are empowered and can see what may not work right, a processor must improve those safety programs. Finally, measuring the ROI on the program is key, in order for upper management and other decision-makers to buy in to a program that is working properly and adding to the bottom line.

The National Provisioner is planning several more HRoundtable events across the country in 2008. For more information on the HRoundtable series, Andy Hanacek at hanaceka@bnpmedia.com or (847) 405-4000.