Your HR manager: A go-to resource

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

As a human resources manager for a smaller company, Michele Faulkner is a jack-of-all-trades. “I’m involved in a lot of things, not just compensation and benefits,” she said. In fact, at Merits Health Products, which employs 30, Faulker does everything from time keeping to conducting performance evaluations to supporting management as a “strategic partner.” Here’s what Faulkner had to say about her nearly two decades long career in HR. (Editor’s note: The following article appears in the 2012 Human Resources Special Report. To download the report, go here.)

HME News: How did you end up in this profession?

Michele Faulkner: It’s something I fell into. I had gone to school for a different field—I studied liberal arts and foreign languages—but I started working for a small manufacturing company that needed an HR manager and safety coordinator, and I liked the work.

HME: What foreign language do you speak?

Faulkner: Spanish. I’ve had to use it in past positions.

HME: Are you a department of one?

Faulkner: I am. I handle all HR functions for the company, which has its headquarters in Cape Coral, Fla., and a warehouse in California. Having a presence and having sales reps in multiple states can be tricky. For example, a non-exempt employee is paid overtime once he’s passed eight hours for the day in California; it’s after 40 hours in Florida.

HME: How do you stay up to date on HR issues?

Faulkner: I’m a member of the Society for Human Resource Management. I also get daily updates from the U.S. Department of Labor. I get a lot of updates and I do a lot of reading.

HME: What’s a typical day for you like?

Faulkner: There is not typical day. I could be doing administrative functions, then I could be called into a meeting with no notice. Often, when something comes up, it doesn’t pertain to HR. I’m called upon for many different issues.

HME: Like what?

Faulkner: There may be an issue with reviewing policy, where all the managers get together to share their input. Recently, we looked at our policy for using demos in the course of the employment of our sales reps. We looked at how to change things and how to make them better.

HME: What’s one of your biggest challenges as an HR manager?

Faulkner: At the top of the list: communicating change. We’ve had a lot of challenges in this industry, and it’s important for employees to know and understand why it’s happening, and how it affects the way we do business.

HME: How have you tackled that challenge?

Faulkner: We have monthly town hall meetings. Managers will discuss the different projects they’re working on. Sometimes that’s how they’ll get involvement from employees.

HME: What do you consider one of your biggest accomplishments in HR?

Faulkner: We recently transitioned from a professional employer organization (PEO) to being on our own with our own tax ID number. What we found was that we were paying exorbitant administration fees and we wanted to control those fees. For health insurance, for example, we had a huge increase, and now we’re working with a local agency and arranging for our own health insurance. It’s a big accomplishment when you can go out on your own and maintain good service to your employees.

HME: What’s on your bucket list for 2012?

Faulkner: One thing I’m very interested in is employee recognition programs. We have begun to do that, which is very important. Even though we’re a small company and a small team, employees need to be recognized for their individual talents and special projects, or just for their birthdays.

HME: What’s one thing most people don’t know about HR managers like yourself?

Faulkner: In this day and age, the HR manager is very much a part of the daily business and works closely with the finance department. It’s a matter of being a strategic partner in how the business is run and doing what we can to be involved in different projects.