By Peggy Riley,
Human Resources, Chase-Pitkin Home & Garden
still amusing for me to ask RA s these days what their least favorite
responsibilities are and hear answers I remember well. Common responses
include writing my weekly report for my RD, waking up in the middle of
the night for student checks during a fire alarm, and dealing with desk
dorks a.k.a residents who hang around the office when RA s are on
duty. I think back and remember those frustrations like they were yesterday.
However more engrained in my memory is the excitement that I had in early
August to get to school a week early for training when we RA s had the
beautiful Fredonia campus to ourselves
. Training courses and subsequent
experiences that I never expected would prepare me so well for my future.
As an undeclared
sophomore in December, I first applied for a resident assistant job. Although
I was not selected during round one, I was then offered the best placement
on the campus - the hall with cable and a 2-room suite for the RA
because a veteran RA decided to resign her last semester. I worked there
for the next 2-_ years of my college history.
my hire, my future began to take shape beneath my eyes. I declared my
major in Communications and delved into the art and science of human communication
and behavior. I loved residence life training and the camaraderie I would
come to know with fellow residence life staff. The idea of working in
residence life began with 2 siblings who had positive experiences and
my need to subsidize a self-funded college experience. It turned into
the beginnings of a career that I truly love.
I have the
great fortune of working for a Top 100 Company in America Wegmans
Food Markets. My division is called Chase Pitkin Home and Garden; a superior
regional home center focused on individualized service in a neat and safe
shopping environment. Wegmans, for any of you who did not grow up in upstate
New York is the greatest grocery store on earth. Wegmans has over 30,000
employees. The amazing part is that every employee is treated as family,
thanks to our company leadership. I direct the Human Resources Department
for all of Chase-Pitkin. This consists of about 2,600 employees, 15 stores,
a corporate support staff and warehouse.
My department is comprised of a payroll coordinator, a HR Specialist and an Employee Representative at each location. The HR specialist coordinates projects that help employees grow their careers at Chase Pitkin, engage in self-exploration to find the best fit for their skills and interests in our family. Employee Reps are expected to advocate for employees, represent employees in business decisions and monitor administrative duties and compliance issues. (Anything starting to sound familiar J?) My role is to work with top management to strategically position our company to attract and retain the best people to achieve our organizational goals and effectively lead the aforementioned to support these initiatives.
look back on my academic experiences and say that anything in college
prepared me more for my current position than my 2-_ years in residence
life. And if you are an undeclared, newly hired sophomore, maybe this
will help you too!
of residence life and human resources is very similar. My role as an RA
was to be concerned for the general well being of the student body, to
provide student development via personal and educational workshops, to
balance personal/cultural/academic life activities; manage crisis situations
in the hall, maintain reporting and documentation to protect university
and individual liability, and act as a university ambassador to set the
example of a healthy college student experience.
Resources, especially that of any organization with a large number of
front-line employees, HR acts in a strikingly similar role. At the entry-level
position for a HR Representative, recruitment - selling the company, is
the first hat you wear. Screening and interviewing candidates, although
a little more scientific than room selection, is also about finding the
right fit to diversify the work site. Once the employees are in the door,
they need an orientation to their surroundings, where to go to for what,
different types of services available to them, hotlines for emergencies;
we all know what that is about.
development begins. Depending on the organization that you work with,
training can be very simple to complex; however, it is always designed
and delivered in a format that needs to reach all individuals. Training
is often linked with HR because the HR staff should be the people who
can predict human behavior and introduce foreign and perhaps uncomfortable
concepts in ways that people can understand them.
Development, a big part of the HR responsibility takes on a greater meaning
than just training. It aligns technical training to personal development
and growth in the organization's culture. It is when you set stretching
goals and objectives to help develop the employee in their career multi-directionally.
This means to foster growth opportunities for them in less tangible areas
like diversity, leadership and working collaboratively to create synergistic
results. A good HR person acts as a filter for organizational leadership
to communicate strategy in ways that will move groups of people. To know
and love people and how they work - this is why I loved being a RA, and
also why I love HR. To understand, predict and react to human behavior
in ways that makes sense for them and the company.
As an R.A.
we will always remember the dreaded paperwork. Report here; file there,
compliance and liability. Dot your is and cross your
. thats a part of it too! Not that this
is my most favorite part of either position, but it does add value. If
you have ever dealt with a very sensitive issue of harassment, abuse or
theft in your hall, you know how important this documentation is. And
when you think about the end result of documentation protecting the students
and the university, you know, your role is important and ultimately safeguards
people (and yourself). I remember a fight between 2 women in my hall of
different races and how important my account of the situation became when
one was being considered for expulsion from the hall. Unfortunately, there
are difficult or legal issues that need to be copiously accounted for.
I think of the administrative duties of my HR position and remind myself
that as tedious as they can be, they are still in the very best interest
of those I am responsible for: our employees and our organization.
possibly account for every duty in either your role or mine, nor would
I say that HR is a fit for every successful RA. There are so many things
that I learned through my courses, personal experiences and mentors along
the way. However, when looking at successful leaders and professionals
in the workforce, I know many can trace back their roots to residence
life as a positive and educational boost that has assisted their career
development. I wish you luck and success in your future as you apply your
skills and experiences from your time-in as a RA. For me,
my residence life years gave me the answers to what I wanted to do for
my future, and prepared me in ways I could never imagine.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author, not that
of Wegmans Food Markets.
About the Author
is the Human Resources Manager of Chase Pitkin Home & Garden, a division
of Wegmans Food Markets in Rochester, New York. She earned a bachelors
degree in Organizational Communication from SUNY Fredonia where she worked
in residence life for 2 1/2 years. She is currently pursuing her MBA from
St. John Fisher College Rochester NY.
Contact Peggy at Peggy.Riley@Chase-Pitkin.com