Early in her HR career, Dana Schultz-Ramos had to meet with an employee who was stealing food from the onsite cafeteria. Apparently, he was hiding slices of bacon underneath his pancakes and not paying for them. But he claimed he wasn’t stealing. He said the meal simply tasted best when pancakes were placed on top of the bacon, cut up together and then doused in syrup.
From managing bacon theft to jobs at Target headquarters and ACT, Schultz-Ramos has seen just about everything throughout her HR career. This week, she takes that experience into a newly created role as senior vice president of People at Social Solutions, a technology company based in Austin that provides comprehensive software solutions for nonprofits and public sector organizations. Most recently, Schultz-Ramos was vice president of Performance and Total Rewards at Businessolver.
This interview occurred on the first day of her new job. Schultz-Ramos says she’s eager to make her mark on the company by being a hands-on HR leader who will focus on diversity and inclusion and career progression while developing hardcore business skills.
HRE: You just started a new job and are moving to a new state during a pandemic. What are your priorities?
Schultz-Ramos: While mapping out a COVID-19 plan, I’ll also develop a diversity and inclusion strategy. That for sure will be a key focus. I’m looking forward to really diving into the data and insights from employee focus groups and surveys to figure out what our plan or strategy (needs) to be around that. This is highly important to our team and clients.
HRE: What recent decisions have been made involving your COVID strategy?
Schultz-Ramos: The company announced that it won’t fully bring back its team into the office until June 2021. It did an employee survey where 15% wanted to get back to the office as soon as possible, 40% wanted to wait several months and another 40% wanted to wait until June. Continued engagement in this COVID environment will continue to be a focus, especially around the employee lifecycle. How differently should we think about hiring, onboarding and overall engagement? I need to look at this holistically and figure out what strategies ensure that we’re driving really good connections and engagement with teams and leaders.
HRE: Among your goals is to round out employee experience. How will you accomplish this?
Schultz-Ramos: One thing I’ll absolutely explore is career experiences. Are (employees) skill-building, given exposure to different areas, functional areas, to round out their experiences? It doesn’t have to be a very planned career ladder. It can be more experientially driven. It’s the gig economy concept where people look for a variety of different work opportunities, engage in different projects, or work and engage with different individuals. How do we create that, add value for folks, grow their skills, groom their capabilities and, ultimately, drive engagement because they’re now involved in work that’s more meaningful?
HRE: This is your first time serving on an executive leadership team. What are you expecting?
Schultz-Ramos: I’m really excited to learn a lot from the board regarding some of the practices they’ve used to make companies more profitable and drive growth. Really having that toolkit will be helpful in continuing to learn and grow my own skills. I need to dive deep into the employee psyche, get to know the leaders and everybody else individually, and add meaning and value for individuals.
HRE: What do you and other HR professionals need to learn to better perform your jobs?
Schultz-Ramos: I started my career at a large retailer. One of the things I really valued in the HR realm was that HR had a seat at the table in terms of driving the business and really understood the business’s goals and objectives, knew what needed to be achieved and aligned people strategies appropriately. Anybody who’s getting into the HR profession needs to understand the ins and outs of the organization, the business goals, metrics, KPIs (key performance indicators) and be able to really round out a people strategy. That will absolutely be my first focus—to really understand the business.
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HRE: You mentioned receiving professional advice that helps shape your career. Tell us more.
Schultz-Ramos: Somebody told me, don’t wait for your manager or leader to give you a list of things you could solve or projects you could complete. Find those opportunities and bring them forward with a solution around them. Typically, you are going to be closer to the ground to know what’s going to add value. Take the lead. Create the plan and then execute on the plan. Typically, you’ll get rewarded for that, for adding value.
HRE: As a newbie in the company, what do you want your coworkers to know about your personal side?
Schultz-Ramos: I’m an outdoor junkie. I love to do anything outside—ride a bike, golf, pick up a sand volleyball game, ski, boat, and swim. I’m up for an adventure all of the time. One fun thing I learned that I haven’t done in about a year or so is doing a double flip off a diving board. I’m a year older now so it may be harder. Recently, I also played golf for the first time in about two years and shot a 90. For not playing in several years, anything under 100 is pretty good, although those who golf a lot would say that’s terrible. I am competitive at heart. I’m always looking to have competitive fun.