Human Resources Professionals Adjust to the Changing Needs of Employees

Monday, May 8, 2023
Phoenix College adjunct faculty quote
Phoenix College incoming Business Department Chair Dawson Dopp on the Human Resources Certificate Program
Phoenix College instructor Tara Bethell with the Spring 2023 Management 276 class
Phoenix College alum and current student Geushia Armstrong discusses the challenge for HR professionals in keeping employees engaged.

En Espanol. Mergers and acquisitions are common in the business world, but when one listens to Tara Bethell, Human Resources (HR) professional for McKinney and Adjunct Faculty in the Phoenix College (PC) Business department, describe the marketing agency acquisitions by Cheil, it can make one's head spin. 

Cheil Worldwide, established in 1973 in Seoul, South Korea, is a marketing company under the Samsung Group offering advertising, public relations, sports marketing, and digital marketing. It has 53 offices across five continents. Chiel acquired McKinney, and McKinney recently bought up the smaller firm Tara worked for in Tempe. "It's a fast-moving industry," said Tara, who has been in HR for 18 years. "I start at 5 am, check my email, do yoga, check my email, shower, and then I'm on for the day. I'll break again at 5 or 6 pm to make dinner, then jump back on to recheck email to make sure I haven’t missed anything.” 

PC Business Department Chair Brenda Maynard invited Tara to join the department’s Employer Advisory Council when Tara worked for Beatitudes Campus, a nonprofit senior living community. Then Brenda asked if Tara would take on HR interns. "I took on three PC student HR interns at Beatitudes Campus," Tara said. Because Tara has her Master's and loved her experiences with Phoenix College, she told Brenda to let her know if an adjunct position opened. Tara left the Beatitudes in 2017 to start her own consulting practice. In Spring 2021, Brenda offered Tara the Wednesday night Management (MTG) 276, Personnel/Human Resources Management class, which was taught online. With excellent student reviews, Tara has continued to teach the Wednesday night class, now in person. 

"Having gone to two universities,"–Arizona State University for her undergrad and Grand Canyon University for her Executive MBA–"I love that Phoenix College can pivot so much faster than a big university. That's what keeps me engaged," she said. "I can help mold people for the jobs ahead. And PC wants to create those programs sooner than later." Incoming Business Department Chair Dawson Dopp said, "The HR certificate is among our most popular programs. What Tara offers as a working HR professional is invaluable to our students."  

Geushia Armstrong, a student in the HR Certificate program and Tara's Wednesday night class, received her Associate's in Paralegal Studies at PC. "I work as a Billing Administrator for a small law firm, Platt & Westby, P. C., and we're in the midst of growth without an HR department. If you're trying to grow, you must see what's happening in the marketplace to recruit quality people. I went online and saw the HR Certificate program, and it fit my budget and the time frame, so that's why I chose it." She sees the certificate as an opportunity to bring this knowledge to her current employer and increase her value in the marketplace. "I wanted to have more in my wheelbarrow," Geushia said.  

In addition to the Wednesday night class for students pursuing the HR Certificate, Tara also teaches an eight-week session of the MGT 276 class online for 24 Smart & Final employees who are part of the Retail Management Certificate (RMC) program. Incoming Business Department Chair Dawson Dopp explained the Smart & Final partnership developed from a relationship with the Western Association of Food Chains (WAFC), a nonprofit representing retail stores in the food industry. Dawson noted these kinds of partnerships boost enrollment when companies invest in the professional development of their employees. PC provides dedicated staff across the college to support these business partnership students: Leidy Martinez-Gonzalez, Student Service Specialist Senior, helps with their community college applications and IDs, Kay Harrison, Student Services Analyst, provides advising services, and Michele Undiano, Fiscalist Specialist Senior, bills Smart & Final for their employee tuition fees.  

Tara noted the most challenging elements of HR right now are recruiting and psychological safety. During the pandemic, many people were furloughed or let go and moved into other industries. "It was the Great Reshuffling," she said. "People are more picky about what they want." She noted psychological safety is important because it feeds everything else: creativity, collaboration, wellness, and diversity.  

What is the most recognized element current and future employees want? "Flexibility," she said. "We may say we want to work from home, but it's about flexibility. Organizations that aren't looking at some hybrid work model are missing the boat," she said. The sandwich generation, who have kids in school and parents who need support, are looking for benefits beyond medical, dental, and vision. Tara posits, "How might benefits include elder care, child care, mentoring, tuition, and not just tuition reimbursement but debt payoff?" She sees a move toward a benefits cafeteria plan where employees decide how to apply a set amount to support their medical insurance, dependent care, retirement, 401K, and student loan repayment. "That would be ideal," she said, "getting creative beyond the typical benefits."  

Geushia Armstrong, who is finishing her HR Certificate of Completion this semester, adds, "Once you hire someone, how do you keep them and encourage their growth?" She believes people want to see their opinions and thoughts valued, to know "that they aren't just a cog in the wheel. If you spend 40 – 60 hours a week doing something, you want to ensure it's worth doing. With inflation, one has to think about money. But for many people, if they had something that fulfilled a lot of areas in their life, they would stay."   

It's clear why industries need well-trained HR professionals to handle mergers and company growth. HR is a multifaceted industry that covers recruitment and onboarding, compensation and benefits, payroll, legal compliance, training and development, and many more elements that make up the "human" part of Human Resources. Consider a career in Human Resources Management with PC's 24-credit Certificate of Completion.