Last updateThu, 21 Feb 2019 3pm


HR Professionals Gather at VMA Workshop

Human resources managers, executives representing their companies and YVPs (young valve professionals) from VMA companies gathered Nov. 14-15 at the Valve Manufacturers Association’s Human Resources Workshop in Houston. Attendees heard from several speakers and shared experiences on a wide range of topics of importance to those responsible for their companies HR activities.

The event kicked off with a welcome and introduction of VMA’s Valve Careers program by Kelly Watson, VMA Communications Committee member, and VP of Sales & Marketing for Watson Grinding & Mfg., based out of Houston. Watson updated attendees on the accomplishments of the initiative thus far—such as the Valve Careers website, marketing videos, social media, members-only resources and more—and additional Valve Careers resources and projects that are on the horizon.


Ian BaynesIan Baynes spoke about career development, mentoring and knowledge transfer.Following the introduction, the keynote speaker of the event, Ian Baynes, a former executive at A.W. Chesterton and now a “serial career coach,” spoke to the group about the importance of career development, mentoring and the transfer of knowledge. Baynes’ presentation focused on encouraging attendees to build a stronger workforce through career development, which he described as “a lifelong process of managing learning, work, leisure and transitions to move toward a personally determined and evolving preferred future.” He noted that all too often companies will treat career development as a one-time event, rather than a process that should ideally continue throughout an employee’s tenure. Baynes told attendees, “the richest pool of resources already work for you. All they need is your help to develop a career plan to execute it!”

Baynes also emphasized the significance of mentoring and how a mentoring program can create a “buzz and up-swell” within the company. “There has to be a cultural shift,” he said, noting that a successful company should make a deliberate effort to make mentoring a part of the workplace culture. “If knowledge is not used, it goes to waste.”


Tiffany GearhartTiffany Gearhart discussed how unconventional perks can attract talent and build loyalty.Tiffany Gearhart, a trainer and recruiting specialist from AIRS—a global leader in recruitment training— returned for her second appearance at the HR Workshop, presenting on two equally important topics. During her first talk, “Baby Boomers, Gen Xers, Millennials and Beyond: Strike a Balance To Mentor and Train a Multigenerational Workforce,” Gearhart went into great detail to provide insight into just how workforce demographics affect recruiting, hiring, mentoring and training. “By 2020,” she remarked, “50 percent of the workforce will be made up of millennials, while only 25% will be age 55 or older.” Like it or not, valve manufacturing companies, along with many industry businesses, should be thoughtful about how to recruit and retain a multigenerational workforce. This was evident with Geahart’s presentation, which explained the many differences between employees and job-seekers, depending on their age. For example, Gearhart pointed out that “Gen Xers” (those born between 1960 and 1979) are more likely to seek a good work-life balance when considering a career, while “Gen Zers” (those born after 2000, who are just starting to enter the workforce) will be more focused on security and stability when considering employment. Because of these tendencies and preferences, which can differ greatly between each generation, a company must be thoughtful when attempting to appeal to prospective employees.

Gearhart’s second presentation, “Sweeten the Pot: Attract Talent and Build Loyalty with Unconventional Perks,” examined unique and creative approaches to attracting talent and offering unusual perks—such as child care, free lunches, “hoteling” work spaces and more—to build retention. While traditional benefits such as salary, paid vacation, health insurance, etc., will appeal to many, in a competitive market, employers would do well to be creative with offered perks. As Gearhart explained, company culture is of top importance to job seekers nowadays, and according to a 2015 LinkedIn survey, 34% of candidates left their job because of lack of compensation and benefits, while another 36% left because of unsatisfactory environment/company culture. Gearhart noted, “Our companies/industries aren’t the only ones with demands for specific talent…candidates have specific wants and needs as well.”


Joe BontkeJoe Bontke of the Houston EEOC addressed how to create a safe workplace for employees.Attendees were given a fast-paced and laugh-filled presentation from Joe Bontke, the Deputy Director of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s Houston office. Bontke, whose comedic background added a much-appreciated levity to the subject of workplace discrimination, spoke to attendees about the obligations of employers to create a safe workspace for their employees, and offered examples of stereotypes and bias that often occur in the workplace, even when intentions are good.

Bontke told attendees, “Thirty percent of workers say they’ve heard colleagues use racial or ethnic slurs in the last 12 months,” adding, “creating and maintaining a culture of respect is a matter of common sense.” Bontke offered personal anecdotes and light-hearted jokes while simultaneously driving home the message of his presentation: Make the workplace safe for employees—a place where they will feel that their concerns will be taken seriously. Bontke stressed to attendees, “Promptly and confidentially investigate complaints of discrimination, harassment and retaliation,” adding that “where discrimination, harassment and retaliation may have occurred, take prompt and appropriate remedial action.”

Rounding out the program was Employment Attorney Jackson Wisdom, partner at the law offices of Martin, Disiere, Jefferson & Wisdom, LLP based in Houston. Wisdom gave a two-part presentation that covered social media recruiting, as well as current events in employment law. A wealth of recent cases and current developments in employment law gave attendees a thorough look at potential legal situations and how to avoid them. “Can an employer be liable for religious discrimination if the applicant never asked for an accommodation?” Wisdom posed to attendees, with the answer being a resounding “You bet!”

Attendees at Human Resources WorkshopAttendees at VMA’s second Human Resources Workshop

In addition to his talk regarding surprising legal situations, Wisdom educated workshop attendees on best practices—and what to watch out for—when recruiting and hiring via social media, noting risk reduction guidelines such as “be consistent” and “document decisions.” While use of social media during the recruitment process has declined by almost 40% in recent years, Wisdom noted, there are still many companies finding themselves in sticky situations because they wanted to find personal information about a potential employee on social media—the risk of course, being that the hiring personnel will find out information they do not want to know, or shouldn’t know, during the hiring process, which can lead to unintended discrimination.

To avoid potential discrepancies when using social media during recruiting and hiring, Wisdom provided eight risk reduction guidelines:

  • Only view content that is public
  • Let HR professionals handle the review
  • Look at social media later in the hiring process
  • Be consistent
  • Document decisions
  • Consider the source
  • Watch out for FCRA (Fair Credit Reporting Act) and state laws
  • Disclose potential use of social media posts to potential candidates.


Workshop attendees also heard from fellow human resources professionals during a member panel as they discussed successes in hiring, mentoring and training programs. Participants included: Palmina Arpino (REXA), Evan Glaze (Emerson Process Management), Michelle Johnson (Pentair Valves & Controls), Kelly Lovell (United Valve) and Cheryl Neiheisel (Richards Industries).

Breakout sessionsBreakout sessions provided attendees with the opportunity to share experiences.

Discussions during the panel ranged from providing supervisors with appropriate tools for developing employees’ careers, to having new employees visit each department within the company during the onboarding process, to allowing employees to travel, get professional development/training and become passionate about the industry. Many panelists stressed the importance of internships, noting that it is often the most successful way to eventually hire a well-trained employee, and some noted that forming relationships with local colleges and high schools—and taking every opportunity to visit and speak to their students—has been invaluable, providing close connections with young people looking for a career.

Another panel made up of Young Valve Professionals representing VMA member companies’ Emerson, Pentair and Richards allowed attendees to gain insight into the minds of the younger generation, what attracted them to the valve manufacturing industry, and what kinds of benefits and perks are most important to them. Attendees were pleased to hear the YVPs discuss why they became so passionate about the valve manufacturing industry, and how they often encourage their friends and family members to consider careers in the industry as well.

At the program’s conclusion, break-out sessions allowed attendees to share and discuss relevant HR issues in small group discussions with their peers. After the workshop ended, one attendee noted “the interaction and sharing of info [during the break-out session] was invaluable.”

The program was developed by the VMA Communications Committee: Tracy Fairchild (Velan), Greg Johnson (United Valve), Kyndle McMurry (Richards), Kelly Watson (Watson Grinding & Mfg.) and Tim Fries (Powell Valves). For more information on the Valve Careers Initiative and future programs, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., VMA Valve Careers program coordinator.

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