All small business leaders focus on the success of their business endeavors, but Candace Walters also focuses on the path to that success: employees. Her belief that effective human resource management results in engaged and productive employees is the cornerstone of her business, HR Works Inc.
HR Works supports a diverse client base in the public, private and nonprofit sectors, including Fortune 500 companies, municipalities and many small to medium-sized businesses. The company provides expertise in areas such as affirmative action, benefits administration, HR technology and compliance services.
Walters, who launched HR Works in 1991, started the business—her second—initially to maintain a healthy work-life balance while attending to a young family. Since then, the Fairport-based company has grown steadily, servicing clients throughout the United States.
Walters began her career working in market research, which she says taught her a great deal. It was a role at a nonprofit agency that introduced her to the world of human resources.
“I discovered the complexity of human resource management and the impact that it has on an organization, depending on how well it is managed,” she says. “I also found that successful human resource management involves marketing to internal clients: your employees.”
Walters carries that focus to HR Works’ employees every day.
“We never lose sight of the fact that our employees are integral to HR Works’ success and that employee engagement is the cornerstone to employee retention,” she says. “We invest in the hiring and development of great employees and want to retain them.”
Each year HR Works participates in the “Best Companies to Work for in New York State” program. The process involves staff completing a confidential online survey evaluating the company on factors such as leadership, corporate culture, role satisfaction, pay and benefits, and overall engagement.
Seventy-five percent of a company’s ranking on that list is based on employees’ responses, while 25 percent of the ranking is based on employer responses. In 2015, HR Works was ranked first among small employers in New York State and this year, it ranked second. Employees consistently cite values that were core at the inception of HR Works: work-life balance, entrepreneurship, quality, and accessibility of leadership, Walters says.
“The employee engagement data is every bit as important to the success of HR Works as the other data that we track, including financials,” she notes.
Employees at HR Works also learn to respond quickly to clients who are working to stay abreast of regulations. As these customers work to keep their practices compliant with changing legal requirements, HR Works plays the role of an actively engaged adviser and expert.
“The introduction of [New York’s] Paid Family Leave law is an example where HR Works quickly responded to the new law,” Walters says. “We became an expert on the new regulations, proactively trained HR professionals and business leaders throughout the state during the summer of 2017, provided clients with updated PFL policies for their handbooks and continue today to answer client questions.”
It’s the type of support Walters hopes will stick with her clients for years to come.
“I would hope our clients remember me as someone who cared about the success of their businesses and provided talented HR professionals to help them navigate the many complexities within human resources,” she says.