HR director brings to profession a passion for people

Phil Castle, The Business Times

 Mary Wigington cares about the employees who care for patients at Hospice & Palliative Care of Western Colorado. “My passion is people,” she says.

Mary Wigington received the Professional of the Year award from the Western Colorado Human Resource Association. Wigington works as HR director at Hospice & Palliative Care of Western Colorado. (Photo courtesy Hospice & Palliative Care of Western Colorado)

As director of human resources for the Grand Junction-based organization, Wigington manages employee benefits and promotes safety and wellness. She created an employee handbook and is in the process of developing a training program for new managers. It makes for a busy schedule Wigington relishes. “Anything I can get my hands into to help make a difference, I do.”

Wigington’s efforts not only have helped make Hospice & Palliative Care of Western Colorado one of the best companies to work for in Colorado, but also have earned her recognition as a human resource professional.

Wigington was selected as the Western Colorado Human Resource Association Professional of the Year. A Grand Junction-based chapter of the Society for Human Resource Management, WCHRA hosts monthly meetings and educational events as well as offers a network for HR professionals in the region.

Wigington was among four nominees for the 2011 award. The others were Debbie Balmer, a human resources executive at Western Colorado Community College; Jennifer Gagliardi, human resource program liaison at Hilltop Community Resources; and Connie Schulthies, an account manager with the health and benefits division of Home Loan Investment Co. A panel of judges evaluated the nominees on the basis of their performances in the HR field, their efforts at promoting the HR profession and their contributions to the community.

Wigington has served as director of human resources at Hospice & Palliative of Western Colorado for three years, the latest position in a 15-year career in the field. She began her career at a local manufacturing company as an administrative assistant and worked her way up to HR manager. She completed work on a bachelor’s degree in organization development from Regis University in Denver in 2009, graduating with honors.

Hospice & Palliative Care of Western Colorado employs a total of 300 people at facilities in Grand Junction as well as Delta, Montrose and the Plateau Valley. The organization provides a range of services to individuals and families facing serious illnesses, death and grief.

Wigington says she strives to offer resources to employees as well as members of the leadership team. “It’s very rewarding to be able to be on both sides.”

Wigington manages employee benefits and workers’ compensation and also serves on committees involved with benefits, ethics, safety and wellness. Over the past three years, she has helped implement a new HR system and completed a wage analysis of all positions.

Earlier this year, Hospice & Palliative Care earned the recognition that comes from being ranked among the best companies to work for in Colorado — sixth among large companies with 250 employees or more.

“We’re right in there with some of the best organizations in Colorado,” Wigington says.

The annual program is a collaborative effort of the Colorado State Council of the Society of Human Resource Management, ColoradoBiz magazine and, an online employment advertising service. To participate in the program, companies pay to undergo anonymous employee surveys conducted by Modern Think, a workplace consulting firm.

Wigington says the results of the surveys reflected employee appreciation for benefits, autonomy in their jobs and the leadership of the organization.

Wigington attributes the culture at the organization in large part to Christy Whitney, president and chief executive officer,  as well as Terri Walter, senior vice president of quality and regional programs.

In addition to her other duties, Wigington coordinates the workplace fund-raising campaign for United Way of Mesa County. Hospice & Palliative Care of Western Colorado is among the so-called Pacesetter companies, organizations and government entities that already have raised a total of more than $490,000 in pledges in the latest United Way campaign.

Wigington has belonged to the WCHRA for 12 years and served on its board of directors for two years, currently as secretary. She’s earned certification as a Professional in Human Resources and hopes to soon earn certification as a Senior Professional in Human Resources.

Wigington says she was “very excited and so honored” by her selection as the WCHRA Professional of the Year.

She remains equally excited about her career in human resources and her role at Hospice & Palliative Care of Western Colorado. “I’ve found my life’s work.”