Manager enjoys rewards, but also challenges, of HR

Norma Roberts, human resources manager at the StarTek center in Grand Junction, has been honored as the Western Colorado Human Resource Association Professional of the Year. (Business Times photo by Phil Castle
Norma Roberts, human resources manager at the StarTek center in Grand Junction, has been honored as the Western Colorado Human Resource Association Professional of the Year. (Business Times photo by Phil Castle

Phil Castle, The Business Times

Norma Roberts enjoys the rewards, but also the challenges, of human resources management.

Roberts relishes opportunities to make a difference in the lives of employees, to help them succeed professionally as well as personally. But she also likes the effort required to keep pace with changing regulations and technologies.

The end result in both cases, Roberts said, is to help the company for which she works achieve its goals.

It’s an approach that’s earned Roberts not only the praise of her co-workers and managers, but also the Western Colorado Human Resource Association Professional of the Year award. The WCHRA, a Grand Junction-based chapter of the Society for Human Resource Management, bestows the award to recognize performance in the HR field, efforts to promote the HR profession and contributions to the community.

Roberts works as human resources manager for StarTek in Grand Junction. With more than 750 employees, the customer service center is the largest operated by StarTek in the United States. Headquartered in Greenwood Village, StarTek provides outsourced business services, including sales and technical support for clients in the telecommunications and retail sectors.

In the nomination materials for the award, Robert was praised for her abilities to identify and develop talent, blend and motivate teams and exceed business goals. “She is a manager focused on maximizing people’s strengths through expert management development, resulting in low turnover and solid results.”

Roberts joined StarTek about two years ago after working for nearly 25 years in the Aspen area in management and HR positions with real estate, hospitality and tourism companies.

While Roberts studied Slavic languages at the University of California Berkeley and initially planned to further study linguistics, she said her interests changed to business management and then human resources management. She subsequently earned a masters of business administration degree from Regis University. She also holds certification as a Senior Professional in Human Resources.

With StarTek, Roberts said she’s involved in all aspects of HR management, from recruiting and screening applicants to training and evaluating employees as well as dealing with compensation and compliance. Many of her duties involve supporting employees through a nurturing corporate culture. “It’s very inclusive. We support our people. We care about our people as individuals.”

StarTek succeeds, Roberts said, because of a culture in which new hires, many of them starting first jobs, are trained to become “brand warriors” who are expected to provide top-notch customer service on behalf of clients.

That process starts with training — at least four to five weeks and sometimes as much as 12 weeks, Roberts said. New hires spend additional time working with supervisors on a one-to-one basis and continue to consult with supervisors as the need arises.

In addition to the technical knowledge they require, employees receive training in communication and hone their interpersonal and problem-solving skills.

StarTek spends on average about $6,000 in training new hires, Roberts estimated. “It’s a big investment.”

StarTek also strives to create a welcoming and supportive environment that empowers employees to excel and then celebrates their successes, Roberts said. “We want to make it a fun environment.”

The payoff comes in well-trained and happy employees who promote the customer satisfaction that drives financial success, Roberts said.

The payoff also comes, though, as employees develop skills that improve their lives not only professionally, but also personally, she said.

Surveys and testimonials confirm that employees appreciate and value the support and family atmosphere at StarTek, she added.

Along with employee training and motivation, human resource management also involves rapidly changing regulations and technology, Roberts said. While it’s challenging to keep up the changes, she said she enjoys that challenge. The WCHRA helps in offering educational presentations, labor law updates and networking with other professionals, she added.

Ultimately, it’s crucial that the strategies and goals of human resource management complement the overall  strategies and goals of the company.

While her duties at StarTek keep her busy, Roberts also is involved in a number of pursuits outside of work.

Starting this semester, she’ll teach a course in human resource management at Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction.

She’s also serves on several committees with the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce and participates in the Mesa County leadership course.

“It’s a way I can contribute, make a difference,” she said. “That’s the name of the game.”