Specialists in human resources are trained in all facets of human resources, giving them the knowledge and ability to manage personnel issues inside an organization, find and hire new talent, and enable onboarding and training for new employees. They specialize in a particular area of human resources, though, and use their advanced technical knowledge and expertise to the advantage of their organization.
Some people are irreplaceable because of their ability and knowledge. Jennifer A. Thomason is equipped with knowledge of both information technology and human resources. Jennifer has extensive expertise in all areas of human resources management, including change management, organizational development, benefits management, and employee relations. She has extensive knowledge of technology and was able to swiftly transition a full company to remote working. She is the “go to” expert and she does it all with love, humility, and compassion.
The Learning Period
Jennifer grew up in South Carolina in a close family with Sunday dinners and Friday night football. She learned to cook from her mom and how to work on cars from her dad. She recalls, “My dad served in the Air Force, my grandfather in the Army, and my uncle in the Navy. Values and morals were ingrained in our lives from the beginning.”
Jennifer has lived in virtually all of the Southeastern states and now calls Florida home. Prior to joining Habitat Jennifer held positions in corporate training and organizational development. She began her business career with notable retail organizations, working in operations and store management. She received coaching from some of the top business mentors and she has applied the skills she learned in both her personal and professional life.
“It’s not your blue blood, your pedigree or your college degree. It’s what you do with your life that counts.”— Millard Fuller
In 2003, Jennifer came to the realization that she wanted to do something that affected other people’s lives. She made a professional move and entered the dentistry sector, where she discovered a love for patient advocacy and assisting others in enhancing their health. This was an instantaneous shift to servant leadership. After a decade in the dental industry, she was recruited to Habitat for Humanity of Palm Beach County (HFHPBC) to create a fully supported HR infrastructure.
Headquartered in West Palm Beach, the HFHPBC is an organization that is an affiliate of Habitat for Humanity International that brings people together to build homes, communities, and hope in Palm Beach County by fostering strength, stability and self-reliance through shelter. It is committed to fostering resilience, steadiness, and independence through housing. Before being qualified to purchase a house with a 30-year, no-interest loan and each Habitat homeowner is obliged to put their own effort into the construction of dwellings.
Habitat is dedicated to the concept that everyone should have access to a safe, affordable place to live. To give a “hand-up, never a hand-out,” the nonprofit depends upon volunteer labor and tax-deductible donations of money, materials, services, and property to fulfill its mission. HFHPBC has constructed 255 safe, affordable homes and provided (critical) home repairs for another 266. Habitat PBC is a veteran build affiliate and operates three retail stores.
Duties at the Workplace
Jennifer views her days at work as thrilling roller coaster rides with brand-new scenery around every bend. She is responsible for managing the team’s information technology as well as all HR operations, including DEIBA, talent management, workplace safety, employee relations, total rewards, labor compliance, and learning and development. Her team is made up of HR support personnel who volunteer their services; they are the most resourceful individuals she knows. They assist her in achieving team goals and keeping up with the most recent HR requirements, she discovers.
Jennifer volunteers her time each month to the military community, helping transitioning service members, veterans, and military spouses with job placement. She is a qualified Veterans-at-Work recruiter and serves as a SHRM Veterans Ambassador. As an ambassador, Jennifer educates employers and hiring managers about the value that skilled veterans and military spouses bring to the civilian workplace.
Advancing the future of HR
The Pandemic allowed people to remove psychological barriers and embrace a new workplace paradigm. Jennifer would love to see Habitat transition to digital platforms for people’s basic tasks, taking the remaining processes from paper-driven to electronic. She says, “Life can pivot at any minute for any of our team members and I hope to support them to have flexibility, preventing difficult choices between work and family.”
A top-notch diversity, equity, inclusion, belonging, and social awareness program is already under Jennifer’s belt. HFHPBC is currently a diverse group, but an improved program that promotes inclusion and belonging will foster greater organizational resilience and position the organization to achieve significant, long-term, sustainable growth. A comprehensive training program with fresh curricula and resources for each function will be developed in 2023.
As a business leader, Jennifer wants to continue to evolve, learn new leadership skills and become an authority in her field of work. She is now pursuing her MBA.
Embracing Challenges to Learn a New Approach
Jennifer once tried to disassemble her first rocking chair in order to understand how it worked; she loved intellectual challenges. She continues to function in this manner, which gives her confidence and empathy for the struggles of others.
For Jennifer, difficulties are what keep life fascinating. One challenge she frequently encounters is having her neurodivergent features misinterpreted. She states, “Neurotypical team members are not always equipped to understand the differences that neurodiversity plays in how we work as a team.” She discovered that in order to work more effectively with others around her, she and her team required education.
One important thing Jennifer learned was the need to teach leaders that it’s okay to rely on their HR support system, especially when it comes to personnel management and employee relations. Human resources are frequently underutilized.
Influencing a Change in the Generation
Jennifer aims to affect change by giving others the freedom to live out their ideals while striking a balance. She aspires to have an impact on both current and previous generations. According to her, it’s critical that mature generations remain valued in the workplace, learn how to use new technologies, and understand the principles and values of the younger generations. She considers it crucial that different generations be respected in the workplace. Jennifer wants to strengthen respect across all age groups.
“We advise, we listen, and we teach, we care.”
Jennifer hopes to encourage more people to enter the human resources field. She says, “HR is no longer just the place you go to change your benefits. It is a living, breathing source of sustainability for the workforce.”
“We rise by lifting others.”- Robert Ingersoll
The pandemic ended the debate of the value of HR in the enterprise. This solidified HR’s seat at the table. Through the pandemic HR operated in crisis reaction mode, navigating how employees could work from home, providing extra mental and physical health support, and focusing more on C-level strategies for organizational stability. Jennifer believes this new normal for HR is here to stay and is poised at the right hand of the CEO, helping to navigate people-centric obstacles. She further adds, “They hear what your team desires and needs so they can advocate for both sides with a non-biased approach; this is what we are trained to do.”
Living Life at its Fullest
Having a healthy work-life balance is important to holistic health and wellbeing. Jennifer is known for being organized, and this skill helps her balance both personal and professional life commitments. She loves to research new recipes to improve her health and vitality. Jennifer has taught herself to play guitar and learn another language in her free time. She says, “I am an animal welfare advocate, love cats and adopted a special needs kitty.”
Staying motivated is not hard, Jennifer loves HR and technology. She opines, “When COVID erupted into our lives I found myself researching daily to stay abreast of the health concerns for the team and the risk for the business. I loved it! I had my student hat on, buried in IT and HR matters to provide the team with everything they needed to pull through the pandemic.” Jennifer designed the organization’s COVID response protocol, policy and procedures and moved the team to remote work in 3 days.
Jennifer’s consistent research (which kept her motivated) and her PSAs and memos to the staff helped keep the team informed. Her memos included everything from safety tips, statistics, and mental health access info to vacation tips.
Success that is meaningful to life
Wellness, security and wisdom are measures of success for Jennifer. Success is different for every individual, and that is what is great about it. She says, “On a personal level, no one can truly define your success except you.” To Jennifer, success is how she leaves people feeling and what she does to make the world a better place for those who come later.
“Some days you may not present your best face and stumble through because you didn’t sleep well or that to-do list is immeasurable.”
As per Jennifer, the important thing is to have the determination to get up and try again; resilience is success. She asserts, “How people remember you or how you feel when you have helped someone: this is success. We are all here to lift others up to evolve as humankind. Defining success to oneself is goal setting; without goals we just exist. I was once told by a mentor and HR leader in a not-so-successful moment, “Do not let this define you. You are greater than this moment.” I remember these words every time I stumble, fail or find a way that doesn’t work.”
“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” ― Thomas A. Edison
Jennifer credits her success, in part, to her mother and father, who taught her brother and her personal responsibility and self-discipline. She states, “My dad had a career in the military, followed by a career in mechanics. He provided for our family and raised two kids who are determined, disciplined and both now work in the non-profit sector. Coincidence? They taught my brother and I to work on cars, use power tools, harvest a garden, tend to farm animals, save money, and stand up for our beliefs and values.”
Values and Vision
“Good teams become great ones when the members trust each other enough to surrender the ME for the We.” – Phil Jackson
At HFHPBC, each team member takes part in continual training in their respective fields of expertise in order to continue serving the organization’s objective. Jennifer is a leading advocate for ensuring that everyone has access to training that will keep them proficient in their industry.
Words for Aspiring Leaders
“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”– Oscar Wilde.
Jennifer’s thoughts for emerging leaders are:
Diversity is a fact. Inclusion is an intentional choice we make each day. Strive to make other’s feel seen, feel like they matter and feel like they belong. When you help others reach [their] goals you are also elevated.
“Don’t let your past dictate who you are, but let it be part of who you will become.” — Louis Mandylor
Never stop learning. Life will continue to pass in time and space so, by continuously learning our perspective evolves in the way we view the world. Let others live in their truth – Allow others to be themselves with no judgement. Judging another person is unless without the ability to walk in their shoes and understand their history.