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Human resources an important piece of Willmar's success

WILLMAR -- It has been a stated goal of the Willmar City Council and mayor to make the city of Willmar an employer of choice. Helping make that goal a reality is Samantha Beckman, who for the past year has been serving as the city's human resourc...

Shelby Lindrud / TribuneSamantha Beckman, left, has a quick conversation with Janell Sommers, administrative assistant to the administrator. As the human resources director Beckman is a point of contact for employees with questions about benefits. She is also working on programs to keep employee moral at a high.
Shelby Lindrud / Tribune Samantha Beckman, left, has a quick conversation with Janell Sommers, administrative assistant to the administrator. As the human resources director Beckman is a point of contact for employees with questions about benefits. She is also working on programs to keep employee moral at a high.

WILLMAR - It has been a stated goal of the Willmar City Council and mayor to make the city of Willmar an employer of choice.

Helping make that goal a reality is Samantha Beckman, who for the past year has been serving as the city's human resource director - only the second person to ever hold that position.

"It is about recruitment and retention," Beckman said.

Human resources can cover a wide variety of issues from employee benefits, including health care and retirement, to hiring and policy crafting.

"It is a lot of things," Beckman said.

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Willmar has only had a separate human resources department for about two years. Before then the duties of human resources were split between several different departments. The establishment of a single point of contact has had a positive impact on the city offices.

"It is important to have that consistency," Beckman said. "It makes more sense to have it in one place."

In the past year Beckman has been involved in several major projects - making for a very busy first 12 months on the job - starting from day one.

"I walked right into the middle of union negotiations" for employee contracts, Beckman said.

Then Willmar Community Education and Recreation disbanded and the city found itself in need of another new department.

"We needed to create a recreation department," Beckman said.

There have also been retirements and hirings. Bruce Peterson retired after 30 years as the Planning and Development Services director, which started the search for his replacement, which is reaching the final steps. Then just last week City Administrator Ike Holland announced his resignation.

As part of the city administrator search, Beckman will help in the process and work side by side with a search firm to be hired by the City Council.

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"It is a big position, that will have an impact on the city," Beckman said.

Goals going forward

For the next year Beckman said she has three main goals. The first is to get the city on the new Kronos payroll and timekeeping program. The system has many human resources functions that will make payroll and timekeeping duties more efficient. For starters the system will remove the need for paper timesheets and other physical paperwork.

"This will be a huge step forward, getting rid of the paper," Beckman said. "It is going to run so much smoother."

Beckman hopes the majority of the program and its applications will be in place by the end of the year.

The second goal is to create an updated employee handbook.

"It is something I wanted to do day one," Beckman said. "It is something that is needed here."

While individual employee policies have been updated over the past months and years, Beckman wants to do a thorough audit of all those policies and put "easier-to-read" summaries of those policies in the handbook.

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"It will be nice to have it condensed and use it as an easy reference," Beckman said.

Her third goal is to do a comprehensive look at all the human resource files the city has compiled over the years.

"It is something that has to be done," Beckman said.

In addition to the more traditional duties of a human resources director, Beckman is interested in taking care of employee moral. If employees are happy in their job, that will only reflect well on the city as a whole.

"It's not just about numbers anymore," Beckman said. "You want your employees to enjoy working here."

Being only the second director has given Beckman the opportunity to put her stamp on the department.

"I get to build it the way it should be done, from the ground up," Beckman said. "I can tailor it to myself."

While human resources might not be the most glamorous of city jobs, it has a major impact on the day-to-day operations of the city, and Beckman enjoys being a go-to person for employees who have questions.

"I am here to help you," Beckman said. "That is what I enjoy doing for the employees, putting them at ease."

Shelby Lindrud is a reporter with the West Central Tribune of Willmar. Her focus areas are arts and entertainment, agriculture, features writing and the Kandiyohi County Board.

She can be reached via email slindrud@wctrib.com or direct 320-214-4373.


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