Foundation Scholarship Winners Headed to Talent Conference

By SHRM Online staff Apr 24, 2017

Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) members Kara Sharman-Grace, SHRM-CP, Eduardo Safille, SHRM-CP, and Aleah Wood will attend the 2017 SHRM Talent Management Conference & Exposition courtesy of $2,500 scholarships from the SHRM Foundation.

The conference is April 24-26 in Chicago.

This is the second year for the Foundation-sponsored scholarships. They provide complimentary full-conference registration, a $500 travel stipend, and up to a three-night hotel stay in Chicago. They enable HR professionals who lack financial support from their organizations to attend the conference.
Eligible applicants were SHRM members who are employed at organizations with fewer than 250 employees and either work in the military, the government or are unemployed, and who have not attended the Talent Conference since 2014.

Applicants were asked to answer three essay questions, and they are expected to maintain their SHRM membership throughout 2017 and discuss with a SHRM or SHRM Foundation representative what they learned at the conference.

[SHRM members-only platform: SHRM Connect]

Kara Sharman-Grace

Sharman-Grace is HR manager for Horizon Industries, a division of the East Texas Lighthouse for the Blind (ETLB) in Tyler, Texas. About 80 percent of Horizon Industries' workforce—from the C-suite to the production floor—is blind or visually impaired. The organization manufactures paper wipers, towels and spools parachute cord for the military, Sharman-Grace told SHRM Online in an e-mail.

"Hiring for [both employees with and without visual impairments] presents numerous challenges," she wrote in her scholarship application. "Having a way to do onboarding and applications for each of these types of employees is something we must identify" instead of continuing to use manual processes that are time-consuming and inefficient, she said.

"All of our onboarding is [done with] pen and paper," she said. "Many of our employees who are blind or visually impaired can use a computer—quite well! Having a system or process that is digital would serve our future employees by empowering them with a process that is accessible for them."

Much of what she has learned about HR has been through on-the-job experience, said Sharman-Grace, who hopes to become ETLB's HR director within the next three years. She hopes the conference will provide an opportunity to develop her knowledge in these areas.

She is a founding member of the Rose City SHRM Chapter in Tyler, which became an official affiliate in 2016. She is the 2016-17 president-elect; is president of a local parent-teacher association; and is a member of the East Texas Human Resource Association, where she served as membership coordinator from 2006 to 2008.

Eduardo Safille

The Fort Lauderdale, Fla., resident is director of talent management at the Florida Department of Health in Broward County. He recently transitioned the HR office to an office of talent management.

"Previously, the HR office had more of a transactional, compliance-based orientation," he said in his scholarship application. At the conference, he will be looking to gain "insights and tools to utilize in my new department," including workforce retention strategies and novel approaches to talent acquisition.

"I really am hoping to get some new ideas for employee engagement, an area of focus that has been missing from my agency's HR efforts," he said.

He is a member of the Greater Miami SHRM Chapter and the HR Association of Broward County.

Aleah Wood

Wood is a business operations specialist at Blue Star Families, a nonprofit virtual organization in San Diego that supports military families and spouses. Through partnerships, it provides free resources, services and job opportunities to more than 1.5 million military family members.

"I have experienced firsthand the struggles [military families] face as far as career advancement goes," she wrote in her scholarship application. "In the last four years my family has moved three times" and lived in communities where it was difficult for a military spouse to find a well-paying, career-related job, said Wood, whose husband is deployed in Japan.

She is part of a three-member HR/operations staff. She is one of two people who manage her employer's hiring process, which involves manually screening e-mail job applications—a time-consuming task.

"I know there are many [automated] talent-management solutions out there, but we have yet to find the right fit for us," she said. Additionally, engagement and turnover is a challenge for her organization, whose employees work from their homes around the U.S.

Wood said she hopes to meet with other HR professionals at the conference who may be able to offer ideas on engaging and retaining employees while improving the employee experience.

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