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Interview with Ron Cardenas, Vice President of Human Resources in Omaha, Nebraska

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Interview with Ron Cardenas

Ron Cardenas earned his Bachelor of Science degree from Colorado State University and an MBA from Regis University in Denver, Colorado. After, he went on to become a human resources expert with over 30 years of experience. His track record includes creating and launching talent strategies for global organizations in an array of industries.

In Omaha, Nebraska, Ron Cardenas has worked at an agriculture holdings company, progressing from Director to Vice President of Human Resources. Cardenas developed and implemented employee retention strategies that reduced turnover rates by more than 50% in less than two years. His expertise includes investigation, risk analysis, mediation, position statement preparation, mergers and acquisitions, and management consulting.

What inspired you to choose your field?

Before beginning my career, I didn’t remember coursework or a standalone degree being offered in HR. I just came across a job posting for an entry-level “HR Clerk,” I interviewed and accepted the position at a company where I had some friends and thought it would be a fun place to work. As time went on, I continued with training and education and it’s worked out as a good career for me.

Why is the Human Resources department essential to operating and growing a company?

In today’s business, companies are differentiated largely by intellectual capital, ingenuity, and efficiency. All of these are 100% driven by the human capital within these companies. Finding and retaining the right people is critical to driving ongoing success.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your company’s approach to managing and recruiting talent?

Given our industry, the nature of our work, and the value our organization puts on in-person collaboration; we’ve had to make some shifts in mindset while recruiting to make sure we are transparent with candidates about the company’s expectation for employees to be onsite. Of course, for the employees we have, we place a great deal of emphasis on making employees feel comfortable with the safety measures we take as a company and making available vaccinations at no cost to employees. Perhaps one of the more challenging aspects is the political lines drawn on the in-person work, masks, and vaccinations. To address those concerns, we have maintained a consistent position that we follow local guidelines. I believe that as a company, if we go beyond the guidelines, or of course, do not follow the guidelines; it becomes problematic for many reasons.

With your 30+ years of HR experience, what stands out to you as the most valuable characteristic of an employee as they develop their career?

It’s hard to identify just one characteristic, but I would say integrity coupled with work ethic can get most people to a good place in their career. I’ve always said that if an employee has the cognitive ability and willingness to learn, along with a good work ethic and integrity, we can teach them the rest. Those characteristics are the attributes you can’t coach.

Do you have a specific routine that helps you stay organized and achieve your goals?

Working with our team in a collaborative fashion to set team and individual objectives at the beginning of the year serves as a guidepost throughout the year. Then on an ongoing basis, ensuring open lines of communication and regular updates helps a group and individuals stay organized.

How do you recharge your batteries after long work hours?

For me, it’s meeting up with friends, going for a walk or some sort of exercise or maybe watching sports. These are all activities that help me unwind.

If you could change one thing about Human Resources, what would it be?

I work with our team on that; we should first look at the Human Resources function as another group within the organization to help solve business problems. We do that by looking through a human capital lens to leverage human capital strategies to solve business problems.

What does the future of Human Resources look like, in your opinion?

The Human Resources leader would continue as a key member of the executive team. The HR function would be the trusted function within an organization, managing the ever-important human capital strategy.