Sherry Schultz, 53
Chief human resources officer, Walser Automotive Group
When she goes to work, Sherry Schultz's priority is listening to employees and any concerns they have. According to her, it's one of the best ways to ensure diversity flourishes in the workplace.
Schultz joined Walser Automotive Group in 2018, when the Edina, Minn., company was working to transform its auto retailing from a people perspective.
When Walser recruited her, Schultz had more than 15 years of human resources experience. The company hired her because of her razor-sharp focus on attracting, developing and retaining employees by listening to their concerns.
"I think you have to have a very engaging human capital strategy to compete from a diversity perspective," Schultz told Automotive News.
Her focus on the "people equation" has only grown in the nearly four years she's been with the company. As Walser's chief human resources officer, she is responsible for developing and executing HR strategies in support of the group's overall business plan.
Upon her arrival at Walser, she implemented a companywide exercise to assess employees' values. Feedback informs her "people first" and DE&I strategies. Schultz said it also informed subsequent benefits and experience programs for employees.
Schultz has made strides to give Walser employees access to several benefits: four weeks of paid paternity, maternity and adoption leave; an open paid time-off policy that was helpful for families during the COVID-19 pandemic; and an Emerging Leaders Program to train and boost high-performing employees.
In January, Walser will launch fertility and adoption financial assistance.
If an employer understands who their employees are, then they can design a value proposition that meets their needs, she said.
"You can't design a program to be an employer of choice if you don't understand what employees want," Schultz said. "So don't guess. Ask."
Under Schultz, Walser's HR team also standardized and simplified compensation plans, implemented a companywide code of conduct, converted HR software containing employee data and completed annual health care renewals and financial plan enhancements.
Schultz believes wanting to diversify the workplace isn't a right or wrong, nor is it a mandate — it's about open-mindedness.
"The beauty of diversity is that you recognize perspectives are different," she said.
— C.J. Moore