Prioritizing Spartan Employees: Q&A with Susan Berlin, Director of Human Resources

Aug 8, 2023

Last November, longtime Spartan team member Susan Berlin was appointed to the position of Director of Human Resources. She has quickly become an invaluable part of the executive team, and could not be more suited for this title. The regard Susan holds for the employees she serves, combined with her decades of professional experience and welcoming disposition all contribute to her ability to create the best environment possible for every Spartan team member. In the Q&A below, Susan discusses a bit about her background, the inspiration behind the recent financial workshop Spartan hosted, what she’s looking forward to with this position, and the importance of employee trainings that aren’t a waste of time.

 

What does your role entail?

I’m responsible for maintaining a productive and responsive workforce by overseeing everything that human resources is responsible for. That involves staff trainings, any employee benefits, and also working with federal, state and local compliances regarding payroll and other business procedures.

 

What was your previous position at Spartan Medical, and how long have you been with the company?

My previous position was Executive Administrative Assistant, where I did a lot with our federal, state, and local tax compliances, in addition to using my experience as a paralegal in my work with our General Counsel, Donny Knepper. I’ve been with Spartan for approximately four and a half years.

 

“I’m a people person, and I love to see people achieve their goals.”

 

How did your previous role and former professional experience prepare you for this new position? What else have you been doing to prepare?

I worked for American Express for 13 years, ten of those years as a manager for a retail travel office where I had eight staff members. I was responsible for all of the staff training and really anything else HR handled, except for what was elevated to the official American Express human resources department. I have a lot of experience both in the business world and working with people– I worked for the Montgomery County Department of Health for over fifteen years, working under a school nurse with children and their parents, which required a lot of administrative and customer service duties. I listen to a lot of podcasts and am continually learning about what other HR professionals are doing, and I love it.

 

Recently, Spartan employees had the privilege of attending a free, in-depth, multi-day financial workshop thanks to you. Can you talk about what motivated you to have Spartan host the workshop, and why it was so impactful?

The workshop really came together after Vince and I were having a conversation about employee benefits and life insurance. I wanted to bring some knowledge to our employees on various forms of life insurance, so he put me in touch with his agent who made me aware that she led financial workshops. The agenda was what you could call “finance 101”, and certified financial planners walked us through budgeting, getting rid of debt, building wealth, different ways of investing and various forms of life insurance. Spartan is demographically a diverse group and has employees ranging from their 20s to their 60s, so it really covered everybody. I wanted to make sure our staff were educated by the training rather than subjected to it, because our time is valuable. I want any time spent in training to be spent wisely, and this is knowledge that we’ll all have for the rest of our lives and be able to apply towards our financial wellbeing.

 

Are there any projects or areas in particular that you’re excited to focus on as HR director?

This is a new role for me but also for Spartan as we’ve never had a Director of Human Resources before. So, I’m really trying to create an open door and to build trust. When you’re in HR, you’re sort of a little island– people need to know that they can come and talk to you, and it’s going to remain with you. I’m a people person, and I love to see people achieve their goals. My next area of focus will probably be finding ways in which we can cross train people, because I think that’s really important. I want to do whatever I can to have totally satisfied employees who are happy to stay with us.

 

Which leads to our next question, what is your favorite part about this position?

I really do love working with people, I love helping them flourish. Before we had a Director of HR, a lot of people would just come to me and ask me different questions. In my previous position I was doing a lot of technical stuff that I was good at, but being a people person and having the opportunity to take on a role like this one is just the perfect fit. There will of course be the paperwork and filings that come with the territory, but it’s really the people that I’m most excited about.

 

Tell us about one of your main goals or priorities as HR director – what do you hope to bring into Spartan’s future with this role?

My main focus is on maintaining the open-door policy that we’ve established and continuing to build trust. I’m drawing on everything I’ve learned from all of my previous work and life experience to make sure that employees know they can come to my little island for whatever they need, because their satisfaction is so important. I also want to work on trainings – introducing more impactful ones and streamlining the mandatory HIPAA and harassment trainings we do every two years. We work quickly at Spartan and really value our employee’s time, and I want to make sure that every training they attend is worthwhile, and never a time-suck. I want trainings to be something that people can look forward to. Ultimately, my main priority is always the employees.