Falling Upward

STG International’s Marcia Euwema entered HR by happenstance. She’s never looked back.

By Katie Kuehner-Hebert 
Like many practitioners, Marcia Euwema “fell” into human relations, but has remained in the field because dealing with people has been too interesting to abandon.
“I have been able to work with a variety of people with different career goals and different ambitions,” says Euwema, now assistant vice president of human resources at STG International Inc., a government contracting firm in Alexandria, Va. that provides comprehensive healthcare, human capital, business management, and early childhood education services and solutions to both federal defense and civilian clients.
“I’ve done a little bit of everything in HR, including working in recruitment—finding the best candidate in a position they are best qualified for, handling employee relations issues, determining how we can find successful outcomes to difficult situations and administering benefits and compensation programs. I enjoy working with employees in defining their development, as well as playing a part in influencing strategic business decisions. A business is only as good as its employees!”
Euwema began her career in 1986 working for Gantos, a women’s retail clothing chain, working in its corporate headquarters in the Grand Rapids, Mich. area until 1998. Her career in HR started with her employment as a full-time executive assistant in Gantos’ HR department. She provided administrative support, while at the same time finishing her bachelor’s degree in business at the University of Davenport in Grand Rapids.
“Upon completion of my degree, my responsibilities grew, and my focus in HR advanced,” she says. “I ‘fell’ into the human resources world, as they say.”
But in 1998, Gantos relocated its corporate headquarters and subsequently filed for bankruptcy. “With my career in mind, I looked for something else,” Euwema says. “Retail women’s clothing was a very competitive marketplace, and the organization was downsizing.”
She took on the position of HR consultant at Haworth Inc., a furniture manufacturer in Holland, Mich. At Haworth, Euwema worked very closely with several departments within the corporate headquarters. She provided HR consultation and support primarily to the IT department, but to other various business functions as well, including finance and customer service. She spent her time supporting the change management aspects of an enterprise resource planning implementation, recruitment activities, employee relations, as well as conducting leadership development training.
In 2005, she moved to the Washington, D.C., area for personal reasons and began to work for STG International in an HR manager/generalist role. The company was growing, and additional support and structure was needed within the HR function.
Euwema left STG International two years later to become regional HR manager for the National Democratic Institute in Washington, D.C. “I had an opportunity to do something in my career that I had never done—work for a nonprofit and an organization that was global in nature with overseas employees,” she says. “I enjoyed learning about different cultures, different countries’ employment laws, the rules and guidance pertaining to ex-patriates, third-party nationals, and how to best manage U.S. employees who are based overseas. It was exciting to learn about the different cultures around the globe and how the decisions we make in the HR field impact the work being done internationally.”
Euwema provided HR consultation and performed generalist functions for several regions and assisted in the development of employee handbooks for various countries, taking into account not only U.S. guidelines, but also the individual country’s structures and culture. She also traveled to several work locations in the regions to better understand the business being conducted and to ensure that the HR support she provided was adequate and appropriate. Euwema also thoroughly enjoyed working for a nonprofit organization.
“Within the nonprofit industry, I have found there to be a passion for the mission of the organization,” she says. “It was wonderful to work with my colleagues who so passionately carried out their duties and tasks to work with citizens around the globe to support and strengthen democratic institutions worldwide.”
Euwema returned to STG International in 2009, which offered her a leadership role guiding the entire HR department.
“This position affords me greater opportunities and responsibilities to expand my skills and career,” she says. “I have been able to work with employees to further their development, develop policies to support our mission and culture, as well as work with our executives in influencing strategic business decisions.”
In 2010, the Human Resources Leadership Awards of Greater Washington honored Euwema with the Dr. J.P. London Award for Promotion of Ethical Behavior. The award recognized her efforts at STG International, even though she had only been back for such a short time. Euwema developed the firm’s first employee survey in order to improve employee and management relations; provided personal support through interactive webinars and regular visits to employees; audited STG International’s benefits package and found that there was room for additional benefit payments; and “fought to ensure that employees would not have to worry about steeply escalating costs that would endanger their healthcare and financial needs.”
Looking Forward
Euwema is now looking forward to enhancing certain policies and procedures, “giving thought as to how we interact with employees and customers day in and day out, as well as how we interact with each other. It comes back to the people aspect, and how we implement policies while still considering the individuals who make up the entire organization. What kinds of communications do we need to get to our employees? What methods do we need to use to get those communications out? How do we communicate and promote our benefit programs? How do we work with our onsite supervisors and managers to handle successfully difficult employee situations?”
STG International outsources on as-needed basis, typically when the contracting firm has a difficult-to-fill position or difficult skill set to find. The contracting firm also works with a local benefits broker to assist the firm in “navigating the reality of healthcare costs and benefit programs.”
“My advice for vendors is to get to know your customer, and understand the type of business they are in and what their needs are—ideally before you call on them,” Euwema says. “We are a government contractor, and any potential vendor needs to understand our industry and our company’s needs, which may be different from a commercial business. There are similarities and there are differences . . . understand your customer.”
Several trends within the HR industry continually challenge practitioners, she says. HR departments are still struggling to reduce costs, while at the same time improving control and compliance and driving greater efficiencies.
Practitioners also continue to need to be responsive and focus on both internal and external customer service, Euwema says. They must ensure that they are retaining employees who show potential and who are hard-working and creative in their approach to work. As part of this, HR leaders need to make sure the workplace is flexible and that their top performers remain engaged.
And now, HR practitioners need to learn how to integrate social media tools into their business cultures to further engage employees, she says. “My advice is to work closely with your colleagues, as well as your staff, to listen to their concerns, and to ensure the HR consultation and policies you provide support the mission and vision of the organization,” Euwema says.

Tags: Consultants & Advisors, HRO Today Global, Professional Contribution

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