HR Strategy

This HR pro is focused on employee well-being and fostering a positive work environment

Charles Ramos reimagined the San Antonio Food Bank’s wellness program and approach to HR.
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5 min read

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Work for Charles Ramos is all about the employee experience. The San Antonio Food Bank’s recruitment and retention manager is keyed into creating a positive work environment for the food bank’s almost 280 employees. Ramos, a self-proclaimed “social butterfly,” enjoys walking the floor, meeting with colleagues, and making sure they feel heard. He even enjoys deciphering between an employee who’s just venting and an employee who’s raising real workplace issues.

“There is a behavior where an employee just wants to vent, share their frustrations,” he said. “Then there’s another side where an employee’s presenting a problem or really seeking a solution…but what I’ve come to learn is that a lot of this stuff overlaps.”

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

What’s the best change you’ve made at work?

At the San Antonio Food Bank, the most impactful changes I’ve led involved enhancing our employee wellness and training programs and rebranding our HR approach. By introducing a broader range of wellness initiatives, such as fitness classes, mental health workshops, and nutrition seminars, I significantly improved employee engagement and well-being. I also diversified our training programs, incorporating various formats and resources, making them more relevant and accessible to our staff. Additionally, I spearheaded a rebranding effort for our HR department to make it more approachable and supportive, focusing on clear communication and creating a positive, inclusive culture. These changes not only increased employee satisfaction but also strengthened our organizational culture and performance.

What’s the biggest misconception people might have about your job?

The biggest misconception about my role is that I’m like a therapist for employees. While I’m always happy to listen and provide support, my primary focus is on creating an environment where everyone feels valued, heard, and understood. My job is to foster a workplace culture that promotes well-being and engagement, through initiatives like diverse wellness programs and training opportunities, rather than providing personal counseling. By listening to employees’ needs and concerns, I aim to implement practical solutions that enhance their experience at the Food Bank.

What’s the most fulfilling aspect of your job?

The most fulfilling aspect of my job is the deep connection I form with employees and the opportunity to support their growth and development. Getting to know them well, understanding their aspirations, and helping them overcome challenges is incredibly rewarding. I particularly cherish those aha moments when employees realize they are capable of far more than they initially believed. Witnessing their confidence grow and seeing the positive impact of our wellness programs and training initiatives on their careers and well-being is what makes my role truly satisfying.

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What trend in HR are you most optimistic about? Why?

One trend in HR that I’m particularly optimistic about is the growing emphasis on employee well-being and holistic support. Companies are increasingly recognizing the importance of fostering a work environment that prioritizes the physical, mental, and emotional health of their employees. This trend includes initiatives such as flexible work arrangements, mental health support services, and comprehensive wellness programs.

I’m optimistic about this trend because it not only benefits employees by improving their overall quality of life but also contributes to higher levels of engagement, productivity, and retention. By investing in employee well-being, organizations create a positive and supportive culture where employees feel valued and motivated to perform their best.

What trend in HR are you least optimistic about? Why?

One trend in HR that gives me some concern is the increasing prevalence of remote work and virtual teams without sufficient measures to combat loneliness and disconnection among employees. While remote work offers flexibility and work-life balance, it can also lead to feelings of isolation and detachment from coworkers and the organization’s mission and values.

I’m least optimistic about this trend because prolonged remote work can diminish the sense of belonging and camaraderie that comes from working alongside colleagues in a shared physical space. Without intentional efforts to foster connection and maintain a strong organizational culture, employees may feel disconnected from their coworkers and the broader mission of the company.

While remote work can offer numerous benefits, it’s essential for HR professionals to implement strategies to mitigate feelings of loneliness and disconnection among remote employees. This may include virtual team-building activities, regular check-ins with managers, and opportunities for remote workers to engage with the organization’s mission and values through virtual events and communication channels. By addressing these challenges proactively, HR can ensure that remote work remains a positive and sustainable arrangement for all employees.

Quick-to-read HR news & insights

From recruiting and retention to company culture and the latest in HR tech, HR Brew delivers up-to-date industry news and tips to help HR pros stay nimble in today’s fast-changing business environment.