As the senior manager of human resources and a business partner supporting the operations group at Jennie-O, Kimberly Hanson attends weekly meetings to learn what team members are working on and to join in recognizing their achievements. But until Matt Schrupp held up the company’s honorary jersey and asked her to activate her camera during one of the recent videoconferences, Kimberly had no idea she was going to be in the spotlight. She believes she then turned three shades of red. The vice president of operations’ praise for her was glowing.
“I get the opportunity today to recognize a person with a jersey, and I have been looking forward to this for quite some time,” he said. “We have been asked to award the jersey to a person who has been a hero through the COVID efforts in the past 12 months. Without question, Kimberly has been a hero for her tremendous work with HR and collaboration with the operations.”
I always felt we were one step ahead of the game, putting our team members first … the communication we put together to help people feel comfortable and confident coming to work.
Kimberly was the first person at her Jennie-O location to receive the 2021 Pride of the Jersey award, a royal blue hockey-style sweater earmarked this year to honor those who represent the Hormel Foods Cultural Beliefs in the fight to keep everyone safe from COVID-19. She admits the ordeal has been an experience she won’t soon forget.
“Remember, I’m in HR, so we have to deal with a lot of sensitive, difficult issues, but COVID has been one of the longest, most fluid situations we’ve had to deal with,” she says. And yet, despite longer-than-usual hours and business that was anything but usual, she can look back on the past year with a sense of satisfaction. “I always felt we were one step ahead of the game, putting our team members first … the communication we put together to help people feel comfortable and confident coming to work.”
Kimberly brings nearly 25 years of human resources experience to her role at Jennie-O, along with language skills that help her connect easily with English- and Spanish-speaking team members. The latter ability can be traced to her high school years, when her mother encouraged her to include Spanish in her schedule. Once a student at St. Cloud University, Kimberly participated in an exchange program in Costa Rica. “That’s where I really learned to speak,” she says.
If it’s true – as Kimberly insists – that she falls just short of being fluent in Spanish, she is certainly proficient. After receiving a bachelor’s degree in business management with an emphasis on Latin American studies, she landed a job with a public television station that offered programming for Spanish-speaking viewers.
She signed on with Jennie-O in 1997 and has since held a number of HR positions with the company. The mother of a college-age daughter, Kimberly now holds a master’s degree in business administration from Southwest Minnesota State University.
There hasn’t been an abundance of free time recently, but when she manages to carve some out, Kimberly likes to be on the water pontooning, kayaking or ice fishing. Traveling, home improvement projects and digital scrapbooking are also pastimes she enjoys.
She is confident life will someday return to normal. Until then, there is a silver lining to keep her going.
“We as a company did a great job making our people feel valued and safe,” she says. “That makes me feel great.”