As director of human resources for Boise, Idaho-based Stinker Stores, Sandy Bolinske is always on the hunt for new ways to push the chain’s human resources (HR) practices to the next level. In her position, Bolinske oversees recruitment, compensation, training, policy administration, benefits, employee relations, culture and compliance.
Convenience Store Decisions is recognizing Bolinske with an HR award for her 21 years of professional experience in HR, including six years at Stinker Stores, and for her commitment to valuing and developing employees.
In addition to 105 c-stores, Stinker includes a warehouse division and a fuel transportation company. When combined with administration support, Stinker has 920-plus employees. Bolinske manages HR with the aid of four specialists who assist her as she interacts with management and employees, keeps her finger on the company’s pulse and endeavors to make Stinker an “Employer of Choice.”
The Road to HR
Bolinske didn’t plan on being an HR professional. As a young adult, she worked in the research and development department of a vegetable seed company, helping geneticists develop new seed varieties.
“I was young and outspoken,” said Bolinske. “I became an advocate for employees — some of whom didn’t speak English — about what they wanted regarding benefits, recognition and compensation. I often approached management to share my thoughts on how we could become a company that valued employees.”
When a position opened in HR, the chief financial officer asked if she wanted to transfer. “Sandy, you’re a natural at dealing with people issues,” he told her.
“I took a leap of faith, and here I am in a field that allows me to make a difference for employees in the workplace, while having a unique viewpoint on the overall strategy of the business,” said Bolinske.
After spending her entire career in large, publicly-traded companies, Bolinske was attracted to the opportunities at Stinker, a privately-held family business. Today, she works closely with owners Charley and Nancy Jones to develop strategic direction for the organization.
“My job is to make things better, whether I am working on developing training content, recruiting talent, reviewing new HR technology or discovering something that could be unique to Stinker,” she said. “My team and I are always working to take Stinker to the next level.”
Navigating New Terrain
HR departments face many challenges in today’s business climate, but recruiting and retaining talent are the most difficult, said Bolinske.
“With low nationwide unemployment, every company is fighting for the top tier of applicable candidates,” she said. “Attracting talent is a huge investment of time and money. Setting yourself apart from the competition requires a lot of creativity around branding who you are, what you do and how a job within a c-store can be a rewarding career.”
When new employees come on board, they receive New Employee Training (NET) within their first 30 days of employment. NET covers both company and store procedures and policies, along with culture, safety and compliance.
Stinker created a career-development training program centered around business, communication, change management, quality, interviewing and generational differences. “The courses are two to three hours long and available to employees who want to gain a better understanding of how theories and principles can apply to everyday situations,” said Bolinske. Although the courses aren’t mandatory, they provide an avenue for personal and professional growth.
“Any time you invest in your employees, you increase morale, employee satisfaction, competitive advantage and open up a platform for innovation in strategies and products,” said Bolinske.
HR professionals play an integral part of the success of any company. “Our profession is the only one that truly impacts people. Hiring someone and seeing them grow themselves in the organization is the ultimate reward,” she said.
Bolinske said she’s enjoyed her HR career and describes it as “a great ride.”