Recruiting, developing and retaining a large, skilled and multigenerational workforce has made human resources a challenging field long before “pandemic” and “essential workers” became part of the mainstream vernacular.
In 2020, Karen Wuest, vice president of human resources for Brownsville-based energy and infrastructure contractor Michels Corp., demonstrated the strength, spirit and leadership skills to propel the company forward in spite of extreme obstacles, according to colleagues.
Wuest, who has been with Michels Corp. for 21 years, guided efforts to keep employees safe and work advancing in the face of COVID-19 through a combination of problem solving, adaptability and decision making.
Because most infrastructure and energy construction work can’t be delayed or performed remotely and because “best practices” had yet to be developed in a fluid and rapidly changing world, Wuest led the development of procedures to balance employees’ needs for flexibility and safety with Michels’ need for on-the-jobsite and in-office work.
At the same time, Wuest has led efforts to recruit and retain experienced and skilled workers in areas and fields with chronically low unemployment rates while maintaining quality day-to-day support to the profitable operations needed to keep Michels growing and thriving.
“Her contagious positivity, commitment and teamwork she exudes were instrumental in Michels successfully navigation through the unprecedented challenges of 2020,” said John Schroeder, Michels’ executive vice president.