Growing up, Carolyn B. Hofmann, employee involvement coordinator at Akron Children’s, learned a lot about the restaurant and food services industry. Her father was a restaurateur and her grandfather worked for Fleischmann’s, teaching yeast basics to bakery workers. It was an easy decision for Carolyn to follow in her foodie family’s footsteps. She loved the food industry and how healthy meals nourished people’s bodies. For 24 years, she put her training into practice in Children’s food services department.
But Carolyn’s upbringing taught her much more than food service management. Through her family, Carolyn learned the importance of relationship building. Her parents believed in maintaining strong connections with people, which her dad fostered with his employees. After he died, she saw firsthand how powerful those relationships were when former employees from past decades came to his funeral. This lesson stuck with her. When Carolyn’s career changed, she joined human resources. She used her role to help feed Children’s employees’ spirits by building community, identity and shared values.
“Employees spend so much time at work. People want to feel good about their workplaces,” she said. “At Children’s, we talk about our culture, but we have to work at it. Building relationships is a big part of it. I try to encourage hospital employees to step out of their departments, participate in fun activities and get involved with other employees. We’re in a people business, and we need to take care of one another as well as our patients and families.”
After 46 years at Children’s, Carolyn retires on Sept. 26. She plans to build new relationships, maintain old ones and continue chairing her church mission committee’s involvement with Family Promise of Summit County, which helps homeless and at-risk families.
What brought you to Children’s?
I was at Ohio University studying food service management. My dad knew someone at Children’s who helped me get an internship as a food services summer supervisor. I worked here 2 summers and after graduating, Children’s hired me as a kitchen supervisor.
Have you always worked in the same department and role?
I worked as a kitchen supervisor for 3 years, then a kitchen manager and finally an assistant director. I learned so much, especially when we changed our meal delivery process from decentralized to centralized. Previously, we had small kitchens on every floor, where meals were put on trays and delivered to each patient’s room. We eliminated these kitchens, instead doubling the size of our main kitchen. During construction, I learned the importance of employee communications with our kitchen staff as they dealt with the changes. It was the best education I could have received as my career also transformed, and I moved into human resources.
Another activity that helped me learn employee involvement was as my department’s Employee Foundation Council (EFC) representative, before eventually becoming an EFC chairperson. I love every aspect of EFC. Employees learn about community needs, volunteer as a group, raise funds and decide how to allocate that money within the community. In the past 16 years, Children’s employees gave $3.5 million to the community.
How has Akron Children’s changed since you started here?
When I started, Children’s focused mainly on sick children in the hospital. Now, we advocate for children more broadly by partnering with community agencies, such as the Reach Out and Read program and Akron Children’s Hospital Akron Marathon Race Series.
What gave you the most satisfaction at work?
Encouraging employees to get involved and give back is one reason I love my job. Employees and their families like opportunities they can do together, such as volunteering at the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank and Mahoning Valley Second Harvest Food Bank.
The Red Cross blood drive days touch me because our employees give a piece of themselves to help others. I spend the day there to ensure it’s a positive experience, especially for first-timers. It’s also an opportunity for employees to meet each other after giving blood while they’re having a snack.
I’m also amazed by our Extra Mile cards. Employees recognize someone who goes the extra mile at work by writing a message and giving it to the recipient, who decides whether to send the card to HR for additional recognition. I print 15,000 cards each year. Half are returned. The other 7,000 cards are handed to an employee simply to say, “I appreciate you.”
If you had to pick one, which employee event at Children’s is your favorite?
Hands down, it’s the annual Kids Are #1 Run that raises money for Children’s. It’s a fun day for employees and patients and their families. I’ve worked with the volunteer committee for many years and enjoy their friendship and support.