For a woman who specializes in hospitality, it is no surprise Amber Blashak has made Chautauqua Institution home in her new role as director of human resources.
Blashak joined Institution staff on June 18 and is now responsible for recruitment, workforce planning, training and development, performance management, employee relations and legal compliance.
Prior to Blashak’s hiring, human resource responsibilities were managed by the director of payroll and benefits as well as part-time assistance from an HR resource consultant, said Sebby Baggiano, the Institution’s executive vice president and chief financial officer.
Blashak graduated from Edinboro University with a bachelor’s degree in communication and media studies and master’s degree in organizational leadership. When she graduated from Edinboro, she said she wanted to practice “a combined interest for communication, law and people.”
In 2007, Blashak was hired as recruitment manager for West Corporation, a global provider of communication and network infrastructure, where she was responsible for translating workforce objectives into a tactical plan to achieve the company’s hiring goals.
Most recently, Blashak served as human resources manager for Scott Enterprises, the company that purchased Peek’n Peak Resort in October 2011.
A nationwide search was conducted to find a candidate to fill the position. Baggiano said Blashak’s experience with hospitality, specifically her experience with lodging, food service operations and seasonal employment, helped her stand out from other candidates. In addition to her professional career, he said Blashak’s values and “drive for lifelong learning” made her best fit for the role.
“I was not actively searching for new employment when I learned of the opportunity at Chautauqua Institution,” Blashak said. “The interview process presented an unprecedented opening to learn more about the organization and seriously consider what would become a pivotal career change.”
The hiring process allowed Blashak to rediscover “a profound personal connection in the Institution’s dedication to the exploration of life enrichment through involvement.” Because of this connection, Blashak said she was compelled to apply for this “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
Blashak arrived to the grounds one week before the 2018 season commenced and said she was “awestruck by the intrinsic personal investment of everyone” she has collaborated with thus far.
“I anticipated working with a team of staff, but I’ve been delighted to discover a community of support in boards, donors, residents and regional business partners,” Blashak said.
During the off-season, Blashak will begin to design and implement HR policies within the Institution, as well as manage employee relations and development. She will also oversee and direct recruitment for new employees.
Her job includes the responsibility of leading the design and implementation of the strategic HR plan among many other duties. She will also be a member of the senior leadership team.
“I will act as a trusted adviser, thought leader and resourceful business partner in support of the strategic plan,” Blashak said. “Human Resources will foster an employee-oriented, values-driven, entrepreneurial and collaborative team culture of vibrant enthusiasm for the mission of Chautauqua Institution.”
Among her duties, Blashak is eager to begin working on the Institution’s diversity and inclusion initiative.
“Diversity exists in the workplace, but despite legal and social reforms aimed at reducing discrimination, inequality is still a problem,” Blashak said. “Management of diversity/inclusion has evolved from a focus on compliance to a demonstrated positive impact on organizational performance. Diversity is critical to identify perceptual/psychological processes that impact diverse groups and design work practices to leverage employee potential for a competitive business advantage.”
She is looking forward to help implement and participate in diversity initiatives “that embrace human uniqueness and empower individual involvement.”
Although Blashak has only been working on the grounds for two months, she said has learned about organizational objectives to enhance Chautauqua’s brand, the improvement of recruiting procedures, employee relations and plans to revise existing Institution policies and standards for consistency and legal compliance.
“I plan to help resolve these requirements short-term with forward-thinking goals of attracting and retaining top talent, developing future leaders, improving engagement and creating a great place to work,” Blashak said.
Taking pride in one’s job and having fun are two values that guide Blashak’s work. She plans to share her enthusiasm, be accessible to others and remain “visible and ready” to serve all employees.
“As a point of contact for complex employee relations issues at all levels, I take pride in my professionalism and ethics,” Blashak said. “I keep a personal commitment not just to listen to concerns, but to resolve problems and create pathways for an extraordinary employment experience.”
Blashak’s desire to learn is also driving her work at Chautauqua, as she is eager to learn more about the Institution and its employees. She is looking forward to help improve Chautauqua in every aspect during both the season and off-season.
“The right people in the right positions will impact profitability and emphasize a culture of quality, continuous improvement, collaboration and high performance,” Blashak said.