When I came to DirectEmployers in August 2011, the company had maybe 40 employees and a small footprint in the building where we current reside. Fast-forward to 2019 and we are over 60 employees strong and have completely outgrown our small commercial space–yet the laser-focus on our Members remains the same. Over the past few years, Member engagement has surfaced to be a top priority for all and its no surprise that Jen Bernhardt has led the pack in engagement activities. Jen started her career at DirectEmployers in August of 2011, and has quickly proven that relationship building was her forte. Now at the helm of the newly created Member Engagement department, she has big plans for future activities…but I’ll save that info for a later date as I’ve been sworn to secrecy at the moment. For now, take a moment to get to know Jen!

Why don’t you tell us a little bit about your professional background to start things off?

Lots of sales! I began in Hotel and Restaurant Management which is a lot of operations focus. I’ve worked in small, limited service hotels up to the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, FL as a restaurant manager. While planning my own wedding, I was hired as an event coordinator for a small company downtown. My energy and passion for sales parlayed into various sales jobs leading me here. I’ve always had the desire to serve, engage, and educate so I think, while previous positions weren’t exactly Member Engagement, I used those positions in that capacity.

Pictured left: Jen Bernhardt speaking on stage with Members at DirectEmployers 2017 Annual Meeting & Conference in Indianapolis, IN.
Pictured left: Jen Bernhardt speaking on stage with Members at DirectEmployers 2017 Annual Meeting & Conference in Indianapolis, IN.

What was your very first job and what skill from that position do you still use today?

My very first job? A concession stand worker at the Flea Market in my hometown of Shipshewana, IN. Skill from there? How to handle stress…lunch times were packed so you learn how to be efficient. First career move? Assistant Branch Manager at Union Federal Bank. Relationship building. In order to engage with customers, you had to build relationships leading to trust you and their investment in your institution.

How do you like to get your day started?

I like to get my day started with a cup of coffee and the local news or an early morning workout but it usually involves getting my 3 and 5 year olds ready and out the door for school…which can be dicey. We’re in the throes of potty-training, not wanting to go to school, and wanting to do everything ourselves even though we may not be efficient. Will they be tender this morning or rock stars? It’s a roll of the dice!

What is your favorite social media platform and why?

Facebook for personal and LinkedIn for professional! Probably just because I use them the most. I am trying to branch out, though and use Twitter and Instagram more.

What is your favorite HR blog/resource?

eLearning Brothers has a blog on creating impactful eLearning content. eLearning is really hot now, and it’s so interesting how many different ways a course can be built and presented depending on the audience’s needs, education, background, etc. That type of information is beneficial for straight up communication, too. How does the person across from you want/need to hear your information? Lots of good content here for many situations.

iPhone or Android – what kind of phone do you have?

I’m an Android gal.

What does your workspace look like?

Usually stacks of notebooks and folders for each project I’m working on. I keep things organized in separate piles. I will warn you, though, if you come in during the middle of the day, you could find papers spread everywhere depending on what I’m working on.

Pictured from Left to right: Shannon Offord, Christy Merriman, Jen Bernhardt, Jaime Costilow and Jen Polcer snapping a quick photo at the Barber Motorsports Museaum during the 2018 NASWA Workforce Summit in Birmingham, AL.
Pictured from Left to right: Shannon Offord, Christy Merriman, Jen Bernhardt, Jaime Costilow and Jen Polcer snapping a quick photo at the Barber Motorsports Museaum during the 2018 NASWA Workforce Summit in Birmingham, AL.

You recently completed your Masters degree, congrats! What are some other non-work or work related skills that you’d like to master?

Right now I’m enrolled in the True U Leader In Training program and I’m excited to complete it and learn from experts and peers.

How do you think your experience in in your various roles at DirectEmployers has prepared you for your new role as VP of Member Engagement?

I started in Membership Development, which is focused on not only acquiring new members, but also retaining members. I loved the ability to personally engage with members, one-on-one and foster change by introducing our products and services. After three years as an MD rep, Tom Eckhart allowed me to stretch my legs and partner with the marketing department to create larger sales and engagement campaigns. Lastly, I’m a trainer and coach at heart so the one-on-one training and over-arching training programs and support I was able to create helped me think BIG when it comes to reaching our Members and offering programs that meet the Member where they are.

With a background in sales, what elements of your sales role have carried over into Member Engagement activities?

Sales requires excitement and energy. Any of my coworkers will tell you that I bring energy to the table (usually in the form a speedy speech). If Members see you excited about a program, they get more excited. And it’s easy to get excited when you work for a great association with wonderful Members who are eager to connect and learn, and work with coworkers that share the same vision.

What do you like to do for fun?

I have two beautiful children, Charlotte and Jasper, and a wonderful husband, Scott, that I love spending time with. The kids are 5 and 3, respectively, so Christmas was a blast this year. I am an avid volleyball player–beach doubles, to be exact–which has blessed my husband with a tribe of friends that we have known for more than 10 years. I enjoy golf, spin class, family bike rides, and overall fitness. Now that I’m done with the MBA program, I’m enjoying getting back into reading for pleasure.

Do you listen to music while you work? If so, what genre do you listen to?

Of course! My rule is as long as I can sing to it (i.e. no heavy metal), I’m generally good to go. Country, pop, rock, classic, oldies, show tunes, acoustic…my favorites list in Spotify is a menagerie of all genres.

What is the background photo on your cell phone?

My kids in their Halloween costumes. They dressed up as Poppy and Branch from the movie Trolls this year.

Jen Bernhardt mans the cutting station at DirectEmployers 2016 Habitat for Humanity volunteer day.
Jen Bernhardt mans the cutting station at DirectEmployers 2016 Habitat for Humanity volunteer day.

What is your non-HR dream job?

Oh boy. Don’t tell Candee! I would love to become a fitness instructor or personal trainer, and ultimately own my own gym. I’ve been on fitness journeys like losing weight after kids and I know how satisfied I feel after climbing that mountain. I can’t imagine what the high would be helping someone else along that journey.

What is the best job advice you’ve ever received?

We win or we learn. I heard it in a sermon when our pastor invited Brad Stevens, head coach of the Boston Celtics and former Butler Basketball coach, to speak for our service that day. No matter what, WE win or WE learn.

What is your top non-professional accomplishment?

It might sound trite, but hopefully raising my children into good human beings. Second to that is completing an MBA.

What are you most excited for in your new role?

All of the undiscovered ways out there we haven’t found yet to connect and educate our members. The possibilities are what is most exciting to me!

Share with us an unexpected fun fact about yourself!

I held a Division 1 High Jump record in track & field.

Thanks for sitting down to chat, Jen! As she settles into her new position, she’s always open to chat. Be sure to connect with her on LinkedIn and within the DE Connect Community.


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