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Rochester Chamber Top 100: People drive growth at human resources firm

Rochester Business Journal
October 14, 2016

One of Candace Walters proudest moments as owner and founder of HR Works Inc. came this winter at a charity gala for Epilepsy-Pralid Inc., one of her company’s clients.

As Walters and some of her human resources employees sat at their table, the nonprofit announced it had decided to create an Outstanding Partnership Award to recognize the vendors and partners that contributed to its success. The first person to get the award turned out to be Sherri McMinn, Walters’ employee.

“What an honor,” Walters said. “That’s why I am so proud of these people. This company is so far beyond me. It’s just a bunch of really incredibly talented people.”

This year marks the 25th anniversary of HR Works, and Walters said she still looks forward to coming into the office each day. The company celebrated its anniversary earlier this year, inviting employees, clients and partners to the party.

Revenues have grown by double-digit percentages for the last three years, growing by 13 percent in 2013, 22 percent in 2014 and 20 percent in 2015. Hiring has also continued at a steady clip in both the Rochester and Syracuse offices, with the total number of employees going from 45 in 2013 to 48 in 2014, 54 in 2015 and 60 as of the end of September.

“The company just keeps hitting more milestones, and it’s just a wonderful group of people. I love to come to work,” she said.

Talented employees are what make her job a pleasure, she said, but retaining the best and the brightest is her greatest challenge.

As technology becomes an increasing part of human resources, the range of skill-sets she needs in her workers has grown. Finding the best people is getting harder, she said.

Ann Maynard, who runs her own consulting company and is president-elect of the Genesee Valley Chapter of the Society of Human Resource Management, confirmed demand has grown for highly qualified HR people. The best people are those who can operate at both the tactical and strategic level to help companies grow and develop, she said.

The HR consulting and outsourcing services that HR Works offers nationally cover roughly four areas, Walters said: payroll, including payroll technology and support; human resources managers who work for clients on-site; general HR services such as training or recruitment; and the newest field, added some four years ago: benefits administration.

Moving HR Works forward involves “continually looking at the trends and identifying: Is there something else we should be offering under one of these umbrellas?” Walters said.

New initiatives include a revamped website in October. She also completed an in-house training program that distilled the best wisdom from her own experiences as a human resources consultant and boss, sharing decades of best practices. Now every member of her staff has been through that training.

“This is just a culmination of listening to the client and listening to the employee,” she said of the workshop she called “Becoming a High Performance Consultant.”

Keeping talented employees at the top of their game has a downside because of the risk of poaching by other firms. It is common for her to learn from staff members that they have turned down jobs at companies they are consulting for. It has happened so often it has become a bit of a running joke, she said. But the risk of poaching means she focuses carefully on making sure her workplace is one that employees do not want to leave.

Walters first applied for the Best Companies to Work for in New York competition six years ago largely because the evaluation process included a survey of employees by an outside evaluator.

“I was really interested in finding out what people were thinking,” she said.

She was not too shocked by the results. The employee evaluations were generally positive but work-life balance and flexibility was something employees said they highly valued.

Walters said she works hard to provide that kind of flexibility while still taking care of her clients.

“At the end of the day, this is a business. It’s about getting the work done. It’s about always being there for the client, but there are ways to accommodate that,” she said.

In 2015, HR Works took the top spot for small to midsize companies in the Best Companies to Work for in New York listing.

Running a successful consulting company, Walters said, is all about “the right talent and then just listening to what they say they want.”

The Rochester Chamber Top 100 program is presented by the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce and KPMG LLP. Launched in 1987, it recognizes the fastest-growing private companies in Greater Rochester. The 2016 Rochester Top 100 event will be held Nov. 3. For more information, go to

HR Works Inc.
Human resources outsourcing and consulting services
Year founded: 1991
Top executive: Candace Walters, president
Current employment: 60
2015 ranking: 92
Headquarters: Perinton

10/14/2016 (c) 2016 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email

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