Michele Neilson, PCP
Human Resources Officer, Coleman’s, Corner Brook, NL
In Corner Brook Newfoundland, Coleman’s is a staple. The family runs a number of grocery, furniture and clothing stores across Newfoundland. As a teenager, Michele Neilson got a part time job working one of their grocery stores. Eventually, she applied for and offered a temporary role at their head office, operating the switchboard. When coverage was needed, Michele stepped up and filled in for an administrative position and when needed, she began lending her support to the payroll manager.
Michelle demonstrated a talent for payroll, and the dedication required to learn. She began taking courses with the National Payroll Institute, earning her PCP and attending seminars when she could – and before long, was promoted to payroll manager herself. Michele grew within Coleman’s payroll department for 24 years, before taking on her next chapter with the company, as the Human Resources Officer, which is the position she currently holds.
While she’s no longer directly responsible for processing the pay for Coleman’s 900 employees, she still lends a hand to the department whenever they need it. And that’s a philosophy that Coleman’s is built on.
“Coleman’s created a program called ‘Work As a Clerk’ where our management team would go to the stores and do the tasks our clerks were doing,” she explains. “And while we no longer run the program officially, I was at a St. John’s location recently, and they had someone call in sick in the bakery department. So, I was in there, bagging product and tagging it and putting it out.”
Michele reflects on her time with the organization, noting that it’s been an amazing and supportive place to grow professionally, as they believe in promoting from within and much of the management team did also start as clerks in the stores.
She thinks back to the early days of her payroll career and how much things have changed.
“When I started helping out with the payroll, we had about 500-600 employees at that time and we had actual checks that would be printed off for each employee,” she recalls. “And each check would have to be stamped and initialed by someone, and then we’d be trying to catch the bus to get them on the bus to go out in time.”
Having that longevity in her career and with her employer has given her a unique perspective when it comes to hiring, as she is now called upon to do in her HR role. When it comes to looking for qualified payroll professionals, she notes that qualities like organization and attention to detail are important, but one of the most important things to look for is empathy.
“Working in grocery or retail stores, a lot of our employees are living pay week by pay week,” she explains. “So, if someone’s missing one or two hours, we’re going to pay them and make an adjustment on the next pay or make another run. We’re really there for our employees to help them out like that.”
For Michele, Corner Brook is home and the entire community is her family. She, her husband and her two children couldn’t imagine being anywhere else.