Established in 1979…
Hedy Holmes started her staffing agency in Stockton, CA, in 1979, specializing in the permanent placement of employees with prospective job opportunities. Within a few years, she was a pioneer in offering Temporary and Temp-to-hire employees to local businesses. In 1994 she expanded to include Lodi, Modesto, and Tracy. In 2019, we opened a new branch covering the greater Sacramento area allowing Hedy Holmes Staffing to provide services to a much broader area
Hedy Holmes, President
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Hedy Holmes started her staffing agency in Stockton, CA, in 1979, specializing in the permanent placement of employees with prospective job opportunities. Within a few years, she was a pioneer in offering Temporary and Temp-to-hire employees to local businesses. In 1994 she expanded to include Lodi, Modesto, and Tracy. In 2019, we opened a new branch covering the greater Sacramento area allowing Hedy Holmes Staffing to provide services to a much broader area.
Tena Runyon, Vice President
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Firm founder Hedy Holmes talks about her Vice President, Tena Runyon, with unabashed support and admiration. “She’s the steward of our culture,” Hedy says; “she’s the star of the show.” You can tell she’s a good leader, Hedy adds—“She doesn’t expect a lot of accolades; after all, good leaders don’t need accolades.” And Tena, asked what exactly constitutes the Hedy Holmes culture, doesn’t even take a breath before she answers. “When clients ask us ‘why are you different?’ the first thing I say is ‘our team.’ When people go to work at the big national companies, every question, every issue, has to go through many layers. But around here, we ARE the corporation; we know everyone we work with and for on a personal level, and we really understand who everyone is.”When it comes to clients,” Tena continues, “it’s not just that we value their business; we want to build a relationship. We don’t just write a job order; we really want to get to know their company. THAT’S what makes us different.”Tena says with pride that all her managers take the business of the clients, and of Holmes itself, super-seriously. “If someone gets hurt on the job in the middle of the night, it doesn’t matter who’s responsible; we show up. Whoever is closest goes to the client or to the hospital, and that includes me. That is what clients expect, and it’s what we do.” She says that she wants clients to see the agency as an extension of their own Human Resources departments. But beyond that, she says, “I want every client to feel like they’re our only client. I know them, and I know their businesses. We’re part of their team, too.”
Virtually Tena’s whole career has been spent in staffing—there were brief stints at a bakery and at a shoe store when she was ‘a kid’–but the roaming ended long ago. “I’ve been working in staffing for 27 years, and I know this is it for me; this is my home. Heck, it’s my family.” “As a company, we’ve really grown a lot, and I’m part of that and I will continue to be. When I was working for other staffing agencies, I always saw Hedy as the Big Competition. I’d see Hedy and her teammates, and they ran in packs; you could see how tight they were. And when the recession hit (in 2008), she rolled up her sleeves, got the firm down to its bare bones, and hung on for dear life. I really admire that.” As the economy began to improve, Tena notes, the firm didn’t hesitate to start growing its size and capabilities again, and that’s when they recruited her. “I was brought in to do sales,” she says, but her role and responsibilities rapidly expanded, and she was named V.P. in 2014.
It is an understatement to say it’s worked out. The company has grown substantially since 2008, and a lot of the credit goes to Tena and the people she hired to further strengthen the firm. In fact, with thousands of clients to service and keep happy, Tena is not shy about delegating some of her many responsibilities to one or more of the other 30+ Hedy Holmes employees, and in particular, she cites Andrea Hernandez, and Shelly DeNigris— “I call them my left arm, my right arm, my back arm. We are all focused on the same goal. And the clients know that we succeed.” If Holmes is the Superbowl champion in employment work for Central California, Hedy is the quarterback. Tena Runyon is the star running back, and that figure on her mantel may very well be MVP gold.
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Shelly DeNigris was a safety manager for a trucking company before she came to Hedy Holmes. Ever since, her indispensable role has been to make sure that clients and associates remain safe, compliant with all the (many) HR rules, and straightforward about meeting those responsibilities.
It ain’t easy.
Shelly has also developed an eagle eye for issues at the employer sites, picking up things that might not strike a non-expert as problematic.
“Here’s a nail on the ground,” she says. “Here’s an extension cord that someone can trip over. Do they have good guards on the power machines? Is the electrical connection covered up? How’s the forklift traffic?”
Sounds like she might drive a client crazy, but she knows her questions are saving them from trouble, in the form of injuries and slowdowns, if they address issues before they even become issues.
And Shelly she has almost developed a “sixth sense” about employees who are just not going to work out. “I’ve got to understand everything relevant about their situation,” she says. “How do they get to work? If they share a ride, what do they do if the other person can’t go? Are they working together with a spouse, partner, family member? What happens if something goes wrong with that relationship? It’s all got to be on my radar.”
The one thing you can expect working with ordinary folks, Shelly says, is that you never know what to expect. “I’m always expecting that something odd will happen, and sure enough—it does. But that’s what we’re here for—we solve problems, and whatever the client needs, we go the extra mile and make sure they get it.”
Despite her high position in the company, Shelly is in the trenches as much as any of her colleagues. Calls come in 24 hours, and if an emergency comes in at 3 in the morning, or an injured worker is taken to the hospital, and she’s the closest one to the work site or emergency room, then off she goes.
So with all the wide range of situations she never anticipated, what does Shelly get out of it?
“At the end the day, it’s very rewarding,” she says. “Our ultimate goal as a company is to place people in their ‘forever job,’ or at least in a very-long-tenure job. When we get the stories that we have succeeded, that’s what makes everything worthwhile. We are a big part of making people great employees, and that’s all types of people from all walks of life.”
“I know of one associate who started with us many years ago, and went to work for one of our winery clients, at the bottom, minimum wage. Now, she’s the winery’s cellar master, a key position in that industry. To this day, we hear from her a lot, and she stays in close touch. I like to say we have a loyal following, but she’s a particularly good example.”
With stories like that to tell, no wonder Shelly DeNigris loves her work; there are many more storybook endings yet to author.
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Andrea Hernandez has found the two-word secret to succeeding in employment agency work: “Thick Skin.”
The Regional Manager for Hedy Holmes’ Central Valley office, based in Stockton, Andrea has worked for Hedy for more than 16 years. “For me, the ever-changing environment is great,” she says of a variable workday that would make some people run and hide. “Things change constantly, and we are constantly busy,” she says. “I’m always learning something, and it helps our clients for me to be able to adjust. We just do it!”
Andrea, a mother of two, manages to find the balance and flexibility to help her do her jobs—Holmes executive and mom. She began working for Hedy after she herself took a temp position Hedy’s firm found for her. She found herself connecting with a manager at home base, and was soon invited in to join the Holmes staff—in, of course, just about the least desirable position. “I covered four of our branches at night; if there were staffing needs or problems at any hour, that was me; I did whatever was necessary for our clients to solve problems during the nighttime hours.”
Since Hedy Holmes remain a fairly intimate, small company, Andrea observes, no job title completely describes what any one person does. “This isn’t the same as selling a product,” Andrea says; “we’re selling people.” That means adeptly moving between hiring clients, figuring out exactly what clients need in terms of people-power, and pushing—sometimes scrambling—to find enough people who are a good fit.
Problems do arise; she has to encourage associates (as hires for clients are called) to actually show up; she has to deal with people not always being honest about what skills or experience they have; and with people being emotionally fraught, for any number of reasons, sometimes she just has to take the time to talk to them and make them feel good.
“There’s been crying, breaking down; day care problems, you name it. My job is to stay in touch with people once they’re on the job, and make sure everything is running smoothly.”
“And,” she adds, “I’m the kind of person that if something needs to get done, it’s on my list, whether it’s in my job description or not.”
The agency has strived and succeeding at keeping up with the times, technologically speaking. “The whole thing is online,” Andrea says, “just like my kids’ school. Everyone will soon have a laptop at their office desk, two monitors, and a docking station…If we have to work from home, we can basically just pick up our computers and go; everything we need is with us.”
To make sure that clients get the personnel they need, Andrea says, the firm is always seeking more creative incentives for employees; there are some new perks at Holmes—a chance to learn a new skill. With the return of agricultural and industrial assignments, there is a strong demand for forklift operators, and not enough people trained for that tough job. Solution: “We just started a forklift training program; we’re determined to get applicants up to the level they need.”
And during Andrea’s rare free moments, she likes to escape on hiking and camping adventures, often by the Pacific. Cancun also was a favorite spot, years ago. She hopes she’ll get back, one of these days.
But meanwhile, what is the Andrea-secret to success and achievement in her many roles?
Well, even on the rare occasions when she’s had a client yelling at her, she keeps her cool.
“Like I said,” she reiterates—“Thick skin.”
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Kris Gaskins started his career with Hedy Holmes Staffing Services as a Business Development representative. After a short but successful stent, he saw a need for executive search in the Central Valley. With Tena Runyon’s (Vice President) famous quote, “We don’t promote people; they promote themselves,” Kris had the freedom to start an entire division within Hedy Holmes Staffing. Since then, Kris and his team have filled positions ranging from Engineers to CFO’s across the nation.
Kris talked about his approach with a passion. He said, “lots of companies may give me a job description, but our goal is to try and figure out what is really important to our clients, so we find the perfect match the first time around.”
Kris was attracted to the industry after a local recruiter helped him in a job search. Kris said, “I was with the same employer for six years, so I forgot how even to interview. Finally, a local recruiter got a hold of me and saw some talent, and performed mock interviews with me until I was polished. After that, I started getting offer letters all over town. My goal now is to return that favor and pass on what was so freely given to me.”
It seems a key to Kris’s success is “paying it forward,” whether that has to do with staffing, recruitment, or Human Resources policy.
You would think there were three of Kris, given all he lets himself get involved with. He volunteers his time to the San Joaquin Human Resources Association, American Cancer Society, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Boy Scouts of America, East Valley Soccer Club, and MDA. And on top of that, he’s a family man—he and his wife, a schoolteacher, have five kids.
One of them is thinking of going into H.R. work and has even helped out at Hedy’s agency not long ago.
Kris loves to spend time in the Sierra’s or at the Shark Tank in San Jose, but certainly, the bulk of Kris’s waking hours are spent helping Hedy’s clients grow and prosper. And, he is proud to say, he does business development for the agency itself, meeting with prospective clients and showing them on the “Hedy Holmes Way.”