Illinois HR director has passion for progress

Betty Yott

A few Novembers back, Betty Yott stood on Capitol Hill amid a sea of human resources managers, warmed by adrenaline and a winter coat.

Yott, the HR director at HomeStar Bank & Financial Services, Manteno, Ill., was part of a lobbying effort to fight proposed changes to 401(k) plans and employee tuition assistance benefits. “Oh my gosh, what an exciting experience,” she remembered.

Yott was one of more than 1,000 human resources managers fighting the changes, and one of the three HR directors designated to meet Congressional representatives from her district to talk about the proposed legislation. She was nervous, but knew those nerves would only help her stay sharp, she said. And with energizing nerves, excitement and passion, Yott has crafted programs at HomeStar Bank that have a lasting impact.

Yott is one of five women being honored as “Outstanding Women in Banking” by BankBeat. The Outstanding Women in Banking program is sponsored by Shazam.

“Betty has a keen ability to look at the bigger picture and identify organizational impact,” said Patrick Martin, president of $362 million HomeStar. Since starting at the bank in 2005, Yott has executed an employee wellness program, expedited the recruiting process and updated the performance review process.

The wellness program was a first for the bank; it instituted gym reimbursement, and physical and mental health counseling. A few employees, she said, have transformed their whole well-being. And the bank, consequently, has better insurance premium costs. “I want to put money back in the pockets of the employees, and one way to do that is to improve their health.”

Yott improved recruiting, which shortened the amount of time positions went unfilled. She also updated the bank’s employee review process, which formerly had been conducted annually online.

Yott wondered: “what would make sense that would help employees know how they’re performing, but keep them on task to achieve goals that are set for them?”

Her solution was to allow employees to meet once every quarter with supervisors to review how they’ve been doing, set goals for the next quarter, and get their next three month plans formalized. “It keeps the path moving forward,” she said.

And Yott also trains managers either one-on-one or in groups. “Betty has strengthened the leadership capability by creating a management training program and partnering with the manager to assist in employee development and encouraging high levels of performance and productivity,” Martin said.

Yott also shares her expertise by reviewing resumes for co-workers’ family members, including giving feedback and helping them make connections to opportunities outside of banking. Martin said he’s not aware of any other HR leader who would give so freely of her time.

Yott’s zeal for service has also informed her leadership. She served as president of both the Workforce Investment Board of Will County and the Kankakee Area Human Resource Managers’ Association, and is now a board member of both organizations. Additionally, Yott is a committee member of the Manhattan Park Foundation Wine Festival, which raises money to develop and preserve the Manhattan Round Barn Farm for the community’s use.

When Yott graduated from DePaul University, Chicago with a Bachelor of Administration degree in training development in her 20s, she thought she’d start her own training and development business. She wanted to help people; she liked training employees, designing programs, and working with groups. “I realized that human resources wraps that all into one.”

Before coming to HomeStar, Yott worked in training and development for manufacturing, construction and the floral industries, and was afforded ample opportunities to speak to thousands of people at national conferences. During those years, she took classes in professional speaking, where she learned to stop pacing and allow her energy to come through her voice and her hands.

“The greatest skill I learned … was presentation skills in front of large groups,” she said, and it allowed her to speak to senators in Washington, D.C., and leaders in her bank.

In her time at the bank and beyond, Yott has learned to embrace her nerves, embrace change, and to learn from mistakes. “If you don’t learn as you go, then you haven’t grown,” she said.