Cole Radel had never heard of The Heritage Group when he applied for an internship with THG in fall of 2020, but after a few weeks into his role as the group’s Learning Management System (LMS) intern, he knew he’d found a place to call home. Cole said he’s always felt like a valued part the Heritage team — as an intern, as an employee and as a member of the LGBTQ+ community.
During his 9-month internship, Cole served as a main point of contact for anything related to Lessonly, the group’s LMS, uploading lessons and running reports for HR partners and managers. He was also pulled into other human resources projects, making connections across the HR team. Cole reported to Kaitlin Odom, an HR Shared Services project manager who recognized his talent and gave him meaningful projects. “I never felt like an intern,” Cole said. “Kaitlin and the rest of the HR team just treated me like a valued employee from the start.”
By May 2021, Cole had finished his bachelor’s degree at IU-Kokomo. The internship experiences on his resume helped him decide that he wanted a career in HR, so when he told Kaitlin and others from the HR team that he had ideas for improving the employee experience, they were all ears. “I told them that I wanted to be in front of people, interviewing, playing ‘hostess with the mostest’ for the company,” he said, “and I felt like they were on my team, encouraging me.”
So Heritage decided to bet on Cole. Because people were impressed with the work he’d done on the corporate orientation program, they found a position on the Talent Acquisition team that matched his interests. “Lisa Minter [Talent Acquisition Partner for THG] and I are two peas in a pod,” Cole said of his manager upon joining the Corporate HR and Talent Acquisition team. “Our personalities are so alike — so we have a lot of fun working together!”
People at THG have been warm and welcoming, but that’s not been the case in Cole’s previous workplace. Because of some uncomfortable experiences, he knew what he was looking for in an employer: one who would welcome him to be his authentic self at work, where he could talk about his personal life when everyone else was talking about theirs.
“When I joined The Heritage Group as an intern, I took a risk,” Cole said. “It was a test, really, sharing with Kaitlin that I had a boyfriend during my first week. And Heritage passed that test with flying colors.
“To be authentic in the workplace, compared to previously experiencing discomfort elsewhere, leaves me feeling free: free to be happy, free to be vulnerable, free to bring my best and entire self to work. Ultimately, being authentic at work leads to the best experience for me and those around me. I cannot thank Heritage enough for providing this inclusive culture.”
Being his best and authentic self, Cole recently earned a promotion to Talent Acquisition Specialist, with plans to earn his SHRM certification. And because he wanted the full-circle experience, Cole is now mentoring a group of THG’s summer interns.
THG’s internship program is proving to be an invaluable part of our talent pipeline, introducing talented young people to our business and giving them a chance to experience our culture first-hand.