Community investment is a core commitment to Talking Rain Beverage Co., makers of Sparkling Ice, the No. 1 sparkling water brand in the U.S., as measured by Circana, formerly IRI. Since its founding more than 30 years ago, the company has focused heavily on social impact initiatives, with an increasing emphasis on sustainability in recent years, including in its own operations; last year, for instance, it repackaged its products to reduce waste.

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After all, the company calls its employees “Rain Makers”—a nod to the role it believes we all can play in impacting our communities. And leadership doesn’t just use that as a feel-good tagline but rather actively invests in helping its workforce meet its potential, says Veronica Blankenship, vice president of people at Talking Rain.

Just last year, one-quarter of Rain Makers took on new opportunities within the company. The focus on employee development and mobility is paying off, as nearly 90% of employees report being engaged and the organization is a repeat winner of “Best Of” employer awards.

“My personal career at Talking Rain mirrors the company’s commitment to fostering a growth-oriented culture,” notes Blankenship, who started with the organization as a payroll and benefits administrator in 2010 and held a half-dozen other roles before taking the helm of HR in 2021.

Blankenship spoke with HRE about how Talking Rain has nourished her own growth and that of her colleagues through investments in development, DE&I and culture.

HRE: The organization refers to its employees as “Rain Makers.” What does that reflect about the culture?

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Veronica Blankenship
Veronica Blankenship

Blankenship: It encapsulates how we work together. Imagine rain falling on dry land and bringing life, growth, transformation—I grew up in an Eastern Washington farming community, if you can’t tell. In the same way, for each of us as Rain Makers, [Talking Rain] empowers people to create a positive impact, nourishing growth and inspiring change. And that encapsulates the uniqueness and potential within each individual. It’s a signal that we’re not just employees fulfilling tasks; we come together as Rain Makers and bring together our ideas, innovation and enthusiasm to make our workplace great.

HRE: Talking Rain has been awarded a number of “best of” employer accolades—what most differentiates the organization as an employer?

Blankenship: I’m really excited that two weeks ago we were named to the Top 5 Best Places to Work in Washington by Puget Sound Business Journal. Throughout my 10-plus years here, it’s always been the people who have made Talking Rain such an incredible place to work, their dedication, passion and that collaboration define our culture. We have a deep commitment to fostering an inclusive workplace, championing diversity and promoting growth. We’ve built a community of talented individuals who continue to support the scalability and sustainability of our platform, our products and our culture.

HRE: What role does development play in retaining talent?

Blankenship: In 2020, we made a pretty significant shift in making development one of our top growth drivers for 2021. Since then, there’s been an unwavering commitment—from our CEO to our executive team—to focus on that. Just like rain fuels remarkable growth, our aspiration is to drive each Rain Maker to reach their greatest potential. So, we focus on three pivotal domains.

The first is manager development—furnishing our managers with the support to evolve and enhance their capabilities, and foster and improve efficiencies within their teams. The next is targeted development, which allows for tailored learning experiences for different functional areas, lifting those groups to higher proficiency levels. Lastly—and our biggest differentiator—is the coaching, mentoring and facilitation that emerges as our cornerstone for Rain Maker development and success through expert coaching.

We have four certified coaches on our team, we have a mentoring program in place, and we hold interactive workshops internally and with outside support for all of our teams. This holistic approach underscores every Rain Maker’s development. It’s not just a pursuit, it’s a profound commitment—from the CEO, myself and the executive team.

See also: Why HR should invest in tech to support emerging managers

HRE: How does your own career journey at Talking Rain reflect the company’s approach toward internal mobility?

Blankenship: Throughout my tenure, I have seen opportunities and raised my hand and jumped in to eagerly embrace those. This stems from my own personal drive to be a lifelong learner, but it also underscores the organization’s dedication to facilitating growth—using internal resources and external training and development support. I’m inspired to witness other Rain Makers, who share the same growth mindset and unwavering thirst for learning, flourish within the company.

HRE: How are you different as an HR professional today from when you joined Talking Rain?

Blankenship: I witnessed notable evolutions in my knowledge base—again, with support from the organization for outside education, training and development—and also in my personal maturity in the 10-plus years I’ve been here.

What distinguishes me is my unwavering commitment to aligning my actions with my deeply held values of community, growth and security. And that has authentically fostered meaningful connections across all levels of the organizations but also resonated powerfully within the wider community.

HRE: What are the skill sets you hope to hone personally to make you a more effective HR leader in the coming years?

Blankenship: There’s so much in the future of work and navigating HR challenges in this rapidly evolving landscape. For me, it’s going to be a continued focus on how we address workplace trends, remote work, workforce planning, workforce shortages, automation, AI—and all the change management that goes along with that.

And ensuring we have a positive employee experience along the way. I’m lucky I work in a tech hub—I’ve visited Microsoft and Google’s campuses and learned firsthand about the impact AI is going to have, augmenting people’s roles and the changes to come. And it’s very, very exciting.

Also, I’m raising two young daughters, and that’s putting my skills to the test! Patience, negotiation, empathy and finding balance—ensuring I’m there for them and fulfilling my own career aspirations.

HRE: Outside of work, what are you passionate about?

Blankenship: I mentioned community being my No. 1 value. I am really passionate about community. I grew up in a small town in Eastern Washington—population 1,500. And according to my mom, I was raised by the village.

With those values, I’ve been able to understand how important it is to take care of those around you, those you love—giving back through our church, our programs here at Talking Rain and fostering those connections with my tribe of people. I love being with my family, my friends and I’ve always been an outdoor enthusiast. Whether it’s hunting, fishing, snow skiing or boating, I’m all about being outside and having my group of people around me.

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