Jennifer Knowlton
Director of Human Resources
Behlen Mfg. Co.


“My passion for manufacturing was influenced early by my parents. In my role, I have the opportunity to work with a talented workforce, capitalizing on their strengths to provide a high level of customer service to our Partners in Progress (employees) and continue to make Behlen an Employer of Choice.”

For more than 20 years, Jen Knowlton has been involved in human resources management in the Columbus, Nebraska, area. This area has an extremely low unemployment rate, so recruitment and retention are key. In her work with Behlen, Jen has partnered with local workforce development programs, hosted on-site career fairs and developed employee referral programs. These initiatives have helped reach many potential employees who might not have realized the benefits of work in modern manufacturing. Today, Jen’s leadership, energy and new ideas have helped create an environment where people are willing to commute more than 200 miles round-trip, daily, for high paying, in-demand jobs. 

In addition to Jen’s workforce development outreach, her attention to employee satisfaction has reduced turnover rates at the company by more than 3 percent. Initiatives that allow Behlen employees flexibility for better work/life balance, make Behlen an employer of choice in the area.

For many years, Jen has dedicated her time to the TeamMates program, which inspires young people to reach their full potential. As a TeamMates mentor, Jen has shaped the lives of three young women, from sixth grade through high school graduation and sometimes, beyond. Her weekly time with the girls may include addressing daily challenges, helping with homework, or preparing for college. One of Jen’s mentees struggled through high school and is now a successful business owner. Another is currently attending college to become a nurse.

Jen has also served on the board of the Columbus Area United Way, creating partnerships within the community to improve residents’ education, health and financial stability. Jen has helped lead efforts toward better structure and accountability within the agency, providing assurance that donations are being used to meet concrete goals.

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