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Mammoth is a winner in The Oregonian/OregonLive’s 2020 Top Workplaces competition. CEO Nathan Christensen is working out of his home office in Portland on July 9, 2020.Randy L. Rasmussen/For The Oregonian/OregonLive

Human resources may not be a field that’s on your radar — for Nathan Christensen, it wasn’t either, initially.

After graduating from law school in 2008, Christensen worked as an attorney at a large Portland law firm. But in 2013, when his mother-in-law got sick and his father-in-law needed help running his company, Mammoth, Christensen joined the family business to start his first official job in the human resources field. Now, he’s the CEO.

“I hadn’t intended to be a CEO, and I consider myself an accidental CEO. But I agreed to do it,” Christensen said.

Mammoth, founded in 2001 and recently merged with Think HR, works with businesses to help solve their human resources problems, answer questions and ensure that they’re complying with relevant laws.

The company’s fourth Top Workplaces win comes in the ninth year of The Oregonian/OregonLive’s annual competition. The company has previously won in 2016, 2017 and 2019.

The company has nearly 200 employees and grew its revenue by 20% over the last year. A Mammoth spokesperson declined to be more specific about finances.

A woman and man, both wearing coronavirus face masks, walk along a tree lined street.
Mammoth is a winner in The Oregonian/OregonLive’s 2020 Top Workplaces competition. While working from home, CEO Nathan Christensen holds a walking meeting with Suzame Tong, vice president of marketing communications, on July 9, 2020.Randy L. Rasmussen/For The Oregonian/OregonLive

Christensen had told his law firm he’d return after a year or so, but after a few weeks of working at Mammoth, he saw both “a huge market opportunity” in the company as well as “all the good” it was doing to help other companies, and he’s stayed ever since.

Since the coronavirus pandemic threw the world into disarray, Christensen said that Mammoth has been handling flurries of questions from business owners asking for guidance on what they can and can’t do.

Questions like “Can I take my employees’ temperatures at work?” (Yes, but don’t reuse thermometers) and “What’s the difference between a furlough and a layoff?” (The former allows someone to continue working under fewer hours or is a temporary layoff, while the latter is not) are common, Christensen said.

Esosa Ojomo works in Mammoth’s finance department. Ojomo and his wife moved from California to Portland for her new biotechnology job, and he left his job at a large accounting firm and began to look for other jobs in finance.

Ojomo said that what brought him to Mammoth was a conversation he had with the company’s chief finance officer, who said Mammoth’s smaller culture would let him be involved in everyday decision-making. Now, six months into his role as a financial planning manager, he gets to give his input to the CFO and CEO in almost-daily conversations.

“That’s kind of the most fun part of my job,” Ojomo said. “You get to see the impact of what it is that you were thinking about and that you were doing.”

What has Mammoth done to help its own employees in response to the pandemic? Christensen said the company gave its employees an extra $250 on their paychecks to go toward incidental expenses. The company asked employees to spend whatever was leftover on supporting local small businesses.

Mammoth also allotted $10,000 for a program that gave employees an extra $50 on their paychecks to spend with Black-owned businesses and nonprofits on Juneteenth, Christensen said.

“We’ve learned in the COVID crisis that the most important human resource we have is trust,” Christensen said. “We wanted to entrust our employees to figure out the best ways to spend that money. I have every confidence that they did it well.”

The company has also created guides for employers on laws against racial discrimination and harassment, and it’s also begun implementing a new diversity and inclusion strategy.

Celine Bledsoe, a frontline manager and human resources specialist, said that the company culture values the impact that it can have on the small businesses it consults.

“Something that everyone there agrees on is that HR can be transformational,” Bledsoe, who recently celebrated her fifth anniversary at Mammoth, said. “It doesn’t have to just be a transactional job that’s looking at compliance.”

— Ryan Nguyen; [email protected]; @ryanjjnguyen

Correction: Nathan Christensen worked for a consulting firm before attending law school, not after. Christensen returned to work for the family business at Mammoth. The definition of furlough refers to both cut hours and temporary layoffs. Both Mammoth and Think HR are still known under their separate brand names. An earlier version of this post misstated these facts.

Originally published on Oregonian/OregonLive.