This article accompanies Building a New Breed, a profile of the 2010 HR Executive of the Year -- Google's Laszlo Bock.
Read about some of the achievements of our past HR Executives of the Year and Honor Roll awardees.
2009: John Murabito
Executive Vice President of Human Resources
John Murabito can talk about adding efficiencies, reducing waste and reconfiguring a business function with an ease that tells you he's comfortable with the subjects and knows his stuff inside out. He's relaxed, conversational.
It's ironic to think that Murabito dreaded the study of calculus in school, considering the extent to which he calmly added, subtracted and number-crunched his way to improving his organization's health.
And the help that Murabito brought to his organization couldn't have come soon enough.
Steeped in the philosophy of accountability and business acumen, Murabito transformed HR from a decentralized patchwork with little focus on talent management into a "one-company" model that runs with the efficiency of a heartbeat. See Curing HR.
2009 HONOR ROLL:
For organizations with 7,500 employees or more: V. Michael Ferdinandi, senior vice president of human resources and corporate communications, CVS Caremark Corp. (Rx for Sound Business) and Elease E. Wright, senior vice president of human resources of Aetna Inc. (The 'Wright' Stuff).
For organizations with fewer than 7,500 employees: Christina K. Picha, HR director, Austin (Minn.) Public Schools (The Servant Leader) and Natalie Saiz, director of human resources, Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, NASA (Master of Her Craft).
2008: J. Randall (Randy) MacDonald
Senior Vice President of Human Resources
"I'm uncomfortable with the status quo," says MacDonald, Human Resource Executive®'s HR Executive of the Year for 2008 in Passion to Lead. "I'm always looking for how to do something better. It's just the way I think."
At IBM, MacDonald has relentlessly pushed HR's contributions, redesigning nearly every major program and reviewing processes across the world to ensure they deliver on IBM's business proposition -- even when it has meant, at times, pursuing an atypical HR strategy, one others in the profession might discourage.
Under his leadership, IBM HR has focused more and more on its own core strategic competencies, transferring administrative and transactional activities to external partners, including IBM's own business-transformation organization, in many regions worldwide.
As part of this focus on strategic value, IBM has redesigned bonus plans and performance-management programs to tie them even more closely to business results, redesigned benefit programs for a greater focus on prevention and healthy living, and invested heavily in new learning and career-development programs.
2008 HONOR ROLL:
The 2008 Honor Roll included Bridget Atkinson, vice president of human resources and organizational development at GTSI Corp. (Engineering an HR Evolution); Barbara J. Baker, executive vice president of cultural enhancement at Umpqua Bank and Umpqua Holdings Corp. (Culture Keeper); Richard Floersch, executive vice president and chief human resource officer at McDonald's Corp. (Supersized Talent); Bruce Pfau, vice chair of human resources at KPMG LLP (Persuader in the Storm); and Eva Sage-Gavin, executive vice president of human resources, corporate social responsibility and communications at The Gap Inc. (Leading with Dignity).
2007: Bonnie C. Hathcock
Senior Vice President and Chief HR Officer
"HR takes a back seat to no one -- that's my assumption going in," says Bonnie Hathcock in The Strength to Lead. "I look for HR people who are not afraid to get in a room and slug it out professionally for what they believe in. We need to have some boldness about us, and some courage."
Hathcock's energy -- and her instincts -- helped transform the role of HR first at Siemens Rolm, later at US Airways and then at Humana, where she led an effort to overhaul employee health benefits that was later introduced to customers. Other initiatives included placing top "business-oriented" HR people in various departments, such as finance and sales, to help provide business leadership, and collapsing 1,500 job descriptions into 400 "roles" to encourage talent development.
What makes Hathcock perhaps unusual, though, is that her focus on business and strategy has not led to a diminution of what is at the core of HR -- the human element. While it may be difficult for some HR executives to balance the overall needs of the company and the individual needs of the employees, Hathcock seems to do it naturally.
2007 HONOR ROLL:
The 2007 Honor Roll included Valerie Murzl, vice president of human resources/training at Station Casinos (Staying Ahead of the Game); Matt Schuyler, chief human resource officer at Capitol One (Making a Difference); Jill Smart, chief human resource officer for Accenture (Smart Moves at Accenture); and Sharon C. Taylor, senior vice president of corporate human resources at Prudential (Grace Under Pressure).
2006: Jack Mollen
Executive Vice President of HR
In 1999, at the height of the dot-com boom, there was good news and bad news for EMC Corp (Driving Change). The good news: The Hopkinton, Mass.-based firm known best for its modest place in the data-storage hardware niche, was poised for sudden growth. The bad news: While it was quickly becoming a 21st-century company, its organization -- and its HR functions -- were still running in 20th-century mode.
After a very successful restructuring, however, the 9/11 attacks occurred, followed by a decline in EMC's revenues of almost 50 percent over a matter of months -- and subsequently, the dismissal of more than a quarter of the company's global workforce.
With the company written off by Wall Street insiders, Jack Mollen collaborated with Joe Tucci, EMC's chairman, president and CEO, and CFO Bill Teuber on the process of, first, rebalancing business priorities and, then, realigning the reduced organization and, ultimately, acquiring 25 firms and 11,000 staffers as the company rebuilt itself.
2006 HONOR ROLL
In addition, the magazine named to its Honor Roll: William Kuchta, vice president of organizational development for Paychex Inc. (Constant Learning Curve); S. Frank Fritsch, senior vice president of human resources for Select Medical Corp. (There For His People); Eastman Kodak's Chief Human Resource Officer and Senior Vice President Robert Berman (Dare to be Digital).
2005: Karen Jennings
Senior Executive Vice President of Human Resources and Communications
SBC Communications Inc.
Karen Jennings (The Great Communicator) has helped SBC -- one of the nation's largest telecommunications firms and co-owner of Cingular Wireless -- overcome multiple recent challenges, including three major corporate mergers, skyrocketing health-care costs and delicate negotiations with one of the nation's largest unions.
Jennings led negotiations with the Communications Workers of America that led to an unprecedented concession from the union to give 30-days notice prior to any strike and the final agreement was mutually beneficial for both sides. She oversaw the introduction of a complex consumer-directed healthcare plan for the company's active and retired managers.
Ed Whitacre, SBC's CEO, credits Jennings with helping the company successfully navigate two major acquisitions -- Ameritech in 1999 and Southern New England Telecommunications in 1998. Jennings is currently helping SBC wrap up its latest acquisition, that of AT&T, its former corporate parent.
2005 HONOR ROLL
In addition, the magazine named to its HR Honor Roll: Lea Soupata, senior vice president of human resources at UPS Inc. in Atlanta (Delivering Value); Kathy Herbert, executive vice president of human resources for Boise, Idaho-based Albertsons Inc. (Grade-A Choice); Deborah D. Hirsh, chief human resources officer for the Los Angeles Unified School District (Smooth Sailing); and Rose Patten, senior executive vice president of human resources and strategic management for Toronto-based BMO Financial Group (Quest for Results).
2004: William J. Conaty
Senior Vice President of Corporate Human Resources
General Electric Co.
In an interview with Human Resource Executive, GE's chairman and CEO, Jeff Immelt, said of Bill Conaty: "I just think he's what the great HR leaders are supposed to be about -- attracting and retaining, partnering and keeping the world's best people. He's the best I've ever seen." (Master of HR at GE)
Jack Welch, GE's former chairman and CEO, meanwhile, said of Conaty: "I don't think there's another human resource leader in the world as good as he is. He has an incredible touch with every level in the organization, from the factory floor to the people who report to the CEO. He's trusted by everybody -- and he deserves it because he's earned it."
Among his many accomplishments are GE's executive-compensation program and corporate-governance standards, which have won the company high praise from the media, HR experts and advocates of stricter standards.
Under Conaty's leadership, GE set specific goals on the amount of GE stock each senior officer must hold (six times base salary for the CEO, five times base for vice chairmen and four times base for senior officers). It also removed stock options and restricted stock from Immelt's compensation, using instead performance-share units that vest in five years and are tied to internal and external financial metrics.
2004 HONOR ROLL
In addition, the magazine named to its HR Honor Roll: Louis A. Kaucic, chief people officer of Applebee's International (Turning Turnover Around); Jon C. Cecil, chief human resource officer of Lee Memorial System (Healing the System); Kay Coles James, director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (A Daunting Task); and Karen Jennings, senior executive vice president of human resources and communications for SBC Communications (Custom-made Leader).
2003: Dennis M. Donovan
Executive Vice President of Human Resources
The Home Depot Inc.
Dennis Donovan, one of CEO Bob Nardelli's first executive hires when he took the reins of Home Depot in December 2000, put HR at the center of the retailer's transformation. (Retooling HR) His accomplishments ranged from putting an HR manager into all 1,600 Home Depot stores to creating a Leadership Institute and launching leadership development programs for high-potential managers.
"I needed the best HR officer in the country, and that's Dennis," Nardelli told Human Resource Executive. "A lot of people have theories, but Dennis can actually turn his theories into reality."
Among other things, Donovan and his HR team embarked upon a dramatic business transformation which included devising more than 300 initiatives that the HR department committed to deliver within the following three years against the backdrop of a dynamically growing business that opens a new store every 43 hours and creates 40,000 new jobs per year.
2003 HONOR ROLL
In addition, the magazine named to its HR Honor Roll: Nancy A. Rae, senior vice president of human resources, DaimlerChrysler Corp. (Respect for the Ranks); Sherry Whiteley, senior vice president of human resources, Intuit Inc. (Business Intuition); Terry M. Faulk, senior vice president of human resources, Kraft Foods Inc. (Increasing Strength); and Rob Norton, senior vice president of corporate human resources, Pfizer Inc. (Growing Globally).
2002: James H. Wall
National Managing Director of Human Resources
Deloitte & Touche LLP
Under Jim Wall's leadership (Accounting for Success), Deloitte & Touche's culture transformed a "churn-and-burn" atmosphere into one that is collaborative, friendly, supportive and inclusive. His extraordinary leadership skills were particularly evident as the company, whose headquarters were across the street from the World Trade Center, responded to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11.
As part of his effort to transform Deloitte & Touche's culture during the '90s, Wall painstakingly convinced the firm's partners to adopt a Women's Initiative -- a move that's been instrumental in helping the firm double its revenues during the past five years. This initiative, along with others, has led to Deloitte & Touche's being routinely named one of the "100 Best Companies to Work for in America" by Fortune and one of the best places to work by Working Mother.
2002 HONOR ROLL
In addition, the magazine named to its HR Honor Roll: David O. Aker, senior vice president of worldwide human resources for Unisys Corp. ('Administrivia' Slayer), and Cynthia H. Augustine, president of the broadcast group and senior vice president of human resources for The New York Times Co. (Changing the Times).
2001: Daniel L. Sullivan
Executive Vice President of Human Resources
Under Dan Sullivan's leadership (Marathon Man), Qualcomm's HR vision has been to energize and guide the company in areas of motivation, employee satisfaction and the achievement of corporate objectives, as well as maximize the firm's operation efficiencies.
Sullivan, mindful of the role students will play in advancing high technology through difficult business cycles, has played a critical role in helping secure funding for the University of California-San Diego's Jacob School of Engineering as part of a new state initiative to establish the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology.
Sullivan also led the HR information systems organization to create a fully Web-enabled self-service portal called "My Source," which has helped free up HR managers for strategic projects.
2001 HONOR ROLL
In addition, the magazine named to its HR Honor Roll: David L. Murphy, vice president of human resources at Ford Motor Co. (Drive to Excel); Francesca M. Spinelli, senior vice president of people at Radio Shack (Radio Active); and Anne Szostak, executive vice president and director of human resources and diversity at FleetBoston Financial Corp. (Diversity, With Life).