Past Winners

This article accompanies Piloting His Own Path: Jeff Shuman, the 2011 HR Executive of the Year, and The 2011 HR Honor Roll .

Read about some of the achievements of our past HR Executives of the Year and Honor Roll honorees.

2010: Laszlo Bock

Vice President of People Operations

Google Inc.

On March 26, 2006, at the tender age of 33, Laszlo Bock did something that no person in the course of Google Inc.'s incandescent eight-year history had done before: He assumed the title of vice president of people operations at the Internet giant.

And in the short space of time since his ascension to the newly created post, he has helped guide the company's expansion from 3,000 to 21,000 employees worldwide, maintained Google's place atop countless "Best Places to Work" lists, advised President Obama's transition team on its hiring practices and begun building an advanced HR army that could someday redefine the function as we know it.


In other words, he's completely made the job his own, which is entirely fitting because he's the only person who's ever owned it. Read more in Building a New Breed.


Mark Fogel, vice president of human resources and administration, Leviton Manufacturing Co., (Mr. Get-it-Done), Julie Wood, chief people officer, Crowe Horwath, (A Natural Fit) and Stephen R. Fussell, senior vice president of human resources, Abbott (Worth the Investment). 


2009: John Murabito

Executive Vice President of Human Resources

Cigna Corp.

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.


V. Michael Ferdinandi, senior vice president of human resources and corporate communications, CVS Caremark Corp. (Rx for Sound Business), Elease E. Wright, senior vice president of human resources of Aetna Inc. (The 'Wright' Stuff), 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.


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.


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

EMC Corp.

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.


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 healthcare 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.


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).

See more past award winners on the HRE Rankings page of HREOnlineTM.

Oct 2, 2011
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