Past Winners

This article accompanies Investing in the Future and The 2017 HR Honor Roll.

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

2016: Barry Melnkovic

Executive Vice President, Chief Human Capital Officer

Amtrak, Washington

It was around 1 a.m. on a morning in 2011, and here was Amtrak's highest-ranking HR officer, in his suit and tie, talking employee benefits in a baggage car.

"I was on the California Zephyr route, which runs from Chicago to San Francisco," says Barry Melnkovic, executive vice president and chief human capital officer at the Washington-based Amtrak. "It's a three-day trip. This was somewhere around the second day. We're crossing the Rockies, and I'm sitting there talking with some very tired Amtrak employees who have been working their butts off for a long time."

Read more in Back on Track.

2016 HR HONOR ROLL:

Mark Andrekovich, Chief of Human Capital, Maximus (Problem Solver), Jennifer Martin, Senior Vice President, Director of HR, Alliant Insurance Services Inc. (Taming the Wild West), Jennifer Piscopink, Senior Vice President of HR, Carhartt Inc. (Weaving Resiliency Into a Culture), Tim Richmond, Senior Vice President of Human Resources, AbbVie, (Blending Old and New)

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2015: Tracy Keogh

Executive Vice President of Human Resources

Hewlett-Packard Co., Palo Alto, Calif. 

Hewlett-Packard's story famously starts in a small garage in Palo Alto, Calif., where William Redington Hewlett and David Packard founded the business in 1939.

Now, 76 years later, the company is about to move "from a one-car to a two-car garage," says Tracy Keogh, HP's executive vice president of human resources.

In describing Hewlett-Packard's latest iteration, Keogh is actually borrowing a phrase from Dion Weisler, who used the expression in discussing the pending separation of Hewlett-Packard into two new companies -- Hewlett-Packard Enterprise and HP Inc. -- with a group of delegates at a December 2014 HP customer conference. (Weisler will serve as CEO of HP Inc.) Read more in The Re-inventor.

2015 HR HONOR ROLL:

Sallie Larsen, Managing Director and Chief Human Capital Officer, LPL Financial (Change Agent), Michelle Link, Senior Vice President of HR, PRA Group Inc. (Data- and Relationship-Driven), Marcia J. Avedon, Senior Vice President of Human Resources, Communications and Corporate Affairs, Ingersoll Rand (Spin to Win) and Joseph A. Bosch, Executive Vice President and Chief HR Officer, DirecTV (Channeling Excellence)

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2014: John M. Steele

Senior Vice President, Human Resources

HCA, Nashville, Tenn.

A lot can happen in 20 years, and it certainly has in the nearly two decades that John Steele has spent with the Hospital Corporation of America.

Since he joined the Nashville, Tenn.-based healthcare-facility operator as the head of recruiting in 1995, the company has changed chief executive officers three times, gone from a publicly traded company to a private entity and back to a public one again, and even weathered a controversy that made national headlines.

And Steele, now HCA's senior vice president of human resources, has helped keep the company moving forward through all of it. Read more in A Perfect Cure.

2014 HONOR ROLL:

Terry Geraghty, Senior Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer, Manhattan Associates (Attrition Warrior), William A. Blase Jr., Senior Executive Vice President, Human Resources, AT&T (A Clear Connection), Kathleen Wilson-Thompson, Senior Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer, Walgreen Co. (A Healthy Transformation)

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2013: Mark James

Senior Vice President, Human Resources and Communications

Honeywell Corp., Morristown, N.J. 

During the course of running human resources for the past five years at Honeywell, the Fortune 100 multinational conglomerate, Mark James has scored many major wins. Among the most impressive is his global HR reorganization effort, which saved the company an impressive $85 million.

Ask James for his success secrets and he describes what might have gone into his HR reorganization planning session, with an out-of-left-field nod to George Washington, as in the Father of Our Country crossing the Delaware on a frigid December night in 1776.

To James, the same planning strategy that might have gotten the good general over to Trenton (where his Continental Army surprised the Hessian troops and went on to win the war) works perfectly well for Honeywell HR in its drive to be a strategic business partner. Read more in A Perfect Cure.

2013 HONOR ROLL:

Mary Stoik Dymond, Senior Vice President of Human Resources, Graebel Cos. Inc. (Driving HR Forward), James W. Hodge, Vice President of Human Resources, Redstone Presbyterian SeniorCare (The Culture-Changer), Paul McKinnon, Head of Human Resources, Citigroup (The Comp Commander), Scott Peterson, Executive Vice President and Chief HR Officer, The Schwan Food Co. (A Recipe for Success).

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2012: Mara Swan

Executive Vice President, Global Strategy and Talent

ManpowerGroup, Milwaukee, Wis. 

Mara Swan is helping to bring ManpowerGroup's changing talent strategy into clear focus.

As a young woman about to enter college, Mara Swan's dad told her it was time to decide what she wanted to do with her life. His options, to be blunt, were not very . . . well, optional.

"Being 'old-school,' he said I could be either a teacher or a nurse, definitely not my two choices," says Swan, executive vice president of global strategy and talent at Manpower Group, and Human Resource Executive®'s 2012 HR Executive of the Year. "There were thousands of occupations I could choose, but for some reason, I knew then I wanted to be a labor negotiator." Read more in Leading the Talent of Tomorrow.

2012 HONOR ROLL:

Janice Bultema, senior vice president of human resources, University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics (Managing Through Transition), Steven Ginsburgh, senior vice president of human resources and workforce development, Universal Weather and Aviation Inc. (Building a Wall of Metrics), Russ Jackson, senior vice president of human resources, Safeway Inc. ('Eye to the Future') and Michelle Kirby, vice president and chief human resources officer, Texas Health Resources (Steady at the Helm).

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2011: Jeff Shuman

Vice President and Chief Human Resource Officer

Harris Corp.

Almost three decades after being identified as "high potential," Jeff Shuman continues to rewrite the definition of the term, both for himself and for future generations of HR leaders.

In addition to holding the title of vice president and chief human resource officer at Harris Corp., the Melbourne, Fla.-based communications and IT firm serving both government and commercial markets, he's also chief administrative officer for the organization's 16,000 employees who work in more than 150 markets. But his list of duties doesn't end there.

He also chairs Harris' extensive lobbying efforts and sits on numerous other boards outside the company, including the National Association of Manufacturers and Enterprise Florida, a private-public partnership that organizes statewide economic development. Read more in Plotting His Own Path.

2011 HONOR ROLL:

William J. Colbourne, senior vice president of human resources and administrative services, Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, (Leader for the Ages), Gayle Satchwell, director of human resources, County of Nevada (California), (A Gold Standard), William S. Allen, group senior vice president of human resources, A.P. Moller-Maersk A/S, Copenhagen, (Righting the Ship), Vic Buzachero, corporate senior vice president of innovation, human resources and performance management, Scripps Health, (The Turnaround Kid).

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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.

2010 HONOR ROLL:

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). 

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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.

2009 HONOR ROLL:

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).

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2008: J. Randall (Randy) MacDonald

Senior Vice President of Human Resources

IBM

"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:

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).

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2007: Bonnie C. Hathcock

Senior Vice President and Chief HR Officer

Humana

"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:

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).

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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.

2006 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).

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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.

2005 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).

See more past award winners on the HR Executive of the Year page of HREOnlineTM.

Oct 16, 2017
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