HR Executive of the Year Honored

Human Resource Executive® magazine names Jack Mollen of EMC Corp. as the 2006 HR Executive of the Year.

By Anne Freedman

In accepting his award from Human Resource Executive® magazine as HR Executive of the Year, Jack Mollen said he was fortunate "to be able to treat HR as a lab" during his tenure as executive vice president of EMC Corp.

[Pictured: 2007 HR Executive of the Year John T. Mollen of EMC Corp., second from left, is shown with Honor Roll winners, from left, S. Frank Fritsch of Select Medical Corp., William G. Kuchta of Paychex Inc., and Suzanne Welch, who accepted the award on behalf of Robert L. Berman of Eastman Kodak Co.]

"People let us explore different things, to trust we would do the right thing," he said during a black-tie dinner at the University Club in Chicago on Tuesday.

Those things included playing an integral role in changing Hopkinton, Mass.-based EMC's business dynamic and product mix -- as well as building a modern, responsive, strategy-focused HR organization that saw the company through the turmoil of the dot-com bust and 9/11 and allowed it to emerge as a transformed organization poised for growth.

In presenting the award, HRE's editor-in-chief David Shadovitz read comments from EMC's Chairman, President and CEO Joe Tucci about Mollen: "Jack is one of those people who understand both strategy and execution. EMC's transformation could not have happened without a fast-acting HR group pulling the right levers at the right time -- and making sure we attracted some of the best talent in the industry to EMC."

In addition to Mollen, Human Resource Executive® magazine added three names to its HR Honor Roll: Robert L. Berman, director of human resources and senior vice president for Eastman Kodak Co., S. Frank Fritsch, senior vice president of human resources for Select Medical Corp., and William G. Kuchta, vice president of organizational development for Paychex Inc.

Shadovitz said the honorees were examples of the "HR profession at its finest."

The first HR Executive of the Year was selected out in 1989, and in all of those years, Shadovitz said, "It's not the title itself so much as the person who holds it that makes all the difference."

"Few companies have encountered more turbulence than Kodak," he said, in honoring Berman's efforts to move the company into the digital era.

At the same time, the company created a "winning and inclusive culture," said Rebecca McKenna, publisher of HRE. Berman's four areas of emphasis that allowed the company to succeed, she said, were "great hires, great feedback, great moves, great assignments."

In accepting the award, Suzanne Welch, director of worldwide total compensation for Rochester, N.Y.-based Kodak, said that Berman called the transformation efforts at the company "a once-in-a-career opportunity," but noted it was "quite exhausting."

Continuing in that light vein, Shadovitz noted that Fritsch, a parole officer before turning to HR, once said, "I learned everything I know about management from working with criminals."

As the HR leader of Mechanicsburg, Pa.-based Select Medical, however, it was Mother Nature he had to contend with, as Hurricane Katrina damaged two hospitals and destroyed another facility. Many employees lost everything, Shadovitz said.

In response, Fritsch flew to the area, scheduling food and clothing drops, and bringing with him $25,000 in cash and travelers' checks to help his workers get through the worst of the disaster, McKenna said.

Under his leadership, Select also has successfully maintained its culture through a string of acquisitions while implementing effective programs and systems involving employee engagement and leadership development.

Crafting a targeted approach to high turnover was one of the success stories for Kuchta at Paychex of Rochester, N.Y., McKenna said, noting turnover decrease by half in the company and by 75 percent in IT.

"There's nothing special that I did because every one of you has done the same thing," Kuchta said to the audience of HR professionals.

"The HR profession needs to be a strong one right now," he said, requiring courage, passion and resourcefulness. And it is incumbent upon those in the profession, he said, to "bring along the next generation" of HR leaders.

Oct 4, 2006
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