Winners and Losers, 2012 Edition

After much deliberation, here is HRE's list of this year's winners and losers in the world of HR.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012
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As we do every year, we've decided to close out 2012 by assembling our list of HR's winners and losers. Some might be considered no-brainers. Others perhaps a stretch. But as a group, we trust they'll give you something to reflect on as you map out your plans for 2013.

So, without further ado ...

The Winners

1. Obamacare. It was a close call for the Affordable Care Act, but in the end, it was (to the surprise of many) upheld by the Supreme Court, in a 5-4 ruling. The decision set in motion the enactment of its various provisions, some of which might very well land a place on next year's Winners and Losers list.

2. Daniel E. Walker of J.C. Penney.  Walker, chief talent officer of JCP, earns a spot in the 2012 winners' column for topping HRE's "HR Elite" list of the most highly paid HR executives in 2011.  Despite joining JCP in November 2011, Walker pulled in an impressive $20 million (including an $8 million signing bonus) last year, the most ever since the HR Elite's inception.

3. Workday and the Cloud. PeopleSoft founder Dave Duffield's latest act, Workday, went public with a vengeance on Oct. 12. The IPO was priced at $28 a share, but finished its opening day at just under $50 a share.  If there was any question as to what the Street thought of Workday and enterprise cloud technology, it was put to rest that day.

4. UBS whistleblower Bradley Birkenhead. After serving 30 months of a 40-month sentence in a correctional institution after pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy to defraud the federal government, Birkenhead was freed in October. But it's the fact that, a month earlier, he was awarded the largest individual whistleblower award ever, $104 million, that earns him a place on this year's winners' list.

5. Gamification. As the economy still struggles to get its footing, employee engagement continues to emerge as a major pain point for employers. So it doesn't come as a huge surprise that gamification has become wildly hot in a range of different HR disciplines, including talent management, employee collaboration and health/wellness.

6. Video interviewing. The findings of a recent OfficeTeam survey says it all: About 63 percent of HR managers report their companies conduct job interviews via video, compared to 14 percent one year ago. What's more, 53 percent of the managers say their companies conduct job interviews using video technology "very often!".

7. HR Policy Association. As we reported earlier in the year, opposition to the Society for Human Resource Management's efforts to develop a human capital metrics standard has been fierce. And at the forefront of the push to squash that initiative was the HR Policy Association, which, at the end of the day, emerged a clear winner when, in late November, SHRM withdrew its proposal.

8. HR competency models. Long in the works, SHRM unveiled Elements for HR Success, its contribution to the world of HR competencies. The model adds to the work of University of Michigan Professor Dave Ulrich and his colleagues at RBL Group, which has been conducting research for the past 25 years and released its latest findings earlier this year.

9. Apple employees. Apple shareholders aren't the only ones who did quite well in 2012 (though AAPL did dip a tad lately). Retail employees at the company, who make up the vast majority of its workforce, reportedly reaped a healthy salary increase this year -- in some cases, as much as 25 percent. The bump in pay followed a review of store operations that found the company's pay practices lacking. (As an added bonus, workers also receive either $500 off a new Mac computer or $250 off an iPad.)

10. Greg Smith, formerly of Goldman Sachs. Smith made headlines in March when he blasted the business practices of Goldman Sachs and officially resigned from his position as an executive director in a most public way: a New York Times op-ed piece. Smith's widely publicized resignation probably didn't win him any friends in Goldman Sach's executive suite. But it did reap him a lucrative $1.5 million book deal. The book was published in October, to mixed reviews. (Note: We probably could easily make a case for including Smith on the losers' list as well.)

The Losers

1. Criminal background checks. Thanks to an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission guidance issued on April 25, the way in which employers approach criminal background checks became a lot muddier in 2012. Under the rules, employers can't automatically reject candidates with criminal records, except for jobs in which particular convictions have no place.

2. NLRB's election rule. The list, of course, wouldn't be complete without the National Labor Relations Board either in the winning or losing column. So here it is in the latter, thanks to a decision earlier this year in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia that reversed an NLRB ruling that would have made it easier and faster for unions to hold organizing elections.

3. Unemployed job seekers. Yes, it's something we wrote about in 2011.  But a series of recent studies suggests unemployed job seekers continue to be viewed as less desirable job candidates and thereby hit a lot more headwind as they pursue a job. One recent survey found nearly half of recruiters and hiring managers believe it's easier to find a position for a currently employed candidate with a criminal record than one who has been out of work for two years.

4. Former CIA Director David Petraeus. Petraeus, earlier this year, joined the long list of leaders whose careers were derailed thanks to an extramarital affair. In a letter sent to the CIA's workforce, Petraeus wrote: "Such behavior is unacceptable, both as a husband and as the leader of an organization such as ours."

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5. SHRM's Human Capital Metrics Standard Efforts. If HRPA emerged as a winner when SHRM announced it was withdrawing its proposal for human capital metric standards, then it seems only appropriate to include SHRM and proposed standards on this year's losers' list. No?

6. Janet Napolitano and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. In May, a lawsuit alleged DHS Secretary Napolitano presided over a "frat house"-style department that favors female employees and is "targeted to humiliate and intimidate male employees." The suit has yet to be settled, but whatever the outcome, it doesn't figure to do Napolitano's reputation any favors.

7. Richard M. Schultz, former chairman and founder of Best Buy. Schultz (who, with other investors, is pursuing to buy out his former employer) resigned from the big-box retailer after acknowledging he knew about an "improper relationship" between Best Buy's (married and recently resigned) CEO Brian Dunn and a younger female employee, yet failed to report it to the board of directors.

8. Scott Thompson, former CEO of Yahoo!. In May, Thompson resigned from Yahoo! after it was revealed he fudged his education background on his resume, claiming to have a computer-science degree from Stonehill College when, in fact, he didn't.  (He did have a degree from the college, but it was in accounting.)

9. Workplace desegregation. Despite all of the attention workplace diversity has gotten over the years, researchers at Purdue University and the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, found earlier this year that efforts to desegregate the workplace since the passage of the Civil Rights Act have come to a halt in some sectors and, in others, have even taken a step backward.

10. Retirement readiness. At every turn in 2012, we seem to come across a new study revealing how ill-prepared baby boomers are when it comes to retirement. Take PricewaterhouseCoopers' 2012 National Financial Wellness Survey: More than half (53 percent) of employees said they plan to retire later than they had previously planned. So while - admittedly -- the issue of retirement readiness isn't new, we felt it still deserves a place in this year's losers' column.

So that's it for our 2012 list of Winners and Losers. If you notice someone or something missing from either group, be sure to let us know at

Happy New Year!

Kristen Frasch, Andrew McIlvaine and Mark McGraw contributed to this article.


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