Congratulations to this year's honorees!
Ragan's 2020 Top Women in HR Awards honorees are exceptional female professionals who are leading the charge when it comes to performance management, diversity and inclusion, organizational development, talent recruitment and retention, training and development, corporate leadership and so much more.
These women inspire their coworkers and peers. We're honored to recognize their influential work.
Scroll down to read more about each honoree.
Ragan's 2020 Top Women in HR Awards Honorees!
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In a mostly virtual communications agency, a strong culture and values help the diverse team excel
In addition to her HR roles, Jill Alarcon transformed DCG’s recruiting efforts to ensure values alignment, earning her the Culture Czar designation.
While the coronavirus pandemic has led many HR leaders to scramble to figure out how to maintain culture and values in a remote team, that has always been part of Jill Alarcon’s remit. As VP of Human Resources for DCG Communications, a government-focused communications consulting agency that has always been mostly virtual, she brings both passion, leadership and humility to her role.
One remote worker noted that they felt fully connected to the agency’s culture and values thanks to Alarcon’s efforts. She helped oversee explosive growth at the agency, transforming recruiting to find not only the most qualified candidates but also those who shared the agency’s values.
Alarcon has supported women at DCG obtain more education and negotiate fair salaries as part of her commitment to providing all employees with a fair and equitable workplace. She recently introduced a new performance management tool, redefining expectations by level across the agency in an effort in increase transparency, developed an annually run mentorship program, and so much more, all while overseeing multiple internal committees.
When it comes to making DCG better, Jill is always thinking of innovative ways. From putting together an interactive annual staff retreat to making each new hire feel welcome, to taking the feedback of each employee to heart, she balances it all with passion. She never hesitates to roll up her sleeves and get whatever job needs to be done, done, all in support of the tremendous team and culture at DCG!
For her efforts to recruit top talent, reward them, and help them grow, Jill Alarcon is the Culture Czar in Ragan’s 2020 Top Women in HR Awards.
Macy Andrews’ talent acquisition team has drawn attention from PR, communications and HR worlds
Winner of HR Leader honor has helped Cisco Systems thrive by supporting unconventional approaches to recruiting.
The Cisco Talent Brand team is a perennial award winner – 30 in 2019 alone — including several presented by Ragan Communications. Macy Andrews has provided the leadership to make the team’s work possible. As Senior Director of Talent Brand and University Recruiting, Andrews has encouraged calculated risk-taking, leading to innovations in recruiting, such as inviting front-line employees to host Cisco’s livestreams during LinkedIn Live’s beta period.
She has had an impact on existing employees, too, improving Cisco’s Great Places to Work ranking from 89th to 6th place, based partly on shining the light on Cisco’s equitable treatment of women, people of color, employees at all job levels, and workers from all generations.
As for University Recruiting, which oversaw a 29% increase in hiring in India alone, Andrews has led her team to deliver higher-quality candidates. In 2019, hiring managers rated interns’ job skills as the highest on record. As an innovator, Andrews is the recipient of the HR Leader honor in the 2020 Top Women in HR Awards.
Amanda Babb has skillfully juggled company growth and COVID-19 for ADT
Working in HR has made Amanda more empathetic, a trait she brings to coaching her team, leading to her Coach recognition in the 2020 Top Women in HR Awards.
In just the past year – the sixth since joining ADT as Vice President of HR Services & Operations – Amanda Babb led the people element of launching a new commercial division as well as the acquisition of another organization. These growth-focused moves brought thousands of new employees into the ADT fold. Babb grasped the unique culture of the acquired company, ensuring the employee development and service-to-others culture were blended into ADT’s people culture.
While leading the integration of these thousands of employees into ADT, Amanda also led the charge on the HR response to the COVID-19 pandemic. She developed a best-in-class reporting dashboard for the Executive Leadership Team, oversaw improvements to the company’s testing process, and led return-to-work efforts.
Her team recognizes that her coaching efforts have inspired them to bring their best selves to work each day. Amanda says that her HR work has made her more empathetic and intentional in her work, earning her Ragan’s Top Women in HR Coach Award.
Change has been at the center of Lisa Bousquet’s tenure at Citizens
The Leader honoree has remained focused on delivering an uplifting Employee Experience to all employees.
Some HR leaders encounter one or two significant changes in their careers. For Lisa Bousquet, change has been a way of life at Citizens. The senior HR leader is responsible for delivering a positive experience for 13,000 employees. In 2019 alone, she helped guide Citizens through several tumultuous changes.
There was the multi-year organization transformation, during which Bousquet ensured employees understood the expectations for existing roles and guided upskilling efforts for those moving into new roles.
In December 2019, she choreographed more than 100 role changes when the retirement of the consumer bank’s leader led to a major reorganization, filling all new roles internally, demonstrating her commitment to career growth for bank employees.
Then there was the pandemic, leading Lisa to act early, developing a plan to keep employees safe while ensuring they could continue performing the critical functions of the bank. Because of her ability to lead through change, Lisa is being honored as a Leader in the 2020 Top Women in HR Awards.
Trailblazer Carmen Collins has redefined talent branding
Carmen is regularly reinventing how Cisco talks about culture and careers to employees, influencing other organizations to adopt her strategies.
For years to come, when HR professionals talk about innovation in recruiting, Carmen Collins’ name will be invoked.
As Senior Social Media and Talent Brand Manager, Collins has routinely reinvented Cisco Systems’ approach to presenting Cisco in the kind of light that will attract the best new hires. Collins was behind the @WeAreCisco Snapchat account, which was taken over every day by a front-line employee. When it was time to move on from Snapchat to Instagram, she led that effort. Then she brought employees to livestreaming platforms on Facebook and Instagram, then LinkedIn.
She partnered with an agency to conceptualize a series of videos than have been viewed more than 130,000 times. Collins also brainstormed the idea of presenting an event where the cloud engineering teams was positioned GOATs – Greatest of All Teams, with photo opportunities featuring baby goats.
She innovated a fresh approach to National Intern Day, with intern LinkedIn/Facebook/Instagram Lives and Twitter takeovers. A perennial award winner, Collins is now a Trailblazer in Ragan’s 2020 Top Women in HR Awards.
With her roll-up-your-sleeves approach, Vickie Connor has built a world class HR department
Truckstop.com HR leader and Dynamic Do-er honoree is always coaching and isn’t afraid to give feedback.
Reporting to the chief of people & culture, Vickie Conner has transformed the company’s human resources department into a world-class, people-focused team that has implemented sweeping changes in multiple processes and benefits.
Another sign of that transformation is that employees throughout the company recognize HR as a partner that employees can trust.
Conner has a reputation of leading by example, rolling up her sleeves to accomplish tasks at a moment’s notice. She is always coaching, unafraid to ask difficult questions or provide candid feedback, making a genuine impact on the development of Truckstop.com employees. Her ability to give valuable feedback extends to the company’s leaders. She has also helped leadership recognize the value of HR, enabling the transformation that has led employees (known as “partners”) to contribute at all levels.
Conner has built high levels of trust with all members of the Truckstop.com team, making her an ideal Dynamic Do-er recipient in our 2020 Top Women in HR Awards.
The Howard Hughes Corporation
Chief People Officer focuses on the entire employee journey
Named a Leader, Dara Engle has modernized HR at the iconic Howard Hughes Corporation.
If being multi-faceted is an asset for an HR professional, Dara Engle is well-positioned to lead, which she has been doing throughout her decade-long career as Chief People Officer at the Howard Hughes Corporation.
In just the last year, Engle has led dozens of cross-departmental initiatives, including delivery of an entirely new intranet complete with important collaboration and engagement features missing from the previous intranet. When the pandemic squelched plans for the launch, she took it virtual, achieving nearly full adoption. She also serves on the company’s Executive Technology Task Force.
Engle’s tech focus didn’t stop her from implementing a company-wide 12-week paid maternity leave policy along with paid leave for new fathers and foster and adoptive parents. She has been an advocate for culture programs including student debt repayment matching and professional development opportunities for all employees.
Measurement being important to her, she has developed feedback programs, including a pulse survey, all while leading the charge to refresh the company’s corporate brand. Engle exemplifies leadership, reflected in her Leader recognition in Ragan’s 2020 Top Women in HR Awards.
Culture isn’t built on perks, according to health care Culture Czar; it’s built on actions
Jill Felska’s expertise with remote workers made her a go-to resource during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The role of Director of People and Culture was new when Jill Felska joined Limelight Health with only three years of HR experience. You wouldn’t know it based on what she has accomplished, which has earned her the Culture Czar honor in our 2020 Top Women in HR Awards.
With 70% of its employees working remotely, Felska has been instrumental in establishing a strong culture by creating opportunities for people to connect. To wit: she championed one employee’s idea for remote coffee breaks, which have built trust and collaboration.
Believing culture is built by action, not perks, she has embraced the company’s values by transforming them into behaviors to adopt. She has also elevated the role of data by employing HR tools that yield quantifiable information on employee engagement and job satisfaction.
Felska’s expertise in building culture with a mostly remote team has made her a valuable resource for companies struggling with Covid-19. Major media outlets have interviewed her, and Business Insider named her a Rising Star in HR.
Cetera Financial Group
Employee engagement grew during a period with no CEO, thanks to chief HR officer
It has been a busy year for this Leader honoree.
A week after she joined Cetera Financial Group as Chief Human Resources Officer, the CEO who hired her resigned. Jeannie Finkel joined three other executives on the “Operating Committee” to provide leadership and make day-to-day operating decisions during the months-long search for a new CEO. During that period, employee engagement grew 8%, testament to her approach to HR.
In just the last year, she led a 26-person HR team (hiring many of them), upgraded recruiting (filling more than 400 full-time and 180 part-time positions, including key executives), championed paid time off for volunteerism, introduced goals based on a pay-for-performance system (training over 1,000 team members and managers on the system), and, in her spare time, serving on the national board of a nonprofit dedicated to the advancement of people of color.
When COVID-19 struck, Finkel co-led the Pandemic Business Continuity Plan for crisis management and risk mitigation, enacting an employee work-from-home policy; she now is planning the return-to-office strategy.
Finkel was a shoo-in for the Leader honor in our 2020 Top Women in HR Awards.
HR Leader defines company’s purpose and builds it into the culture
Overseeing a hiring surge of 30% in less than a year, Sharyl Givens put people at the center of all HR initiatives.
Proofpoint, a global cybersecurity company, is in a battle for top talent with scores of other Silicon Valley Companies. HR Senior VP Sharyl Givens made sure Proofpoint stood out from more than 700 direct competitors.
From 2019 into early 2020, Proofpoint’s employee headcount grew 30% worldwide. To ensure it was the top talent that joined the company, Givens defined the company’s people-focused purpose and wove it into every employee program. That led employees, including those newly acquired, to feel connected to the business and committed to its success.
Among those initiatives was a focus on work-life integration which, along with her other efforts, increased employee investment in the company and lowered attrition.
As the world went into lockdown in March 2020, Givens ensured all 3,700-plus employees were safe, had the resources they needed to be productive, and regularly updated the executive team. For these efforts and more, Givens has been named a Leader in our 2020 Top Women in HR Awards.
Epicor Software’s chief HR officer puts employees at the center of the company’s value proposition
Culture Czar honoree leveraged leading-edge technology to drive change at the software company.
With technology, it’s easy to chase a shiny object. At Epicor Software, Jignasha Amin Grooms leveraged Artificial Intelligence in her role as Chief Human Resources Officer, which drove significant improvement.
Grooms’s approach was based on a rebranding of HR. Among other actions, she merged multiple systems into a single HR portal. She acquired automated talent systems, employing AI to help the recruiting of more than 5,000 candidates, quickly filling critical positions.
She also introduced an AI chatbot to the organization, making it easy for employees to get answers to common questions and reducing the load of email her team had to handle so they could focus on providing more strategic value.
Grooms also introduced a new performance management system, integrating it with manger guidelines for the company’s merit and promotion process, focusing on frequent one-on-ones between employees and managers. As a result, the company’s approval rating increased 18% and the CEO’s approval rating grew 30%, resulting in Grooms earning the Culture Czar honor in our 2020 Top Women in HR Awards.
HR Leader honoree breathes life into her company’s values
Dee Grosso led hiring and onboarding of 1,400 new hires – all during the pandemic.
Freedom Mortgage has been undergoing tremendous growth, always a challenge to a Human Resources department tasked with everything from finding the right people to supporting the culture that will allow them to thrive and encourage them to stay.
Dee Grosso, a Leader honoree in our 2020 Top Women in HR Awards, has been more than up to the task. While managing the work-from-home transition during the Coronavirus pandemic – enabling 98% of the company’s employees to work safely and productively from home – she also managed the company’s record-breaking recruiting, onboarding 1,400 new hires between March and May. One of the keys to this success was virtual training, which Grosso implemented with help from IT.
In fact, her partnership with other departments has fueled much of the company’s success. During her tenure, Grosso has overhauled the performance review process, introduced “dress-down days,” and implemented paid time off for community service. She is active in the company’s community endeavors herself.
In a traditional industry that’s slow to change, Ashley Hill has driven change among both leadership and the blue-collar workforce
A Trailblazer in this year’s Top Women in HR Awards, Ashley Hill has driven a Utah construction company into the electronic age.
The construction industry is one of the slowest to change, yet Ashley Hill – a woman in a male-dominated field – has driven significant change at Utah-based Layton Construction.
Performance management is a solid example. Hill obtained buy-in from management to shift from paper to a digital system grounded in regular manager-employee check-ins. The digital system tracked long-term employee performance. Participation in the program reached 80% and employee development scores increased by 72%.
Hill also introduced the company’s first employee giving program, creating a plan and pitching it to the executive committee to obtain support. More than 60% of employees donate weekly, raising more than half a million dollars.
Hill manages initiatives like these while performing routine tasks, including managing company events, launching a new intranet, introducing a company store for employees, leading the first-ever employee engagement survey, and onboarding 400 employees. Bringing these concepts to a construction company makes Hill a Trailblazer in this year’s Top Women in HR Awards.
Mary Anne Hoffman
Retiring HR VP finishes her career at the company where she started
Mary Anne Hoffman’s achievements as the first female HR VP at transmission company are many, earning her a Leader honor.
It is a testament to Mary Ann Hoffman’s influence at Allison Transmission that she was nominated for a 2020 Top Women in HR award as she was preparing to retire.
Hoffman began her career at Allison but left to raise a family. She returned to work eight years later, at the Indianapolis eastside Ford/Visteon/ACH plant, which closed in 2012. She placed employees with other local organizations, leading her to return to Allison, where she focused on international HR and organizational development.
The first female to lead HR at Allison, she racked up a string of achievements, from redesigning the benefits and wellness programs, adding new positions (including an Inclusion & Diversity director and a compensation director), dedicating resources to professional development, and revamping a summer intern program to managing the HR end of three acquisitions and the introduction an HR information system.
Global Healthcare Exchange (GHX)
Strategist honoree leveraged her consulting background to advise company leaders
Alexis Kearns transformed HR from a personnel function to a strategic business partner.
Alexis Kearns was a consultant before joining Global Healthcare Exchange (GHX), where she serves as senior VP of Human Resources. Her consulting skills came in handy, along with her industry knowledge, as she has advised leadership corporate strategy while addressing complex business issues like mergers and acquisitions and succession planning.
Kearns’s expertise in organizational design has helped GHX be more strategic, especially during three acquisitions; she studied the structure of the target company, helping leadership integrate the companies for maximum ROI potential.
To support company growth, Kearns introduced the Management Xcellence Program and a new global talent review program, resulting in above-average talent retention and a 25% reduction in the time it takes to fill open positions.
Communicator moves into HR where she introduces leading-edge initiatives
Lisa Lewis leads a 90-plus HR department that has transformed 160-year-old utility.
Lisa Lewis earned her BA in communications and rose to the VP level in corporate communications at CPS Energy. In an unusual move, she then became Vice President of People & Culture, and most recently promoted to Sr. Vice President, where she has been driving change to enhance the employee experience.
In her role, Lewis leads a 90-plus HR team responsible for recruiting, leadership and employee development compensation and benefits, employee relations, and more. She is credited with transforming the 160-year-old CPS Energy through a variety of initiatives, including an immersion program for new college graduates to learn all dimensions of the organization.
Lewis developed a 9-month leadership program for emerging leaders to gain new skills. She has prepared the employee “bench” for future roles through quality feedback, mentorship, goal-setting, and professional development. Lewis has introduced innovations to the succession program and introduced in-depth analysis to support long-term planning for future workforce needs.
Her influence derives from other activities as well, from working with consultants to implementing change management strategies. Ragan recognizes Lewis as a Leader in the 2020 Top Women in HR Awards.
With a focus on employee experience, Tara Lilien has helped make Peppercomm a PR Employer of Choice
From rolling out the company’s values to managing the COVID-19 crisis, Lilien has employed high-level strategic planning, leading to her Strategist recognition.
Two years normally isn’t enough time to make a mark on an organization, but Tara Lilien has shattered those expectations at Peppercomm, where she leads HR strategy.
As a member of the Peppercomm executive team, Lilien played a pivotal role in evolving and rolling out the agency’s values. Then she made sure those values came to life in the annual performance review program, which she overhauled to better integrate it with the company’s ongoing talent management and growth efforts (with weekly instead of annual check-ins).
She has focused on employee growth with a variety of initiatives. She led the development of a unified communication and collaboration approach and managed the sudden shift to remote work when COVID-19 struck. An employee pulse survey found 100% of employees are confident in the agency’s response to the pandemic; 45% feel more engaged than before, a remarkable achievement and the sign of a true Strategist, the designation with which she is being honored in our 2020 Top Women in HR Award.
Chief HR officer honored as Culture Czar for building engagement during pandemic
Focus on keeping employees engaged as they adjusted to working from home included an emphasis on employee health and well-being.
In March 2020, when companies sent employees home and hastily cobbled together plans to keep their businesses running in this new normal, many organizations struggled to maintain their cultures. Thanks to Chief Human Resources Officer Susan Lindquist, BCS Financial didn’t face this issue.
Lindquist led a team called the Employee Safety, Engagement, and Resilience taskforce, which quickly developed a strategy to support employee health and well-being, keep employees engaged while working remotely, and enable them to remain productive. To keep the culture strong, employees posted photos of their home office setups, shared tips for working in their home environments, and participated in virtual networking lunches and happy hours.
Lindquist spent much of 2020 working on other culture-enhancing activities, including coordination of the BCS Culture Team and establishing flexible work policies. The recipient of the Culture Czar honor in our 2020 Top Women in HR Awards also overhauled the company’s benefits and supported the transition of an incoming CEO.
Freedom Financial Network
From customer experience to employee experience, our Leader honoree has guided FFN’s evolution
Linda Luman developed a training program that resulted in a dramatic improvement in her company’s Net Promoter Score.
Most Human Resources leaders concentrate their efforts internally. As vital as her employee-focused work has been, Linda Luman has also taken big steps to ensure employees delivered a great customer experience; she developed a training program as part of her role leading HR and training at Freedom Financial Network. The training contributed to a 21-point improvement in the company’s Net Promoter Score (NPS).
That effort didn’t detract for employee-centric innovations like a leadership development program that included a rotating community and culture leadership position, a networking/mentoring program for military employees, as well as LGBTQ Pride and African American/Black employee resource groups.
Like most of her peers, Luman was also confronted with the COVID-19 pandemic, transitioning 2,400 employees to remote work in just three weeks. She is also active outside of work as a member of the board of directors for Career Connectors, the Phoenix non-profit organization that connects professionals in transition with hiring companies and quality resources. Luman exemplifies leadership, earning her the Leader honor in our 2020 Top Women in HR Awards.
Baldwin & Shell Construction Company
HR culture czar brings leading-edge policies to construction company
Parental leave, summer hours among changes that build culture at Baldwin & Shell.
Arkansas Business named the construction company Baldwin & Shell a Best Place to Work in Arkansas, a rare feat for an industry frequently mired in the 20th century when it comes to policies. A lot of the credit for that achievement belongs to Amanda Mack, the company’s director of Human Resources.
Among the advances Mack brought to the company in 2019 alone was a parental leave policy that includes time off for men welcoming new family members. She also implemented a “Dress for Your Day” dress code, eliminating a business-casual requirement after research revealed people are more productive when they’re comfortable.
Mack also brought “summer hours” to the company, providing flexibility to employees. She also boosted participation in “Bring Your Child to Work Day;” with 42 children of employees participating in the “Future Builders” program. And in a 10-week internship program she developed, college students fulfilled full-time responsibilities, experienced a mid-cycle review, and then presented their project and ideas to senior leadership. Mack exemplifies the Leader honor she has earned in Ragan’s 2020 Top Women in HR Awards.
Silfex, a Division of Lam Research Corporation
This Dynamic Do-er connected with employees at all levels before implementing processes
Stephanie Parks-Gale met with employees and immersed herself in the business, clarifying the kinds of HR programs that would make a difference.
When Stephanie Parks-Gale joined Silfex as human resources director in 2018, she did not immediately begin introducing new programs. First, she spent time meeting with many of the company’s 800 employees and collecting feedback from all disciplines and all levels. She learned the external environment, which enabled her to choose the activities she would undertake to make the biggest impact.
Much of the work she embarked on after connecting with the team happened in the last year – and it was a lot. She moved to promote an “all in it together” culture that resulted in updates to incentive structures, PTO programs and policies that were inclusive of all Silfex employees. In addition, the grand opening of a new facility in Springfield, Ohio, required hiring 300 employees.
As for the pandemic, she helped direct the company’s prioritization of employee work environment protocols. Among her contributions: Bonuses to essential employees to help them through the challenges of the pandemic, programs that support business continuity, provisions for onsite employees and increased support to our communities. She is a dedicated Dynamic Do-er, the honor she has received in the 2020 Top Women in HR Awards
When COVID-19 struck, Vonage’s chief human resources officer sprang into action
With all offices closed, Leader honoree Sue Quackenbush ensured employees would be safe, productive, and committed to organizational goals.
Sue Quackenbush has been honored as a Leader in our 2020 Top Women in HR Awards based on her decisive and effective actions in the face of the Coronavirus pandemic.
As Vonage’s Chief Human Resources Officer, Quackenbush sprang into action in early February by coordinating communication to staff about the virus and its potential impact on work. Soon after, she worked to align offices with bi-weekly Q&A sessions with the company’s top leadership.
After offices closed on March 13, she ensured a smooth transition to remote work in a matter of days, taking advantage of existing collaboration tools. She helped maintain morale through continued all-hands video Q&A sessions, health tips, safety messages, and the creation of a Relief Fund to help employees with expenses during the crisis.
Quackenbush led the creation of a Remote-Employees Workplace Group where employees could connect and share best practices on the remote work experience. She also set the stage for a safe return to the workplace.
Amelia Ransom’s work has appeared in multiple top-tier business publications
Sought-after engagement and diversity expert has been a Dynamic Do-er for Avalara.
Avalara, the tax compliance software company, better understands the needs of under-represented employee groups thanks to the efforts of Amelia Ransom, the company’s senior director of diversity and engagement. In the last year, she established five employee resource groups, leading to a more inclusive company. She has also created opportunities for members of underrepresented groups to attend technology conferences that celebrate diversity.
When COVID-19 struck, Ransom was integral to the development of the company’s response, surveying employees for feedback about the effectiveness of the resources and initiatives Avalara put in place. She used the feedback to deliver new programs, policy changes and adjustments to communication.
Ransom has shared her wisdom with the Harvard Business Review, FastCompany, Entrepreneur (which named her one of the 10 most powerful woman leaders in HR), and others. She spoke at the 2020 Women in Tech conference.
Her focus this year has been on pay equity for marginalized populations. She also serves on several local boards, making Ramsom an obvious choice as a Dynamic Do-er in our 2020 Top Women in HR Awards.
Care, concern and creativity, are at the heart of Barbara Repandis’s work as Kelley Kronenberg’s Chief Human Resources Officer
From building engagement and employee growth programs during a pandemic to keep people connected from home, to bridging the professional development gap between associates and partners, Repandis is a true Innovator and Bridge Builder.
Repandis’ s success is built in large part on efforts to create and maintain effective personal and professional connections. This year’s engagement survey for the law firm Kelley Kronenberg featured the highest score in the company’s 40-year history, with more than 60% of employees actively engaged, double the national average. This was true despite the fact that over 95% of its staff were operating out of remote environments and rarely saw each other. The efforts of Chief Human Resources Officer Barbara Repandis have led to the firm being honored and recognized as a “Best Workplace” and receiving several local and national awards.
For Barbara, engagement and growth begin from the first day an employee walks on the job. Having created the firms first comprehensive multi-day onboarding process, she ensures that employees don’t just get trained on policy, procedure and tools, but that they also get immersed in the 40+ years of history and family at Kelley Kronenberg. Through this program, every employee is exposed to the firm’s broad range of community involvement, professional and personal committees and unique opportunities to engage with their colleagues and management. From a book club to an established wellness program promoting physical and mental health, Barbara has created traditional as well as new and innovative programs that allow every employee to find a reason to get involved with colleagues. From it’s launch, new hires to the firm have recognized that the comprehensive onboarding program created by Barbara is above and beyond anything they have seen at prior jobs, and that they made a great career choice in joining Kelley Kronenberg.
Her efforts to build employee loyalty start at onboarding and are immediately recognized in the work she has done to create the firm’s first formal training and employee development program. Ongoing training in technology, management practices, leadership and personal growth form the basis for a broad range of opportunities for employees to grow both professionally and personally. To provide and extend new career development opportunities for employees, she created the Practice Group Partner program, a formal title and position in the firm that serves as a steppingstone for fast moving attorneys to be developed into firm partners. This program has been instrumental in not only providing employee growth, but also in bridging the gap between associate attorneys and partners. Through this program, Barbara ensures that once an attorney has become a partner of the firm’s, they have already received extensive exposure, formal training and development in everything from leadership to client servicing and business development.
Her tireless work and direct involvement has ensured that the firm maintains its culture and productivity during the pandemic and are equally impressive. Repandis’ efforts were instrumental in maintaining the safety and well being of every employee at the firm during the pandemic, but also ensuring that each of the almost 400 employees throughout the state knew they could contact her directly for any of their needs. These efforts were a major factor that led to record productivity at Kelley Kronenberg during a difficult year for many other companies and law firms throughout the country. In addition, during this time the firm’s headcount increased, employee turnover decreased and Barbara successfully created the firm’s first Diversity and Inclusion program.
These significant accomplishments are among the many that have resulted Ragan naming Barbara a Bridge Builder in our 2020 Top Women in HR Awards.
Truckstop.com experiences massive engagement uptick thanks to chief people and culture officer
Honored as a Culture Czar, Victoria Roberts has earned the respect of employees at all levels.
Outside of her work as Chief People and Culture Officer for Truckstop.com, Victoria Roberts co-authored a book, “Do Big Things: The Simple Steps Teams Can Take to Mobilize Hearts and Minds, and Make an Epic Impact.” She has followed her own advice on the job, where her efforts have led to an increase in engagement from 64% to 90% in 2019 and achieved a consecutive 90% favorability score in 2020. Due to Covid-19, over 500 partners transitioned to a 100% digital workforce within one week. Pulse surveys reveal that 90% of Truckstop.com’s partners felt connected and productive in their new remote work environment.
The nomination for the Culture Czar honor in our 2020 Top Women in HR Awards was comprised mainly of testimonials from a diverse set of Truckstop.com employees. A product program manager, for example, said they had never in 35 years seen an individual who was able to turn a culture as quickly as Roberts has.
A data science director noted that they would not be the leader they are today without Roberts’s help. A product solutions director said her actions “demonstrate the deep, ingrained love that she has for everyone around her.” And the senior director of People Operations said Roberts “has a true desire and drive to connect with every partner.”
SMUD HR director tackled a diverse set of activities, including COVID-19 response
Laurie Rodriguez epitomizes the Dynamic D-oer award with improvements to everything from onsite medical services to the company’s childcare site.
Dynamic Do-ers get things done. As SMUD’s Director of Human Resources, Diversity & Inclusion, Laurie delicately balanced business and employee needs during what was an unprecedented year.
HRD&I, under Laurie’s leadership, developed comprehensive paid leave programs to support our employees, including those without work and those with childcare responsibilities at home during the COVID-19 pandemic. While more than 1,300 employees transitioned to remote work overnight, HRD&I built the “HR Help Center” to answer questions and process leave requests.
For example, she introduced a new medical services provider within a matter of weeks and secured a new child development center site – along with a multi-employer agreement – to replace a childcare site, showcasing her collaboration skills by bringing stakeholders together to reach an agreement despite complex political and legal issues.
Rodriguez also introduced the “Speed of Trust” framework for executives and leadership, managing culture surveys and focus groups as part of the process.
She also excelled at her D&I responsibilities, realigning HR units to better serve the interests of SMUD and employees.
Improved recruitment, enhanced benefits, and leadership training among HR officer’s latest contributions to Renown Health
As COVID-19 struck, Leader honoree Michelle Sanchez-Bickley chaired a team that maintained remote employment for 730 employees.
It’s a safe bet that when the CEO of a company nominates his Chief Human Resources Officer for recognition, it means she has performed at stratospheric levels.
Michelle Sanchez-Bickley, an 18-year Renown Health veteran, has driven a wide range of improvements. President and CEO Anthony Slonim was mightily impressed by her work on recruiting; she implemented a chatbot to make it easier to connect qualified candidates to the recruitment team. She also established a new-hire pipeline with nursing assistant apprenticeship program.
One way to entice new employees is with benefits and Sanchez-Bickley has identified multiple unique enhancements, including on-site career and rewards counseling sessions. She also drove improvements to the employee assistance program.
Sanchez-Bickley is a mentor to her employees, each of whom has been promoted during their tenure.
When COVID-19 presented new challenges to Renown, Sanchez-Bickley chaired a team that enabled 730 employees to continue working remotely, raising employee satisfaction. For these and other achievements, Sanchez-Bickley is named a Leader in our 2020 Top Women in HR Awards.
Lisa Scheck brought her technology background to Citizens’ human resources team
By understanding employees’ needs, this Technology Whiz honoree has been able to introduce solutions that drive change and engagement.
The Shared Services function exists at the intersection of business and technology, consolidating business operations and centralizing back-office processes used by multiple divisions of the same company.
Lisa Scheck heads up HR Shared Services at Citizens, where she has been able to bring a technology background to her HR role. One example: She introduced an electronic document signature system that reduced processing time from 3-5 days down to mere seconds. She also rolled out a new payroll system in 2018. But her work isn’t limited to introducing technology. She also pushes the bank’s vendors to be more digitally enabled. She also led the re-engineering of the bank’s leave-of-absence process.
Scheck has played a role in helping Citizens weather COVID-19 by ensuring critical information was available via digital self-service resources. The Technology Whiz honoree in our 2020 Top Women in HR Awards also ensured back-office employees had a pre-screening health check, a technology solution piloted in only 48 hours.
From artificial intelligence to collaborative learning, Yvette Vargas is driving Citizens’ development program into the future
The Leader honoree has advocated for an inclusive culture has led initiatives that diversified the workforce.
Yvette Vargas is driving Citizens’ development program. As Head of Development at Citizens, she has been concentrating on building employee capabilities that will keep the business thriving.
Some of Vargas’ forward-looking contributions are technology-based, like the AI career coach that uses employee input to assess skill levels and recommend new roles and development opportunities. The bank will use the tool for hiring, performance management, promotion decisions and more.
Her collaborative style led to a new academy for collaborative learning to accelerate talent development. She also introduced Development Weeks, which take their cue from retail pop-up shops. Participants develop and build capabilities for career and work transformation.
An advocate for an inclusive culture, Vargas has led initiatives that increase the bank’s diversity. For example, she introduced talent reskilling so employees can leapfrog the routine career path to achieve greater parity. Vargas has received recognition as an honoree in the Leader category of Ragan’s 2020 Top Women in HR Awards.
Her leadership may be quiet, but her impact is felt among both employees and clients
Lisa Vasquez-Fedrizzi embodies what it means to lead HR for an organization and to champion HR among clients.
Cheer Partners, an employee experience agency, is a small group, which means Lisa Vasquez-Fedrizzi – Managing Director, People + Action – leads HR and does much of the work, like payroll and billing. Yet her work developing the agency’s award-winning culture (it has been named a Best Place to Work) has also contributed to Cheer Partners’ success.
Among her approaches to HR is investing her time and her 20 years of experience helping new associates learn their craft. She introduced a “Teach Me, Teach You” initiative, with each employee teaching a colleague something new.
But Vasquez-Fedrizzi is not just internally focused. Detecting a lack of learning and development functions among the agency’s smaller clients, she developed a practice that resulted in a burgeoning new line of business.
With the COVID-19 pandemic, Vasquez-Fedrizzi has volunteered to host resume workshops and has been integral in drafting rehire documents, contracts, and handbook updates. Her efforts have earned her the Leader honor in our 2020 Top Women in PR Awards.
Responsible for both HR and Communications, Leader honoree has managed multiple major changes
Several changes occurred in just the last year, providing an opportunity to deliver big on transformational initiatives.
For Sherry Vidal-Brown, human resources and communication are inextricably linked; she is the top officer for both at G6, the company behind 1,400 Motel 6 and Studio 6 properties. Imagine the challenge of managing both HR and communication with employees so far-flung.
In the last year, though, Vidal-Brown has reinforced her reputation for navigating change. Among those for which she was responsible for were supporting talent changes with alignment around expanded brand strategy. During 2020, she led talent and communication initiatives to support strategic growth while operating in a pandemic environment, and a continued eye and focus on corporate social responsibility efforts.
In the last year, she also continued work on a multi-year human capital management cloud implementation, including the communication plan to proactively address barriers the company might encounter with the new platform.
Throughout the health crisis, she has led her team’s efforts to help educate, communicate and support team members with various new procedures and protocols. Ragan recognizes Vidal-Brown as a Leader honoree in our 2020 Top Women in HR Awards.
Charissa Wagner’s culture work has been recognized by top business press
The Culture Czar honoree rose through the ranks by concentrating on empowering employees to bring their best selves to work each day.
If you define “culture” as “the way things are done around here,” Charissa Wagner has had a monumental impact on the culture of leading homebuilder Taylor Morrison. Wagner rose through the ranks, assuming the role of Senior VP of Talent Operations and Development last fall, putting her in charge of People Services.
Wagner’s passion lies in making Taylor Morrison the kind of company where employees can bring their best selves to work each day. She has succeeded to the point that Taylor Morrison appeared twice on Glassdoor’s Employees’ Choice Best Places to Work list – the only homebuilder on the list.
She played a pivotal role in the company’s employee value proposition, which has been a guiding force behind company actions and decisions.
Wagner’s work in diversity and inclusion has landed the company on Bloomberg’s 2020 Gender Equality Index. Half of Taylor Morrison’s staff is female, astounding in the construction industry. Ragan is honored to designate Wagner a Culture Czar in this year’s Top Women in HR Awards.
Longtime HR and communications Leader introduced COVID-19 health and safety guidelines for plant workers
Companywide digital communication system ensured consistent delivery of information from the HR team.
There are multiple views about whether internal communications should report through HR. Brenda Wilson’s success makes a strong case, having managed both for 25 years for manufacturing company Inteplast. Over that period, she has rolled out new initiatives, handled mergers and acquisitions, and overseen benefits improvements, and led the overhaul of the company’s self-service app.
Working with plant managers as COVID-19 began taking its toll, Wilson rolled out detailed guidelines to protect the safety and health of the production staff of Inteplast, which employs more than 5,400 people. Concurrently, she employed the company’s digital communication system – a 100-screen digital signage network – with content (accommodating multiple languages) from HR covering health care, virus testing, and best practices for social distancing in manufacturing facilities.
Wilson had experience with these kinds of crisis situations, ensuring colleagues hard-hit by Hurricane Harvey had supplies they needed and enabling them to recover from the crisis. Ragan recognizes Wilson as an honoree in the Leader category of Ragan’s 2020 Top Women in PR Awards.
Truckstop.com employee shares person tale of Coach award winner’s coaching style
Elisha Wirth’s personality breaks down barriers in sensitive conversations.
The role of an organizational effectiveness director – the job Elisha Wirth has at Truckstop.com – includes a certain amount of counseling; she helps employees achieve their best performance by helping them through whatever challenges they may be facing.
One employee – an associate product manager – approached Elisha when they sought perspective and guidance during a particularly low period in their employment. “Her objective became clear to me immediately,” the employee wrote; “she wanted to coach me through my situation. She heard me, she challenged me, she communicated the value I bring and shared her belief in me; she often believed in me when I did not believe in myself.”
The employee appreciated the questions Wirth asked that created an opportunity for self-discovery and a way forward. “She was ready to listen and hear. She granted me permission to make mistakes. She cheered me on.” Ragan recognizes these qualities are characteristic of the Coach honor in our 2020 Top Women in HR Awards.
CoralTree Hospitality Group
Julie Wooten brings 30 years of experience and a passion for HR to her leadership role
The Leader Honoree has earned praise from leaders throughout CoralTree Hospitality Group.
CoralTree Hospitality Group is less than two years old but its vice president of People Services has already made an indelible mark on the hotel and resort management company’s effectiveness.
In the 18 months since the group’s founding, Julie has established and grown a workplace culture and a process for talent development supporting the organization’s growth strategy. During that short time, she has implemented a performance management system, established a diversity-and-inclusion mindset, and promoted organizational development. Wooten has also led talent acquisition while building engagement and promoting retention.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, she has played a vital role in helping employees and leaders navigate the uncertainty, change and transition for thousands of associates.
CoralTree’s president has praised Wooten, noting that she “has helped us build a culture that employs empowered and prepared team members; she applies our core values to deliver results for those we serve and has enabled us to build an extraordinary organization together.”
Ragan is honoring Wooten as a Leader in our 2020 Top Women in HR Awards.
Agnieszka Zieminska Yank
Employee experience at heart of HR strategy for Leader honoree
APCO’s chief talent officer also set her sights on a data-driven focus on engagement, learning and development, and diversity and inclusion.
Agnieszka Zieminska Yank leads a global team and oversees APCO’s talent strategy based on her decade of HR management experience. Her contributions to the organization have earned her a seat at the company’s global leadership table.
Zieminska Yank streamlined the agency’s performance management system to align with their business objectives, bringing greater equity to the process and ensuring employees embraced the agency’s values in their work. She launched quarterly coaching conversations and frequent check-ins, introducing a suite of tools and resources to help managers.
Zieminska Yank brought a data-driven focus to the company’s learning and development function. Using the company’s engagement survey as a guide, she led the development of the Emerging Leaders Institute to guide mid-level employees on defined career paths. And under her guidance, APCO advanced its D&I efforts and improved retention of diverse talent in the region. For this and more, Ragan honors Agnieszka Zieminska Yank with a Leader of the Year Award.