Senior HR leaders share the best practices that helped earn them a spot on the HR100.
By Debbie Bolla
The challenges HR teams had to face in 2022 seem endless. A labor shortage. The Great Resignation. Evolving hybrid work models. Quiet quitting. The skills gap. Employee burnout. It was critical time for HR to rise to the occasion and many teams did just that—overcoming never-ending obstacles with innovative workforce plans and strategies. Many of those fearless teams were recognized on HRO Today’s HR100, an annual ranking of HR departments in eight areas: workplace culture, employee benefits, diversity and inclusion, employee development and talent management, human resources innovation, leadership development, talent acquisition, and employer brand. Performance in these core categories is aggregated, forming an index that provides a reasonable score for overall HR excellence.
After another tumultuous year of uncertainty and change, being named a top HR team may be more impactful than ever.
“The recognition afforded by HRO Today and being placed within the top 50 is a thrill for the Ally team—it’s a testament to all Ally’s HR professionals who live our ‘do it right’ ethos each day,” says Kathie Patterson, CHRO of the organization. “Supporting our teammates during the moments that matter most to them and helping take the burden of uncertain times off their shoulders as much as possible is our goal—to always be an ally to our teammates.”
That allyship shines through in a number of 2022 initiatives, including the organization’s efforts to raise the minimum wage; expand mental health and medical coverage benefits; and create a more human-centric experience that develops employees throughout their careers.
Ann Addison, corporate vice president and chief human resources officer for Northrop Grumman, attributes this recognition due to the HR team’s keen focus on finding and retaining the best talent. “This acknowledgement from HRO Today is a testament to our company’s commitment to engaging, developing, promoting, retaining, and empowering our people,” she says. “We are grateful that Northrop Grumman is often recognized for strong leadership and career development.” She says at the core of the organization is a sense of mission, integrity, and customer focus, all of which is driven by a strong company culture where employees feel a sense of belong and are enabled to reach their full potential.
From achieving pay equity to helping in-need colleagues through an emergency relief fund, 3M strives to support employees from every aspect. “This recognition is a testament to the incredible dedication by 3M’s global human resources team,” says Zoe Dickson, executive vice president and chief human resources officer. “Looking back at 2022, we have a lot to be proud of. We advanced our social justice priorities, including achieving pay equity in all our geographies. We put our new ‘Work Your Way’ program into practice for thousands of 3Mers around the world to support their well-being. We responded at times of crisis including establishing an emergency relief fund to support our colleagues. And we launched a new enterprise learning ecosystem to help our people learn and grow at 3M.”
At AT&T, the HR team helps grow the business with innovative approaches to company culture, talent attraction, career development, and benefits that support the total well-being of employees.
“I’m excited to see AT&T’s HR organization included among HRO Today’s HR100! I’m so proud of our HR team’s dedication to engaging, inspiring and supporting our employees while driving impacts to the business,” says Angela Santone, SEVP, HR for the organization. “I’m excited for the future as AT&T’s HR organization continues to help employees achieve their personal and professional aspirations with world-class offerings and programs that connect our people to greater possibility.”
Executive Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer for SAS Jenn Mann says it has been a critical time to have a nimble workforce strategy in order to quickly adapt to market changes. “Over the past few years, we’ve experienced one of the most dynamic markets we’ve ever seen, from The Great Resignation to quiet quitting to hiring slowdowns,” she says. “On top of this, we’ve had to think through how to address hybrid work and meet the ever-evolving needs of our candidates and employees through the employee experience.”
Data has helped informed many of SAS’s decisions when it comes to the employee experience, benefits offerings, learning and development opportunities, and flexible work strategies. “We turn to the data to hear from employees about what’s working and what isn’t and how we can best support them,” she says.
Some of these data- and feedback-driven priorities include the following.
- Redesigning leadership and development programs with new offerings, based on employee survey feedback.
- Embracing a hybrid work model, which consists of two to three days a week in the office, with one companywide shared day when the majority of the workforce is in the office for collaboration and connection.
- Reevaluating a total rewards package, including compensation and well-being initiatives.
- Providing programs and engagement opportunities that that create an equitable and meaningful employee experience.
Marriott International is also focused on the employee experience and leveraging the strength of its workforce. “At Marriott International, our associates form the foundation of our success and play a vital role in fulfilling our purpose of connecting people through the power of travel,” says Ty Breland, EVP and chief HR officer of the organization. “As an HR team, it is our responsibility to grow leadership at all levels, attract and cultivate top talent, and ensure our company culture thrives.”
To reach these goals, the HR team has created several programs with the employee at the center.
- Leadership development: through sponsorship and career growth opportunities.
- Access to opportunities: recruiting and hiring from diverse talent pools, offering more flexibility and choice in the workplace, and fostering a sense of belonging.
- A focus on the whole employee: supporting physical, financial, and mental well-being.
The mental health component has been a major priority for Brent Hyder and the HR team at Salesforce. “Within our own workforce, employees are reporting mental health challenges more than ever before, especially around the start of the pandemic,” says the president and chief people officer for the organization. “It’s something we take very seriously.”
Salesforce’s HR team has rolled out a multi-pronged support system to help employees manage their stress and mental well-being. Employees have access to complimentary therapy, coaching, and interactive workshops; receive paid time off, volunteer time off, and a variety of leaves; and get stress management reimbursements for things like gym memberships and massages.
Forward-thinking HR teams put people at the heart of everything they do. “Our extraordinary global HR team leads the way to ensure that every moment matters for our people – from the big experiences like onboarding and promotions, to the everyday interactions that show how much we care,” says Ellyn Shook, chief leadership and human resources officer of Accenture. “We start by asking a simple question: ‘Are our people net better off working here?’”
Shook says the answers to this question help guide initiatives to make sure employees are connected and have a sense of belonging as well as feel physically, emotionally, and financially fit. “This mindset has transformed our ability to access talent, create talent, and unlock the potential of our people – which ultimately drives business growth and accelerates change in our communities,” she says.
At Jacobs, a global solutions company with more than 60,000 employees, its employee value proposition, “A world where you can” is about inspiring, enabling, and empowering the workforce says Chief People Officer Shelie Gustafson. She explains that this is being achieved through several HR strategies, including:
- a goal of inclusion and diversity with a gender balance of 40% female and 40% male and 20% flexible;
- fostering learning every day through the leadership development and culture alignment program focused on inspiration, inclusion, and innovation; and
- a “CEO Roundtable” that is delivered quarterly to help its 7,400 people leaders achieve business success.
For the HR team at Target, their HR strategy is centered around ensuring all team members are fulfilled professionally by working at the retailer. “We serve with care, a growth mindset, and a deep understanding that the most important investments we make are in the team that delivers joy to our guests and communities, every single day,” says Melissa Kremer, executive vice president and chief human resources officer for the organization.
In 2022, Target made several people investments, including:
- a commitment to a new starting wage range between $15 and $24 per hour, positioning them as a wage leader;
- expansion of access to comprehensive healthcare benefits to more hourly team members, in addition to reducing waiting periods for enrollment; and
- completion of the first year of “Dream to Be,” Target’s tuition-free degree program, which helps reduces barriers to education.
Making an impactful DEI approach, one that fosters inclusivity, was a main goal of the HR team at Booz Allen Hamilton who supports more than 31,000 employees. “Our refreshed DEI strategy and action plan enables us to lead by example, empowering employee potential, inspiring belonging, and using our voice,” explains Betty Thompson, executive vice president and chief people officer for the organization. “In 2022, we provided access to our signature “Unstoppable” programming to advance equity both inside and outside the firm. We launched our quarterly DEI magazine, a podcast, and hosted a weeklong virtual summit to share DEI content from our team to our employees and external experts.”
Importance of Company Culture
One common denominator among many of these initiatives is the end goal of building an inclusive company culture. “Our goal is to help employees find their joy,” says Hyder. “One way we do this is through benefits, but that’s just one part of the equation. It’s also about culture and creating empowered employee experiences where people can do meaningful work, build trusted relationships with each other, and find purpose and belonging.”
Because leading organizations understand that today’s employees want something much more than just a job.” We want to set the example for workplace culture and to do that we will continue to transform data into intelligence, not only for our customers but for ourselves to give our employees a rewarding, meaningful, and equitable experience,” says Mann.
For Walmart, inclusive initiatives align with their culture of belonging. “In 2022, the team created new ways of working for campus office associates, rolled out new family building benefits, continued to improve our diversity representation and transparency, supported frontline associate growth by offering new college programs and certificates at no cost through our ‘Live Better U Program,’ and strived to cultivate a culture of belonging for all,” explains Donna Morris, chief people officer of Walmart.
By holding people accountable and supporting employees in every life stage, AbbVie is building an inclusive workplace. “We are driving our high-performance culture by building our expectations into every HR process,” says Tim Richmond, EVP and CHRO for the organization. “Our culture combined with a focus on high value offerings for employees sets us apart. The result of this successful HR team is high employee engagement, strong leaders, and an inclusive workplace for all employees.”
Cardinal Health says they differentiates themselves from competitors through their strong culture. “Known as a champion for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I), we’re dedicated to creating an inclusive work environment where all employees can thrive and feel empowered to bring 100% of themselves to work,” says Ola Snow CHRO for the organization. “We know that when we have diverse voices at the table, we make better business decisions.”
The Cigna Group is focusing on building a culture that can retain the talent needed today as well tomorrow. “This is a transformative time to be an HR professional, and at The Cigna Group, there is nothing more critical to our success than our employees,” says Cindy Ryan, executive vice president and chief HR officer for the organization. “Our work supports an experience in which our employees feel supported by leaders, motivated by growth opportunities, and connected with each other.”