CHRO Champions

Our annual awards celebrate and recognize the many successes of leading HR executives.
By Belinda Sharr
Chief human resource officers are responsible for the most valuable asset to a company: its people. CHROs have a challenging task as they take on multiple important roles in the workplace. They are successful workforce strategists who manage talent, oversee management policies, ensure compliance and best practices, and advise the C-Suite on procedure and everything related to HR.HRO Today magazine recognizes all of the skills required for CHROs to drive workforce initiatives in their organizations by inspiring others and leading them to success. They are responsible for a company’s talent and performance, moving both business and the bottom line forward in an ever-changing market. The role of the CHRO continues to evolve to meet the constant human capital needs of organizations in all industries.

To recognize CHROs and all of the important goals they achieve, HRO Today presents the annual CHRO of the Year Awards at the HRO Today Awards Gala during the HRO Today Forum. The awards are presented in four categories: For Profit; Non-Profit; Sustainable Workforce; and Lifetime Achievement. These CHROs are responsible for providing leadership to ensure talent acquisition, retention, business growth, and a culture that can lead in a global workforce.

Nominees were evaluated based on the scope of their impact on their organization or community, the extent to which the nominees drove these initiatives, and the individual reputational or professional risk taken by each nominee. We are proud to announce the winners for 2016.

CHRO of the Year Award, For Profit: Laurie Dalton, gategroup North America

In determining the winner of the CHRO of the Year For Profit award, judges considered the leadership skills of CHROs and evaluated the innovations driving their organizations’ transformative HR initiatives. The latter extends to such key HR responsibilities as talent acquisition and retention, the development of a workforce culture, and business growth from effective talent deployment and expense management. This year’s for profit winner is Laurie Dalton, CHRO of gategroup North America.

Gategroup recently decided to try a new and innovative approach to closely involve business leaders instead of having the approach be HR-centric, and to brand it internally and externally as “People First.”

Dalton spearheaded the initiative and championed it with the CEO. He brought in and helped engage remaining senior leadership while Dalton held monthly calls in which each leader owned a functional part of HR.

They developed three pillars to guarantee leadership excellence:

1. Aligned goals: an objective evaluation of goal achievement in the performance management system for everyone based on key performance indicators;

2. Aligned behavior: ensure employees get a consistent experience with leaders by adopting certain standard behaviors;

3. Aligned processes: identify what people-related processes will be consistent throughout the company.

People First is helping to drive HR’s impact and position it as a business partner. “I believe HR has a very important and positive impact. We are a people-intensive business, employing over 10,000 people in our US business alone. We have a strong and visible commitment to put ‘People First.’ As a function, we are involved in business decisions, and our performance as a business partner is critical to our ultimate success,” Dalton says.

Dalton believes that HR will shape the lives of individuals and executives in such a way that businesses and people are happier, healthier, and more productive than ever before.

“Our greatest accomplishment can be clearly and convincingly connecting people to business results such that there is no debate as to the ROI of great practices and investments in people. We have the power to achieve so much,” she says. “The function continues to evolve as businesses strive to grow and expand. The challenges push us to not just adapt but to evolve to a higher level of thinking and doing.”

She looks ahead to technology to drive the business forward in the future. “The technological advances in the space of HR are especially exciting. The future holds so much possibility for real time, data-driven people decisions using these advances. Feedback is critical to continuous improvement, and our industry has struggled to advance this area in a meaningful way” Dalton says. “I love to think about the power we have to really make a difference in not only business but in the lives of the people we employ and in the lives of the people we serve.”

CHRO of the Year Award, Non-Profit: Tim Mulligan, San Diego Zoo

In determining the winner of the CHRO of the Year Non- Profit award, judges considered the leadership skills of CHROs and evaluated the innovations driving their organizations’ transformative HR initiatives, like talent acquisition and retention, workforce culture development, and business growth from effective talent deployment and expense management. This year’s winner for nonprofit is Tim Mulligan, CHRO of the San Diego Zoo.

When Mulligan joined San Diego Zoo Global more than 10 years ago, he had a vision of empowerment for an already extremely visible organization. As the zoo leads the world in conservation education, Mulligan saw an opportunity to expand its educational model and focus on internal leadership-building, which would inevitably spread out into the community. From that goal stemmed a training program, “Zoo U,” which consists of over a dozen varied offerings for zoo employees to develop their careers including forums, a college relations program, an internal animal keeper development program, an internal management placement program, an online course creation and utilization tool, and field-related education.

To supplement the zoo’s summer staffing strategy, Mulligan created the Zoo U’s Passport to the Future College Relations Program, which brings in college students who are studying the industry as summer employees. Since its inception in 2008, the program has seen many interns successfully graduate from the program.

Through these programs, Mulligan has solidified HR’s position as an innovative partner for all business leaders and executives. “At San Diego Zoo Global, the vision of the human resources department is that we aspire to become a benchmark for excellence in all areas of human resources, emphasizing strategic and progressive human resources practices; customer-focused, efficient, and high quality service; and continuous professional growth and development for our employees,” Mulligan says. “In other words, we want to be a strong, positive, and innovative partner for each and every department, manager, and employee, there for everyone in our organization for assistance and strategic partnership on anything.”

According to his staff, Mulligan has proven time and time again that he is dedicated to providing education, as it is the foundation on which employees will grow as individuals and as ambassadors for wildlife conservation and education. Mulligan’s innovative programs encourage staff to increase their own value as well as the value of the work they do within the organization and around the world, inspiring local and global communities to end extinction and learn about the natural environment.

HR’s greatest aspect, according to Mulligan, is its remarkable resilience. “HR’s greatest accomplishment as an industry lies in resilience, helping our employees to thrive in disruptive times, respond and react accordingly to all scenarios and situations, and ensure our employees our healthy, productive, engaged, and happy,” he says. “If that is the case in an organization, then the sky is the limit in terms of financial success, innovations in the workplace, and incredibly levels of engagement, discretionary effort, and productivity.”

CHRO of the Year Award, Sustainable Workforce: Pat Wadors, LinkedIn

In determining the winner of the Sustainable Workforce of the Year Award, judges considered several dimensions of the candidates’ performance, including the scope of the workforce’s impact on the community, measurable excellence in citizenship initiatives, and overall workplace innovation. This year’s winner is Pat Wadors, CHRO and senior vice president of the global talent organization at LinkedIn.

Wadors championed three large initiatives in 2015: a focused effort on diversity and inclusion; implementation of LinkedIn’s three-year journey map and employee value proposition; and the first ever HR Hackathon. Through her efforts, she has had an incredibly positive impact on LinkedIn and the broader HR community, according to her colleagues.

A 30-year HR veteran, Wadors has been a driving force behind LinkedIn’s HR transformational efforts. Since becoming CHRO three years ago, she has helped to build a world-class HR organization. Her outstanding leadership and ongoing efforts in raising awareness and driving workforce initiatives are paying off. She has never been one to shy away from large, complex challenges.

“We help build a high-performing healthy, company that scales, focusing on a healthy engaged culture where our employees can transform self, company, and the world,” Wadors says.

Wadors has taken on the diversity and inclusion effort at LinkedIn. By identifying and rapidly spreading inclusion practices that work, LinkedIn experienced the following results: Overall female representation went up 3 percent year-over-year with females representing 43 percent of LinkedIn’s total global workforce; and female leadership (director and above) went up 5 percent year-over-year with female leaders representing 30 percent of LinkedIn’s total global workforce.

By creating a three-year journey map, Wadors and her team achieved some of the most successful stretches of recruiting in LinkedIn’s history. The company reported an increase in candidate response rate, the highest conversion rate of applicants, and a key level for driving efficiency and reducing hours.

Wadors has started a worldwide phenomenon with the idea behind a HR Hackathon -tackling non-technical problems in a crowd-sourced way. She is now planning to co-sponsor HR Hackathons for interns in other parts of the world, including India and China, to help solve real world challenges through the brightest young minds on campus.

HR has a large impact at LinkedIn, and the company has received many accolades. “We were voted People’s Choice of 2016 as reported by Glassdoor, and our engagement scores are in the top third percentile of the world, according to our Sirota benchmark survey,” reports Wadors.

CHRO of the Year Award, Lifetime Achievement Award: Kimberly Hauer, Caterpillar

In determining the winner of the CHRO of the Year Award Lifetime Achievement Award, judges considered several dimensions of the candidates’ performance, including their efforts throughout their entire career. This year’s winner is Kimberly Hauer, vice president and CHRO of Caterpillar.

Hauer has been with Caterpillar for nearly 20 years. Her focus is on making Caterpillar an employer of choice around the world. Over the last two years, she has led the development of a robust enterprise people strategy. The vision of this strategy is to build the team that builds a better world, driving an enterprise focus on people throughout the employment lifecycle. The strategy, which impacts the company’s global workforce of approximately 100,000 people, includes four key priorities: best HR, people value and commitment, cultural stewardship, and connected.

“We recently launched our enterprise people strategy at Caterpillar and the vision was clear, as HR professionals, ‘We Build the Team that Builds a Better World,'” Hauer says. “One of the greatest opportunities on the horizon is our ability to leverage people data and draw tangible, rich insights about the experiences they’re having to make more meaningful and lasting change that not only impacts their work experience, but results in stronger business performance. Utilizing talent analytics throughout the employment life cycle provides new perspective across all the functional areas of the HR discipline, driving greater understanding of the value we are providing and allowing us to adapt more readily to changing needs of our employees and our customers.”

Hauer is personally committed to developing deep HR expertise and representing Caterpillar as a member of the board of directors for the HR Policy Association. She has recently joined with leaders in 20 other large U.S. employers to form the Health Transformation Alliance (HTA), a non-profit cooperative dedicated to improving the way employers provide healthcare benefits in an effort to create better healthcare outcomes.

HR makes a significant impact at Caterpillar, Hauer reports. “Human resources is a strategic function that has long left behind the days of ‘personnel,'” she says. “We have a strategic seat at the table with our business leaders. The skills and abilities we bring to that table, the products and processes we design serve as a sustainable, competitive advantage for Caterpillar and as enablers for the success of our global team.”

Under Hauer’s leadership, the company has received many recognitions over the last year. Some include the 2016 Military Friendly Employer by Victory Media, a Best Companies for Leaders by Chief Executive Magazine, and a Top 10 Companies for Employee Resource Groups lists by Diversity Inc.

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