Leading For The Future

We recognize 20 CHROs for their pursuit to align HR strategy to business outcomes.

Debbie Bolla

For our third annual CHRO of the Year awards, HRO Today recognizes those CHROs with the capabilities to adapt to a competitive business environment in order to deliver the insight needed for HR transformation. We understand the importance of CHROs who drive workforce initiatives through innovation with measurable excellence in employee engagement and the retention to prove it.

We have 20 finalists selected from a roundup of incredible nominees. These CHROs are responsible for providing leadership to ensure talent acquisition and retention, business growth, and a culture that can lead in a global workforce.

There are four categories for the CHRO of the Year awards: For Profit, Not For Profit, Sustainable Workforce, and Lifetime Achievement. The CHRO of the Year finalists will be evaluated across three dimensions to determine the winners:

• The scope of the nominee’s impact on his or her organization/community

• The extent to which the nominee drove this initiative

• The individual reputational or professional risk taken by the nominee

Here’s some insight into the nominees. They are listed in alphabetical order by category.


Lisa_CaldwellLisa Jeffries Caldwell
Executive Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer
Reynolds American (RAI)

Lisa Jeffries Caldwell is responsible for ensuring RAI is an employer of choice with a high performing talent base. She oversees organizational effectiveness, rewards, talent management, employment law, workplace practices, employer brand marketing, and HR service solutions. She joined the organization in 1991 as a manager of employment practices and rose quickly through various management positions.


Caldwell’s vision of aligning talent strategies with business strategies and treating employees like consumers has allowed RAI to attract and retain high-performing and highly engaged employees. The numbers reflect the successful HR transformation. Employee engagement has grown steadily over the past several years, rising to the top 10th percentile of companies in the 2015 survey.

Lainie-Cooney-250x250Lainie Cooney
Chief Human Resources Officer
DPI Specialty Foods Inc.

As Chief Human Resources Officer, Lainie Cooney leads the development and execution of the human resources strategy while overseeing a staff of 20. Since joining the firm, she has transformed HR’s response from reactive to a proactive business solutions environment. Cooney has more than 20 years of global business and human resources experience.


When Cooney joined the organization, legacy systems were disparate, causing frustration among employees, which led to turnover and disengagement. HR incorporated a new single application, cloud-based HCM system that empowers employees with easy access to benefits information, timesheets, and pay statements.

Laurie-Dalton-250x250Laurie Dalton
Chief Human Resources Officer
gategroup North America

Laurie Dalton is a values-based leader who strives to put people first while aligning business strategy with human resources strategy. As Chief Human Resources Officer, she has achieved significant cost savings by leveraging shared services functions, business process outsourcing, and automation. She began her nine-year tenure at gategroup as vice president, global compensation, benefits, HRIS, then took on the role of vice president, human resources, North America.


To build a healthy organizational culture that fosters leadership, Dalton spearheared the “People First” initiative.The program is built on three pillars: aligned goals to track achievement based on KPIs; aligned behavior to ensure a consistent experience through standard behaviors; and aligned processes to streamline people-related processes. The consistency driven by People First has increased efficiency for HR and has improved levels of employee engagement.

HeerdtKari Heerdt
Chief People Officer
MSC Industrial Supply Co.

In her role of Chief People Officer for MSC, Kari Heerdt has a keen focus on attracting and retaining top talent. She has shown leadership in modernizing MSC’s HCM technology and delivery model by making the business case for SaaS-based technology solutions. With more than 20 years of global HR experience, Heerdt has held senior leadership positions at Aon, Grifols, and Mervyns.


Recently in a move to enhance the healthcare experience for employees and significantly reduce the benefit administrative burden for MSC, Heerdt selected a private exchange model for the organization at no additional cost to MSC. As a result, more employees took control of their healthcare benefits by enrolling online, selecting from a new pool of providers and plan designs, and making more changes in insurance plans than anticipated.

milsteinJed Milstein
Executive Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer

As Executive Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer for Americold, Jed Milstein is the driving force behind HR and talent management initiatives. Along with his team, he works through the process until an ultimate goal is achieved – and then he continues to innovate. His career has spanned nearly 20 years in the field of human resources.


Milstein’s focus on strategic talent acquisition and talent management has been a key contributor to Americold becoming the leading cold chain logistics solutions provider in the world. With a strong understanding of the importance of leadership and development programs, Milstein has implemented initiatives to support the growth of Americold’s associates. And by deploying improved sourcing, selection, and development strategies for Americold’s front line associates in its distribution centers, turnover has reduced by more than 20 percent in 73 of its 135 U.S.-based locations.

Kevin-Pennington-150x150Kevin Pennington
Chief Human Resources Officer

With more than 20 years’ experience in the field of HR, Kevin Pennington is a hands-on leader with the drive needed to achieve business results. In his role at Fiserv, he leads a global community of more than 21,000 professionals. He has also held senior leadership positions at Verizon, Mercy Health Systems, and Rogers Communications.


Within the last three years, Pennington has spearheaded transformation in several areas of HR, including benefits, health and wellness, leadership training, and talent development. His efforts have increased employee engagement levels from 55 percent in 2013 to 69 percent in 2015.


Rudy_Campoya-150x150Rudy Campoya
Chief Human Resources Officer
Socorro Independent School District

Since 1990, Rudy Campoya has worked in human resources overseeing payroll and information services for the Socorro Independent School District. He has more than 24 years of experience in HR management and leadership. Campoya has a bachelor’s degree in information systems and a master’s degree in management/leadership.


By moving to a paperless process for the interviewing and staffing of 6,200 employees, Campoya reduced costs while increasing overall efficiency for the school district. He is also implementing a new clinic for all district employees, which is slated to incur additional savings.

FriendDane Friend
Chief Human Resources Officer, Vice President of Human Resources
Baylor College of Medicine

Dane Friend is currently Vice President and CHRO at Baylor College of Medicine. Friend, who has been with Baylor since 1999, is responsible for all HR functions for the college and represents the institution in employment law matters.


Under Friend’s leadership, HR launched a comprehensive wellness program branded as BCM BEWell. Within three years, nearly half the organization is active in the wellness program. Its success earned BCM the recognition of Houston’s healthiest employer with 5,000 plus employees by Houston Business Journal. BCM was also named the 29th healthiest employer in the nation.

TimHeadshot300-250x250Tim Mulligan
Chief Human Resources Officer
San Diego Zoo Global

As Chief Human Resources Officer, Tim Mulligan manages a staff of more than 18 employees who fulfill employment needs for the organization, develop benefits packages for its nearly 3,000 employees, and handle organizational and strategic challenges that occur in a large, diverse workplace. He frequently speaks at national conferences, including SHRM.


Mulligan sought to expand San Diego Zoo’s educational model and focus on internal leadership building through the training program, Zoo U. Since its implementation, scores on the employee engagement survey around opportunities for growth, training, and development have increased.

Linda_NelsonLinda Nelson
Associate Vice President, Human Resources
Georgia State University

With more than 21 years of human resources administration and diversity experience, Linda Nelson is responsible for the University’s overall human resources administration as well as its goals toward talent management and affirmative action. She works very closely with the University System of Georgia – Board of Regents and has been with Georgia State University for over 18 years.


Nelson led an HR transformation process through an HR bootcamp. The initiative now allows HR staff to make more strategic decisions around talent acquisition strategies that acquire the talent needed; performance management processes that engage and retain top talent; and organizational and employee development.

Audrey-LuvenAudrey Van Luven
Chief Human Resources Officer
Christiana Care Health System

Audrey Van Luven is responsible for creating the people platform that enables Christiana Care Health System to achieve its goals. As a strategic thinker, she has created a culture of ongoing performance improvement focused on attracting, growing, and retaining the talent required for healthcare delivery now as well as in the future. She has more than 25 years of human resource experience and has held roles at Christiana Care since 1988.


Van Luven’s leadership around employing veterans has made a significant impact. Through her efforts, Christiana Care has been able to employ more than 30 veterans each year for the last two years. This helped earn Christiana Care the first Warrior Friendly Workplace Award in 2015.


M-Crosby-low-res-150x150Michelle Crosby
Executive Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer
FRHI Hotels & Resorts (Fairmont Hotels)

With more than 25 years of experience, Michelle Crosby has full responsibility for FRHI’s human resources function globally, including corporate staffing, compensation, benefits, internal communications, talent management, and learning. Prior to joining FRHI, she held senior human resources positions at Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide and Aon Consulting.


Under Crosby’s leadership, FRHI experienced a major restructuring by moving three brands into a hybrid matrix structure. This resulted in increased growth and performance excellence of employees and satisfaction of guests. In fact, JD Power guest satisfaction scores increased significantly year over year, earning FRHI the prestigious JD Power President’s Award for customer excellence in January 2016.

Rebecca_Holland_sm-150x150Rebecca Holland New
Chief Human Resources Officer and Executive Vice President of Corporate Communications, Dpx Holdings and Patheon

Rebecca Holland New has a wealth of experience leading and developing business leadership, strategies, and operational processes within growing global healthcare organizations. Before joining Dpx Holdings, she held the same position at Patheon, Inc. Prior to that, she was Global Vice President of Human Resources at Bausch & Lomb.


Holland New tackled HR head-on by building strategy around a talent platform for nearly 8,700 employees that includes development, retention, succession, training, and pay for performance. Training was implemented to enable employees to identify process improvements. Compensation and rewards were aligned to what matters most.

Kristen-Robinson-Headshot-150x150Kristen Robinson
Chief Human Resources Officer

Kristen Robinson leads the human resources organization for Pandora and is committed to developing an incredible culture where people thrive and generate lasting business success. Prior to Pandora, she led Yahoo!’s global HR centers of excellence and developed global teams for Hewlett-Packard and Agilent Technologies.


Robinson spearheaded the effort to build a Pandora-specific practice called Growth & Development for performance reviews. Rather than being based on ratings, rankings, and algorithmic ties to compensation, the model is based on conversations. Participation rates show success: 70 percent of employees have completed the entire year in review process and also received feedback from their next-level manager.

Pat-Wadors-250x250Pat Wadors
Chief Human Resources Office and Senior Vice President

In addition to hiring, retaining, and inspiring top talent, Pat Wadors is responsible for all employee-related HR programs at LinkedIn, including compensation and benefits and performance management. She has held previous senior leadership roles at Plantronics, Yahoo!, and Twitter.


Wadors has a keen focus on diversity and inclusion at LinkedIn. By identifying and rapidly spreading inclusion practices that work, the organization has experienced impressive results. Females now represent 43 percent of the total global workforce and 30 percent are in leadership positions.


Larry-CostelloLarry Costello
Executive Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer

In his current role, Larry Costello drives the strategic human resources agenda and is responsible for developing a high performing team and function with the right cost, delivery, and experience model. He also focuses on business areas that require improvement in order for Tyco to achieve its growth plan.


Costello has led and cultivated several initiatives that support enterprise culture change, including One Tyco, a strategy that has driven collaboration and enterprise thinking across Tyco’s global operations, processes, and procedures by leveraging the organization’s core values: integrity, excellence, teamwork, and accountability. In addition to facilitating culture change, Costello’s broader talent system has helped to embed best practices, contribute to strong operational improvements, and enable accelerated business growth and innovation.

Mark-Gasta-250x250Mark Gasta
Executive Vice President and Chief People Officer
Vail Resorts

Mark Gasta joined Vail Resorts in 2008 as Senior Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer. But in two short years, his ideas, innovation, and execution catapulted him to the position of Executive Vice President and Chief People Officer, leading more than 200 HR professionals and 25,000 employees. Gasta’s organizational goal of creating “an experience of a lifetime” for employees encourages them to provide exceptional service to guests.


Since joining the company, Gasta has led more than 100 initiatives that have transformed talent management and acquisition, total rewards, and HR operations. His commitment to providing an exceptional experience to employees contributed to the launch of the EpicPromise Foundation, which delivers grants to employees in two key areas: educational dreams and lending a hand. His vision and leadership has helped Vail Resorts be recognized as One Of The World’s 50 Most Innovative Companies by Fast Company in 2016.

Hauer-150x150Kimberly Hauer
Vice President and Chief HR Officer
Caterpillar Inc.

Kim Hauer leads a global team of HR professionals with facilities and organizations spread throughout Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Asia and the Americas. All of her initiatives focus on ensuring Caterpillar is viewed as an employer of choice. Joining Caterpillar in 1997, she has advanced through numerous positions with increasing responsibilities in the areas of human resources, labor relations, and succession planning.


Recognizing the critical role leaders play in the success of an organization, Hauer executed a leadership development program (LEAD) to help grow the skills of Caterpillar’s 100,000 employees. The results? In the past two years, Caterpillar leaders have embraced LEAD with well over 30,000 completed courses.

Little-e1458239168920-150x150Brian Little
Head of Human Resources
Zurich, North America

As Head of Human Resources for Zurich, North America, Brian Little is responsible for creating a culture where employees can perform at their best in order to deliver exemplary service. Before joining Zurich, Little was Vice President of Human Resources for MegaK, LLC and senior vice president of HR for HSBC.


Little understands that people deliver results and is committed to helping them be their best. He believes that high performing employees are the result of exceptional managers and created a world-class manager initiative that focused on improving the managerial skills of Zurich managers in North America. Parts of his initiative’s methodology have since been applied to a new structured program launched in 2015 to train 10,000 Zurich managers globally on what it takes to be a key influencer of Zurich’s culture and employee engagement.

Matthew-Owenby-250x250Matthew Owenby
Senior Vice President, Chief Human Resources Officer

Throughout his storied career leading HR at global organizations, Matthew Owenby understands the value of strong leadership and engaged employees. That’s why he has taken great strides in creating initiatives that facilitate professional and personal development for Aflac’s more than 9,000 employees. Prior to Aflac, he held HR positions at Bank of America and General Electric.


In order to improve the way employees are coached, trained, and developed into leaders, Owenby created the Career Success Center (CSC) and it’s working. In 2015, an average of 68 employees per month visited the CSC, which is double the average amount in 2014. What’s more impressive, 34 percent of those employees participating in CSC sessions in 2015 received promotions.

Tags: April-2016

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