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2006 Optimas Awards Winners

January 9, 2006
Related Topics: Featured Article, Optimas
F or 16 years, the Optimas Awards have recognized workforce management initiatives that directly improve business results. While many of the qualities involved in creating excellent and profitable organizations don’t vary, each year’s winners do reflect the changing business environment.

    In the early ’90s, human resources shed its administrative straitjacket. In the dot-com era, innovation reigned, and companies showered employees with unprecedented perks. In the crash that followed, the winning organizations showed a resolve and a determination to do more with less.

    Now, as the global economy changes dramatically, a different theme is emerging. In nearly every category this year, the winning organizations’ entries centered on talent. How to find it—sometimes in dizzying numbers. How to bring people into an organization quickly. How to maximize their abilities. How to steep them in a company’s culture. How to retain the best people in the face of ever-increasing competition.

    It’s our pleasure to honor the achievements of the 2006 Optimas Award winners, and to share them with you.

Santa Clara, California

The General Excellence award is given to the organization whose workforce management initiatives have met the standards established for at least six of the other nine categories.

The winner is Intel. The 91,000-employee semiconductor giant--the world's largest silicon chip maker--is pre-eminent in several workforce management practices, from training high-performance leaders to internal and external education to developing innovative cross-cultural management programs that are flexible and country-specific.

Randstad North America ,

The organization has developed a program to help forge or maintain a winning edge over the organization's competitors.

The winner is Randstad North America, which instituted a process to more quickly and effectively bring new hires up to speed, allowing them to reach full productivity sooner. In the first six months of 2005, for example, the company, which employs 2,300 people, realized $4.1 million in sales revenue that directly resulted from its onboarding program.

JM Smucker Co. ,
Orrville, Ohio

The organization has developed well-defined ethical practices that are deeply ingrained in the culture and are clearly visible in the organization’s day-to-day behavior.

The winner is the J.M. Smucker Co., which won for its overarching concern with ethical practices that extend well beyond legal compliance and include internal as well as external matters. Ethics awareness initiatives include discussion of specific ethical dilemmas such as how to separate right from right, right from wrong, truth from loyalty, justice from mercy. In keeping with its commitment to hiring employees with a strong personal value system, the ethics program begins with ethical questions and materials during the hiring process, and is updated annually. Each year, every one of the company's 3,800 employees--from forklift driver to CEO--is required to re-sign the firm's ethics policy. New hires receive a full day of ethics training.

EmployBridge, Atlanta

The organization has designed a program to effect a change that results in cost savings or increased revenue.

The winner is EmployBridge, which fought back against a sluggish business environment by developing the capabilities of its 678 regular staff members to deliver greater value for clients. The results can be seen in the greater company revenue and profit, as well as decreased turnover and increased productivity.

Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu , London

The company has created a program or strategy to help the organization succeed in the world marketplace.

The winner is professional services company Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, which developed a global recruitment Web site that has proved critical to aligning the firm’s overall recruitment strategy with the organization’s business strategy. The site-development strategy addressed the extremely challenging recruiting and staffing needs of Deloitte’s member firms, which employ 115,000 people worldwide and were facing difficulties meeting their hiring needs, thereby compromising the future growth of the business.

Valero Energy Corp. ,
San Antonio

The organization has developed an innovative workforce management strategy that addresses a fundamental business issue. The innovation marks a departure for the winning company and often for the field of workforce management.

The winner is Valero Energy Corp., which created a unique, cost-effective staffing program aligned to business objectives to deal with a new global direction and massive, unrelenting growth. About two years ago, workforce management executives at the 22,000-person company built and implemented the industry's first labor supply chain designed to provide "global labor-on-demand" precisely attuned to the company's business strategy and based on metrics that measure cost, speed, quality and dependability. Through the creative hiring of temporary labor, contractors and college interns, the company has increased its staffing levels by 320 percent per month; its 2004 recruiting efficiency index was an industry record.

Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp.
, Washington, D.C.

The organization has successfully developed a program in response to the changing business environment.

The winner is the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp., which had to rally and diversify its workforce to meet extraordinary operational, financial and policy challenges beyond the agency’s control. (Claims rose from $2.8 billion in 2000 to $9 billion in 2004.) The 845-person agency responded by retaining seasoned employees to maintain continuity while hiring new highly qualified employees who were equally capable of handling the tasks at hand.

City of Scottsdale ,

The workforce management leadership has developed or implemented a program in partnership with another constituency, either within the organization or outside of it.

The winner is the city of Scottsdale, Arizona, which faced the business challenge of establishing its own municipal fire department under a tight 18-month timeline. The city, which employs 2,668 people, created a Fire Transition Team, composed of representatives of key city departments, which worked with a number of partners to create the fire department, a charge that included the hiring of 255 fire personnel. The partners included Scottsdale’s citizenry, the City Council, personnel from neighboring municipal fire departments, the local union and the firefighter candidates themselves.

Infosys Technologies ,

Workforce management leaders have developed a program to help another constituency within the organization meet its business goals.

The winner is Infosys Technologies, whose headcount has increased by 28,000 in the last five years and whose average employee age is 26. The 34,000-person company, based in Bangalore, works to keep its employees engaged and enthusiastic in the demanding 24/7 work environment necessary to serve a global clientele. The company also faces competitors who want to hire away the fresh-from-college employees Infosys has wooed and trained. To meet those challenges, Infosys has developed a wide variety of programs to foster an environment that mimics the best aspects of university life, without forgoing the professionalism that a workplace requires. The programs have made a significant contribution to reducing turnover, and Infosys is regarded in India as a top employer of choice.

UnitedHealth Group
, Minnetonka, Minnesota

The organization has anticipated internal and/or external trends that will affect the organization and it has responded proactively.

The winner is UnitedHealth Group, a 40,000-employee diversified health care company whose recruitment services group has developed a business model to manage both internal and external recruiting processes in order to accommodate the company’s unique hiring needs. UnitedHealth Group projects that it will hire 17,000 employees in 2006.


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