|If you were to just list the names of the nine winners of the 2009 Optimas Awards, it would be hard to see what they have in common. The U.S. Navy is charged with winning wars, warding off aggression and preserving freedom of the seas. Bright Horizons Family Solutions cares for kids while parents work. DaVita delivers dialysis services. Gensler designs buildings.
But these diverse organizations—and all the winners—do have a strong and admirable connection: Each has developed exceptional workforce initiatives in response to the organization’s business needs, issues or challenges. Each one shows that the organization with the best workforce wins.
It’s one of the great platitudes of the business world: “People are our most important resource.”
As the recession has shown, it’s not so easy to put those words into practice. That’s why it’s a particular pleasure to present the 19th annual Optimas Awards to nine organizations that are investing in their people while serving the needs of the business. That’s a strategy that will pay off—no matter what the economy brings.
One note: There is no 2009 winner in the Ethical Practice category. The judges determined that none of this year’s entries was Optimas caliber. The category, which was instituted in the post-Enron era, has had a hard time attracting entrants. We know there are exemplary companies out there, and we encourage them to apply in 2010, as we do all organizations that want to be celebrated for their workforce management achievements. See 2010 competition details here.
U.S. Navy, Washington, D.C.
The U.S. Navy has instituted a number of workforce policies responsive to sailors who want more control over their careers. Just as employers in the private sector are discovering, the Navy understands that the new generation of workers is demanding greater flexibility and more opportunities for education and career development. Task Force Life/Work is a program designed to help sailors attain more balance between their professional and personal responsibilities. As a result, the Navy has made improvements to maternity benefits, parental leave and flexible work options. The Navy also offers tuition assistance, significantly boosting the number of sailors who obtain associate and bachelor’s degrees and other educational credentials while serving. “The leadership to the very top of the Navy realizes that we’re in a war for talent,” says Vice Adm. Mark Ferguson III, chief of naval personnel and deputy chief of naval operations. “We recruit a sailor, but we retain a family.” For the totality of its workforce initiatives, the U.S. Navy is the winner of the 2009 Optimas Award for General Excellence.
The Denver-based dialysis provider had a major problem: its recruiting function, which DaVita managers ranked in 2006 as one of the bottom-five departments out of 70 corporate functions. Later that year, it launched an “extreme recruiting makeover,” with new software, a relaunched career site and a reorganized recruiting function with separate teams targeting corporate positions, managers at clinics and clinical staff including nurses. And it began collecting more data on time to hire, cost of hire and quality of hire. The changes were tough, but took hold. For curing an ailing recruiting function and making it a healthy foundation for business success, DaVita earns the 2009 Optimas Award for Competitive Advantage.
Discovery Communications, Silver Spring, Maryland
While many employers provide on-site health and wellness clinics, Discovery Communications has gone a step further than most. In addition to a primary care clinic open to employees and dependents and staffed with a full-time doctor, a nurse practitioner and two medical assistants, the company offers free ergonomics counseling and behavioral health counseling. A dietitian helps people eat better. Free massages and yoga classes are also popular amenities. All of these services are free to employees.For astutely managing its health care costs and promoting the long-term cost benefits of healthier employees, Discovery Communications is the winner of the 2009 Optimas Award for Financial Impact.
Raytheon Professional Services, Garland, Texas
Raytheon Professional Services recognized that it had to address the training needs of a new and rapidly expanding international client base. It already had a broad and deep array of training tools, processes and technologies that had served it well. And so rather than abandoning those resources and starting over again, the company chose to globalize and localize its training resources, adapting them to the expanding international market. For leveraging its extensive learning content to meet its clients’ global cultural and linguistic training needs, Raytheon Professional Services wins the 2009 Optimas Award for Global Outlook.
Gensler, San Francisco
The global architecture, design, planning and strategic consulting firm competes in a fiercely competitive, knowledge-based marketplace in which new opportunities arise and game-changing trends and technologies emerge at mind-boggling speed. And it’s no easy task to rapidly develop new competencies and disseminate knowledge evenly throughout a 44-year-old company that handles 3,600 projects a year and has 2,100 professional employees scattered among 32 offices around the world. Gensler rolled out its firmwide Talent Development Studio three years ago to improve on the decentralized, mentoring-oriented methods of developing design talent the company had long relied on. For a unique talent development initiative that positions the company for success in an evolving industry, Gensler is the winner of the 2009 Optimas Award for Managing Change.
Public Service Enterprise Group, Newark, New Jersey
Six years ago, the $28 billion energy and energy services company in New Jersey confronted a staffing cliff: More than 25 percent of its employees were within five to seven years of retirement, and the pipeline of new replacement workers was echoingly empty. PSEG’s solution was to partner with local community colleges and high schools to establish a program of in-class instruction, internships and on-the-job training in utility work. PSEG’s once-empty pipeline is now full. For innovative collaboration to address a potentially critical workforce shortage, PSEG earns the 2009 Optimas Award for Partnership.
Missouri Department of Transportation, Jefferson City, Missouri
When a three-year roads project had to be done in two, the Missouri Department of Transportation’s HR leadership decided that the best way to meet that goal was to increase productivity by reducing sick-leave absences. The agency’s HR staff set about measuring leave usage, educating employees and supervisors and tracking results. The results speak for themselves. In fiscal 2009, sick-leave usage in the department decreased by 25,621 hours from the previous year. For developing a pragmatic initiative that helped the state stay on the road to its transportation goals, the Missouri Department of Transportation is the winner of the 2009 Optimas Award for Service.
Several years ago, Sodexo’s 120,000-employee North American division looked at growth goals through 2015 and saw potential talent trouble ahead—it had ambitious plans to expand in areas where it faced a weak pool of talent. To best attract, develop and retain employees, it decided to target various age groups differently. Its recruiters tweet on Twitter, interact with candidates on Facebook and maintain a careers blog. In addition, Sodexo has sought out military veterans, in part through a project to translate military experience and skills into civilian competencies. And it has reached out to older workers partly through its Alumni Reconnexions program. For creating a comprehensive program to connect to workers of multiple generations, Sodexo wins the 2009 Optimas Award for vision.