Two decades ago when the first Optimas Award winners were named, human resources professionals largely operated within a corporate straitjacket of policies and rules. Few employees worked at a computer or communicated by e-mail. The term “outsourcing” wasn’t part of the vocabulary, and the cell phone was all but a curiosity the size of a brick.
The magazine was then called Personnel Journal.
Over the years, HR has undergone seismic changes. Dave Ulrich, HR guru and professor of business administration at the University of Michigan, says the most significant change in HR since the early 1990s has been the shift from focusing on administrative policy to aligning compensation, employee communication, recruitment and training with business strategy.
“The expectations on HR professionals have gone up dramatically,” Urlich says. Today, large companies are concerned with “competing in emerging markets, managing innovation, creating transformation of culture, bonding with key customers” and motivating employees to contribute to the organization rather than just go through the motions.
Those are the concerns of all 10 of this year’s Optimas winners whether in Bangalore, India, or Birmingham, Alabama. All have earned distinction because of their ability to tackle challenges with flexibility and ingenuity. There are two overarching themes among the winners in this volatile global economy: how to do more with less and how to find, develop and retain talent.
Since 1991, Workforce Management has given out 199 Optimas Awards. That list includes AT&T, which won the General Excellence Award in 1994 just before a major reorganization virtually transformed the organization into a new company (See "Where the Winners Are Now," September 2010, p. 30). Other previous winners include Hewlett-Packard Co., FedEx Corp. and Google Inc.
Several government agencies also were clear standouts in managing people, including the National Imagery and Mapping Agency (now known as the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency) and last year’s winner for General Excellence, the U.S. Navy. The Navy won again this year in the Service category for its Navy for Moms program.
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. Tata Consultancy Services won the award for its ability to recruit and train a huge number of employees and align its strategy with ever-changing business demands.
The Competitive Advantage award is given to the organization that has developed a program to help forge or maintain a winning edge over the competition. Infosys Technologies won the award for meeting a daunting recruitment goal—making 19,000 job offers in 19 weeks to students at top engineering schools in 19 states throughout India.
The Financial Impact award is given to the organization that has designed a program to produce changes that result in cost savings or increased revenue. Ultimate Software won the award for its internship program that helped it attract top talent, increase revenue and reduce turnover costs.
The Global Outlook award is given to the company that has created a program or strategy to help the organization succeed in the world marketplace. IBM Corp. won the award for its career development and learning initiative that reaches employees in most of the 170 countries where the company operates.
The Innovation award is given to the organization that has developed an innovative workforce management strategy that addresses a fundamental business issue. GameStop Inc. won the award for its original approach to teaching its workforce about the importance of selecting medical benefits.
The Managing Change award is given to the organization that has successfully developed a program in response to the changing business environment. OppenheimerFunds Inc. won for swiftly responding to the economic downturn, restoring customer confidence and increasing employee skills with a new corporate model.
The Partnership award is given to the company whose workforce management leadership has developed a program with another party, either within the organization or outside of it. Protective Life Corp. won the award for working with Virgin HealthMiles to create an engaging wellness strategy for Protective Life’s employees.
The Service award is given to the organization whose workforce management leaders have created an initiative to help another constituency within the organization meet its business goals. The U.S. Navy won for an outreach program to mothers to help recruiters meet their enlistment goals.
The Vision award is given to the organization that has anticipated internal and/or external trends that will affect the organization and has responded proactively. Planned Cos. won the award for its commitment to career training in a high-turnover industry.
The Corporate Citizenship award is given to the organization whose corporate citizenship programs are linked to its employee recruiting, retention and engagement goals. Microsoft Corp. won the award for exposing senior leadership to other cultures and instilling a deeper commitment to corporate citizenship.
Workforce Management, December 2010, p. 18-28 -- Subscribe Now!