The 2018 HR’s Rising Stars have tackled some
tough HR and business challenges head-on and, in
the process, earned the respect of their colleagues.
Agents of Change
As we’ve come to expect, this year’s pool of HR’s Rising Stars nominations included many strong contenders from a wide spectrum of industries and HR disciplines. But at the end of the day, when the judging was finished, five individuals (all, notably, women) stood out from the pack. All of the 2018 winners—Margarita Blanco, director of executive compensation at HP Inc.; Catherine Burns, HR business partner in the Department of General Services for the City of Baltimore; Ebony Johnson, senior HR manager at Amazon; Tanisha Lewis; manager of organization development at the Metropolitan Washington Airports
Authority; and Jasmine Viera, HR director at Crawford & Co.—share a passion for
the work they do and a firm grasp of the way that work connects to the needs and
objectives of their respective organizations. As the profiles on the following pages
also demonstrate, they each are having a meaningful impact on their employers in
very different ways.
Blanco leads HP Inc.’s efforts to attract and retain talented executives by shaping
its executive-compensation strategy to ensure it’s competitive with the company’s
industry peers. Serving as the company’s executive-comp expert, she’s kept a close
eye on market trends and advises managers on how to leverage these programs to
keep employees productive and engaged.
Since joining the City of Baltimore’s Department of General Services as an intern
in 2008, Burns spearheaded a number of initiatives aimed at improving employee
engagement and, in turn, markedly reduced the organization’s employee turnover.
Part of that process included the introduction of a stay-interview process that allows
managers to make adjustments to training initiatives and job assignments, and
improve the office’s culture.
Joining Amazon as a part of the company’s HR leadership-development program
in 2007, Johnson has worked in pretty much every HR function. In the process, she’s
earned the full trust of her supervisor and others, leading to key project assignments
that involve the company’s Connections feedback system and, more recently, the
identification of Amazon’s much-discussed second corporate headquarters.
Lewis took the lead last year in Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority’s
move from an outdated HCM system—which was 13 years old, with poor user
interfaces and challenging data-collection capabilities—to Workday’s latest platform,
taking meaningful steps to get people to accept the change.
In 2016, about a year into her job at Crawford & Co., Viera and her team took aim
at the company’s turnover, which was especially high for new hires in its business
division. Together, they developed a behavioral-based interview guide and training
for 130 managers, and revamped the company’s exit-interviewing process. (Within a
year, the turnover rate in the business division decreased from 14. 2 percent to 11. 2
HRE names up to five Rising Stars each year to recognize executives near the top
of their organization’s HR function who have demonstrated leadership, the ability
to successfully launch significant HR initiatives and the ability to tackle major HR-related challenges.
Judges for the contest include Charlie Tharp, executive vice president of the
HR Policy Association, senior advisor of research and practice for its Center on
Executive Compensation and former senior vice president of human resources
for Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.; Michele Darling, president of Michele Darling and
Associates in Mississauga, Ontario, and former executive vice president of corporate
governance and human resources for Prudential Insurance Co.; Gregory Hessel,
senior client partner with the human resources practice and managing director of
global client development at Korn Ferry’s Dallas offices; and David Shadovitz, editor