Agents of Change

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.
By: | June 7, 2018 • 3 min read
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.

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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 percent.)

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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 of HRE.

Read these stories about the 2017 HR’s Rising Stars:

Meet HP’s Executive-Compensation Expert

Margarita Blanco helps executives understand why working at HP Inc. is a good deal for them.

Government Engagement: Getting Employees to Stay

Catherine Burns is committed to demonstrating the power of HR within Baltimore’s city government.

From the Navy to Amazon, Primed for Success

Amazon’s Ebony Johnson tirelessly advocates for both front-line employees and bottom-line success.

Taking HR Leadership to the Skies

HR programs at Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority  have taken flight largely thanks to Tanisha Lewis.

The Key to Tackling Turnover and Terminations 

Jasmine Viera is using a proactive, well-rounded strategy to improve Crawford & Co.’s HR capabilities.

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