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Lewis took the lead last year in Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority’s move from an outdated HCM system—which was 13 years old, with poor user interfaces and challenging data-collection capabilities—to Workday’s latest platform, taking meaningful steps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 percent.)