Ever Upward

Like in past HR’s Rising Stars contests, there were a slew of sound nominations for 2016. But also in keeping with past competitions, this year’s candidates who floated to the top had healthy and wide-ranging backgrounds – in many cases, in non-HR fields – to augment their leadership strength and approaches to challenges.

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Of the five 2016 winners – Christopher Boucher, director of human resources for the Port of Oakland in Oakland, Calif.; Catherine Decker, director of human resources for Minneapolis-based Outsell; Jonathan Flickinger, director of human resources for Morgantown, W.Va.-based Swanson Industries; Megan Leasher, director of talent assessment and measurement for Cincinnati-based Macy’s Inc.; and Thomas Olenchock, chief, Future Force Project for the U.S. Coast Guard in Washington – the majority, in particular (and in keeping with an overriding HR trend we’ve been noticing), share a heavy reliance on data and a scientific/analytical approach to their profession. Some even hail from scientific backgrounds.

Leasher even describes herself as a “scientist-practitioner” who uses metrics to foresee the future. Her function within the company, she says, often requires her to apply psychological principles and cold, hard data in equal parts to develop the talent and assessment strategies, tools and processes for her organization.

Olenchock’s rich background, which includes marine and environmental science, chemistry, industrial and organizational psychology, and workforce analytics, is the foundation beneath his approach to HR as a critical and systemic thinker.

Boucher, while serving as the port’s chief labor relations officer, worked with a team of corporate outsiders on a data-driven approach to inter-space bargaining, an academic-sounding term coined by Harvard University to describe situations in which both sides focus on their shared stake in an entity’s success.

These backgrounds and approaches that hark back to science and rely more and more heavily on data clearly seem to represent the direction in which tomorrow’s HR leaders are headed – something this issue’s cover story underscores as well. It’s no surprise that those with the experience and propensity in this arena will excel at what they do.

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Judges for the contest include Charlie Tharp, chief executive officer for the Center on Executive Compensation, a division of the HR Policy Association, 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 International’s Dallas offices; and Kristen B. Frasch, managing editor of Human Resource Executive® magazine. For stories on past winners and access to next year’s nomination form, visit HRExecutive.com™’s HR’s Rising Stars page.

Read these stories about the 2016 HR’s Rising Stars:

Domino Effect

The Port of Oakland’s Christopher Boucher improves HR operations at all levels – air, land and sea.

Driven and Determined

Catherine Decker is building a progressive HR environment that contributes to Outsell’s innovative culture and growth.

Full-Contact HR

Armed with a law degree and a background rich with unique work experiences, Jonathan Flickinger brings a multidisciplinary approach to the HR profession.

Part Psychologist, Part Scientist

Megan Leasher combines psychology with cold, hard data to shape up and standardize talent and assessment processes at Macy’s Inc.

The Systemic Unifier

From revamping the Coast Guard’s payroll to working toward an agency-wide HR governance center, Thomas Olenchock approaches everything he does systemically.