Gherson Accepts HR Exec of the Year Award in Boston

IBM's Diane Gherson accepted the honor at a special awards dinner in Boston.
By: | October 19, 2018 • 3 min read
Topics: Awards | HR Leadership
HR Executive of the Year Diane Gherson (center) stands with her team at IBM during the awards dinner in Boston.

Human Resource Executive®, the leading HR business magazine, named Diane Gherson, senior vice president of human resources at IBM, its 2018 HR Executive of the Year.

In addition, the magazine named to its 2018 HR Honor Roll David Almeda, chief people officer at Kronos Inc.; Kevin Silva, executive vice president and CHRO at Voya Financial; Dave Kozel, executive vice president and CHRO at PVH Corp.; and Gale King, executive vice president and chief HR and chief administrative officer at Nationwide.

“The HR Executive of the Year award recognizes human resource leaders who have made outstanding contributions to their organizations and who exemplify the increasingly strategic role of HR in business today,” said David Shadovitz, editor and co-publisher of Human Resource Executive®.

In a speech at a special awards dinner in the Trustee Ballroom at Boston University, Gherson noted that her predecessor, HR icon Randy MacDonald–who died in 2016–accepted the same award 10 years ago.


“He taught us something really important: You need to keep learning and innovating every single day,” she said. “And if you don’t, you don’t earn yourself a place at the table.”

(IBM CEO Ginni Rometty was unable to attend the dinner in person, but appeared in a prerecorded video to praise Gherson’s work for the company.)

Since taking the HR helm of IBM in 2013, Gherson and her team have played a crucial role in helping the company position itself for success in emerging areas like AI, blockchain and the cloud. They have led a dramatic restructuring of processes such as performance management and learning to help IBM become nimble and forward-thinking, while helping employees master new and better ways of working.

Meanwhile, the company’s talent-management practices reflect her forward-thinking approach. In an era when companies try to outbid each other over tech talent with gold-plated pedigrees, Gherson has led IBM in the other direction, seeking out people from nontraditional backgrounds who demonstrate the potential to master valuable technical skills and helping them grow.

Noting that the HR Executive of the Year award was marking its 30th anniversary this year, Gherson said attendees might want to “reflect on how lucky we are to be the generation that is reinventing HR.”

“This is our moment,” she added.

The four executives named to the 2018 HR Honor Roll were recognized for the following contributions and achievements, just to name a few:

King, who became Nationwide’s CHRO in 2009, has been instrumental in ensuring the company maintains its strong culture of valuing people and diversity and inclusion by ensuring that employees are engaged in their current roles and are able to contribute and fulfill their professional goals at the company. King and her team have led successful efforts such as the implementation of an annual engagement survey, periodic pulse surveys, leader and associate scorecards, which were all aimed at more effectively measuring engagement and performance throughout the organization.

PVH’s Kozel has repeatedly demonstrated the prominent role HR can play in an organization’s success. Since taking the HR helm, PVH’s HR and communication functions have evolved from being antiquated to reflecting a 21st-century approach. Under his leadership, a results-based HR function was built that values inclusion and diversity and deploys state-of-the-art communication tools. Further, hundreds of training opportunities now exist for employees at every level through the establishment of PVH University.

Silva of Voya Financial has embarked on several initiatives aimed at transforming the organization’s culture, including continuous-improvement training for all employees; simplifying the performance-management process so it emphasizes feedback and coaching; and focusing heavily on succession planning. The strategy included the creation of a “One Voya” culture, which involved breaking down silos and building an inclusive environment.