Gherson Accepts HR Exec of the Year Award 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.

Almeda of Kronos has put in place initiatives aimed at raising employee-engagement levels and manager effectiveness. He was instrumental in rolling out innovative new employee benefits, including student-loan-repayment assistance and enhanced maternity leave with a brand new parental-leave program for births and adoptions for both moms and dads. He also played a key role in establishing a Manager Effectiveness Index that raises the bar on what is expected from the organization’s managers.

Judges for this year’s contest were Richard Antoine, president of AOConsulting, past president of the National Academy of Human Resources and former global human resource officer of Procter & Gamble Co.; Fred Foulkes, director of the Human Resource Policy Institute and professor at Boston University’s Questrom School of Business; Tracy Keogh, chief human resources officer at HP Inc.; Lisa Buckingham, executive vice president and chief HR officer at Lincoln Financial; and HRE‘s David Shadovitz.

The judges based their selections on the following criteria: the candidate’s ability to handle significant problems or obstacles in the human resource field; the candidate’s role and/or success in establishing the human resource function as an integral part of his or her organization; the candidate’s management skills as demonstrated within the human resource function; and his or her contributions to the HR profession as a whole.

Honor Roll candidates are divided into two categories: employers with fewer than 7,500 employees and employers with 7,500 or more employees. This year, two executives were selected in the under 7,500-employee category and two were selected in the 7,500-or-more-employee category.

The 2018 HR Executive of the Year and HR Honor Roll winners are profiled in the Oct. 16 issue of HRE. The story can be found at

Michael J. O'Brienhttp://
Michael J. O’Brien is former web editor with Human Resource Executive®.