A

tlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium opened Aug. 26, 2017, with a preseason football game between the hometown Falcons and the Arizona Cardinals.

The clock for hiring, training and prepping some 4,000 employees to open the $1.5 billion domed palace started ticking just four months prior. In short, there was no time for a fumble.

The stadium needed to staff virtually every function — ticketing, food and beverage services, security, leadership, finance and beyond. More importantly, the 4,000 workers had to embody the organization’s core values, and culture building efforts had to be highly impactful.

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tlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium opened Aug. 26, 2017, with a preseason football game between the hometown Falcons and the Arizona Cardinals.

The clock for hiring, training and prepping some 4,000 employees to open the $1.5 billion domed palace started ticking just four months prior. In short, there was no time for a fumble.

The stadium needed to staff virtually every function — ticketing, food and beverage services, security, leadership, finance and beyond. More importantly, the 4,000 workers had to embody the organization’s core values, and culture building efforts had to be highly impactful.

The AMB Group — the stadium ownership organization in charge of hiring and training — knew the importance of finding quality staff in a short amount of time. But they also strived to do so in a way that benefited Atlanta’s nearby Westside neighborhood, according to Karen Walters, director, training and associate engagement at AMB Group.

Kali Franklin is director of human resources operations at AMB Sports and Entertainment at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

AMB Group is the 2018 Optimas Awards winner for General Excellence, an award given to the organization that has excelled in at least six out of 10 Optimas categories. AMB’s efforts to hire and train its Mercedes-Benz Stadium workforce showed excellence in corporate citizenship, innovation, managing change, partnership, recruiting, training and vision and place it among this elite group of organizations.

“Arthur believes the stadium project will be a failure if the transformation of the Westside communities around the stadium is not a success. The team was challenged to proactively collaborate with community partners to weave Westside residents into the stadium family,” Walters said in her Optimas application, referring to Arthur M. Blank, chairman of the Blank Family of Businesses. Blank, 75, the co-founder of Home Depot, leads this family of businesses made up of the AMB Group, the Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the Atlanta Falcons, Atlanta United FC of Major League Soccer and PGA Tour Superstore, among others.

The Westside community partners include Westside Works, a neighborhood program focused on creating employment opportunities and job training for Westside residents, and the Center for Working Families, an organization whose mission is to ensure economic success for Atlanta’s families and which provides job training, work support and financial literacy.

The stadium is a catalyst for transformative change, said Alison Sawyer, director of foundation communications at the Arthur M. Blank Family of Businesses. “For us, what that has meant is the power of the many and the collective in creating long-term, positive change in the Westside communities,” she said.

Blank leads his businesses by six core values: give back to others; lead by example; innovate continuously; put people first; listen and respond; and include everyone. Although financial success is important to the company, equally important is following these six values to attain that success.

These six core values were present in the recruiting process for the stadium from the start. The AMB Group HR team partnered with Utah-based software company Hirevue, which uses video interviews and artificial intelligence to help companies make hiring decisions. Blank was involved, asking values-based interview questions, as was Falcons head coach Dan Quinn and running back Devonta Freeman.

Candidates who passed the video interview attended a Draft Day Hiring Fair at Mercedes-Benz Stadium where they participated in a group interview with more values-based questions. In these group interviews, candidates got the opportunity to show their “smile on the face and smile in the heart,” according to Walters.

“The interviews are fairly light-hearted because we want to see who lights up the room with their energy, care and warmth,” she said. “We ask candidates to get to know each other, introduce each other to the group in a fun way, and seek to understand times in the past when they have positively impacted the lives of others.”

After AMB made its hiring decisions, it invited the new associates to an onboarding event in which they were warmly greeted by the HR staff and then got the chance to take an “I’ve Been Drafted!” picture with the Falcons NFC Championship trophy. This experience also included a personal, one-on-one onboarding process between an HR associate and the new hire, which was enabled through a partnership with Workday.

After onboarding, the 4,000 new employees participated in an eight-hour training program called Welcome Home. HR designed this training in partnership with professional training and coaching company LDR Worldwide, and much of the training involved building trust and family bonds, as well as instilling the six core values in trainees.

New staff watched a video detailing Blank’s career, then met in small groups to have more intimate and personal discussions.

During the training, “trust-based connections formed, and the organization continues to benefit from these early, positive interactions,” Walters said. “We are reaping the benefits of this strong start through daily accolades given to Mercedes-Benz Stadium associates.”

Meanwhile, stadium supervisors had their own two-day Welcome Home training program in which they also learned more about the core values and the importance of building that culture among their employees.

“The energy in the building from the staff and fans was palpable,” Walters said of that first preseason game. “The guest-services associates were electric as they welcomed guests to their new home and the fans seemed to be in awe.”

Fans were enthusiastic to experience the game in the new stadium, she added, saying that there was an aura of excitement as they engaged with stadium staff and explored the concourses and concessions.

Beyond that first game, the hiring and training initiative has sparked positive feedback from NFL fans, according to the fan surveys conducted by the NFL. In the 2017 survey, the Falcons earned “Most Improved” club. The team also ranked in the first quartile among all NFL clubs for fan satisfaction.

“The guest-services associates were electric as they welcomed guests…and the fans seemed in awe,” says Karen Walters, director, training and associate engagement at AMB Group LLC.

“The team was challenged to proactively collaborate with community partners to weave Westside residents into the stadium family.”

— Karen Walters, director, training and associate engagement, AMB Group LLC

Meanwhile, thanks to its community outreach efforts, the Mercedes-Benz Stadium has hired more than 150 Westside residents, and through the youth-centric Westside Ambassadors Program, more than 100 internship positions were filled by Westside neighborhood youths.

Also, each of founding sponsors of the Mercedes-Benz Stadium has committed to transforming the Westside in some way, “whether it is time, talent or treasure,” said the Arthur M. Blank Family of Businesses’ Sawyer. Financially, that has resulted in more than $15 million committed by sponsors, she added.

The supervisors’ Core Leader training continues, and HR has selected 30 of these core leaders to act as culture builders, Walters said. In this role, they continuously and strategically try to instill the Welcome Home spirit from the initial training. This could be by including that spirit in event-day huddles or by rewarding employees with a Values in Action award when they exhibit that Welcome Home spirit.

For its workplace initiative, which demonstrates excellence in the Optimas categories of corporate citizenship, innovation, managing change, partnership, recruiting, training and vision, AMB Group is the 2018 Optimas Award General Excellence winner.


Andie Burjek is a Workforce associate editor. To comment, email editors@workforce.com.

Gold

Cherokee County, Georgia, Board of Commissioners

Health Management Strategy

C

herokee County, the seventh largest county in Georgia, wanted to revamp its employee benefits program.

Such a lofty goal — reducing the cost of the health plan without reducing coverage or increasing employee premiums — would be daunting for any organization, and the county had the special challenge of needing to do just that for 1,600 public employees in 30 separate agencies.

Coinciding with the hiring of a new chief people officer in February 2016, the county began designing its health management strategy. In May, it also hired a new benefits consultant. With this new team and new strategy in place, the county assessed the health plan areas where there was room for improvement. The components of the new health management strategy included addressing pharmacy costs, telemedicine and preferred networks.

Rising costs and lack of transparency for pharmacy costs was a major concern of Cherokee County, which addressed this by choosing a new, fiduciary pharmacy benefits manager whose incentives are aligned to its own. At this PBM, there’s no spread pricing and all rebates and manufacturer’s incentives are returned to the county.

Plan members also have no deductibles or copays for telemedicine, which has helped lower overall spend by reducing urgent and emergency care spending.

Other components of this improved health management strategy included unbundling certain services for the carrier and implementing six new vendors who could improve spend, for example an imaging vendor at which members can get CAT scans, mammograms and MRIs at no cost. Also, Cherokee County needed to make a significant education and communication effort to let plan members know about these major changes.

The county officially launched the new health management strategy Jan. 1, 2017, and has seen positive results so far. Pharmacy spend decreased by 38 percent, or $1.3 million year-over-year; inpatient hospital costs decreased by 50.8 percent; and the adoption of telemedicine led to savings of $144,243. In addition, compared to 24 large claims costing $4,790,879 last plan year, the current plan year has only seen nine large claims totaling $1,554,785.

For its efforts to develop and implement a health management strategy for the 2017 plan year, Cherokee County, Georgia, Board of Commissioners is the Optimas Award Gold winner for Benefits.

— Andie Burjek

Silver

Banfield Pet Hospital

Health & Wellbeing at Banfield: A Holistic Approach to Energize Associates

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he veterinary profession is going through a dramatic demographic shift, and as the workforce becomes younger and more female, workforce concerns like high student loan debt and common mental health issues that often plague young doctors impact organizations like Washington-based veterinary practice Banfield Pet Hospital.

To address the wellness challenges — such as cyberbullying, poor work-life balance and increased risk for suicide — that exist in the profession, whose industry turnover is 20 percent, Banfield launched a new health and well-being initiative in 2017. The initiative focuses on five areas of well-being including mind, body, finances, career and community.

Some components of this holistic approach were discounted gym memberships, the veterinary student debt relief pilot program, continuing education reimbursement programs and a hurricane relief program for pets and owners after Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico.

Though the program is new, it has still had some measurable results, with 46 percent of the doctor population participating in the student debt relief program and a 30 percent reduction in the dropout rate of candidates.

For its efforts to gradually increase employee well-being on a holistic level, Banfield Pet Hospital is the Optimas Award Silver winner for Benefits.

— Andie Burjek

Bronze

Panda Restaurant Group

F

or its efforts to use the Panda Associate Assistance Fund to financially assist employees going through crises including death, illness and natural disasters, Panda Restaurant Group is the Optimas Award Bronze winner for Benefits.

— Andie Burjek

Gold

Gas South

Amazing Employee Experience. Amazing Customer Experience.

A

fter Gas South observed the inconsistent experiences their customer care agents were providing, an extensive relational training was created to improve their customer care experience from good to amazing.

In May 2012, after years of having its customer care center staffed by contractors and housed off-site, the Southeast natural-gas provider decided to bring its customer service operations in-house. They wanted to create a connection with their customer agents and improve that relationship for their more than 300,000 Georgia, Florida, North Carolina and South Carolina customers.

Additionally, in early 2016, Gas South redesigned its workplace experience. They shifted the process from transactional to relational, which prepared employees to handle problems and requests effectively while staying respectful and empathetic. Gas South also shifted communication from bottom-up instead of top-down, which resulted in employee engagement and buy-in.

The second phase centered around employee happiness and flexibility. Gas South implemented a new work-from-home policy — once a week, every week — and more user-friendly system changes and employee engagement initiatives like a customer advocacy team and peer-to-peer recognition.

Finally, Gas South’s leadership team became more visible and accessible in 2017. This allowed the executive team, including CEO Kevin Greiner, to sit with employees to learn about their pain points, personal goals and to talk about the company’s direction.

“Being named as a finalist for an Optimas Award affirms we are working on the right things and it motivates us to continue to focus on our employees to ultimately create an incredible customer experience,” said Manon Brochu, vice president and general manager of mass markets at Gas South. “What makes us even prouder is to see that our employees are satisfied with their jobs, and they understand how the work they do contributes to our success and the overall company culture.”

For its efforts in revamping its customer service experience, Gas South is the 2018 Optimas Award Gold winner for Business Impact.

— Rocio Villaseñor

Silver

Cherokee County, Georgia, Board of Commissioners

Successful Implementation of a Risk Management Program

A

fter workers’ compensation costs had incurred more than $1,000,000 in 2011, the board of commissioners in Cherokee County, Georgia, created a five-year risk management plan.

In 2013, the county hired a risk manager. It then reached settlements with the help of the county’s workers’ compensation attorneys, a third-party administrator and medical providers.

The three key phases were: risk planning, risk assessment and risk monitoring.

A number of programs were created, including a comprehensive county safety program; a county safety committee; a vehicle accident review committee; a distracted driving policy; return to work/transitional duty program; workers’ compensation providers; workers’ compensation provider manual; workers’ compensation and vehicle accident packets; and a safety-communication program.

“As a self-insured public entity with limited revenues, this has saved taxpayers money, which can be better utilized in other areas,” stated the organization in its nomination application.

For its efforts in implementing a successful risk management program, Cherokee County, Georgia, is the 2018 Optimas Award Silver winner for Business Impact.

— Rocio Villaseñor

Bronze

LaSalle Network

F

or its efforts to use its employee engagement and retention strategies, LaSalle Network is the 2018 Optimas Award Bronze winner for Business Impact.

— Rocio Villaseñor

Gold

O.C. Tanner

Giveability

G

iving back to the community has been a part of O.C. Tanner’s culture from the company’s earliest days. The company’s founder, Obert C. Tanner, would ask his accounting team, “What’s our giveability this month?”

Giveability is the Utah-based company’s initiative for measuring how many philanthropic efforts the company can contribute to after its financial reports have been assessed, according to its Optimas application. Today, 10 percent of profits are donated to four areas: the arts, education, human need and the environment.

“Giveability should be a priority at every organization because it extends the value and mission of the company to its surrounding communities,” said Mindi Cox, senior vice president of people and great work at O.C. Tanner. “It allows employees to connect with the community they serve and upholds a company’s social responsibility.”

Among food drives and monetary donations, O.C. Tanner also supports programs such as One Refugee. This program provides education to displaced immigrants and helps pair them with hiring companies. Community efforts are also made based on employee feedback and which organizations they want to donate to. Employees are also provided paid volunteer leave so they can have the time to personally participate in the causes they care about outside of the workplace.

After a number of employees revealed their personal struggles, domestic violence among them, O.C. Tanner started the Tanner Cares Fund as a way to support its workers while providing that same support to outside organizations.

“The fund is created by a company match determined by employee donations to other local charitable causes. This idea grew out of day-to-day, organic interactions with employees and involves pooling both company and employee resources to help support one’s own team,” said Cox.

For its efforts to use Giveablity as a way to give back to the community and help its employees, O.C. Tanner is the 2018 Optimas Award Gold winner for Corporate Citizenship.

— Aysha Ashley Househ

Silver

AAA of Northern California, Nevada and Utah

AAA Community Champions

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AA of Northern California, Nevada and Utah gives back to the community while increasing employee retention through its AAA Community Champions program.

Community champions serve as managers at AAA locations and are bridges between the community impact team and local communities. The company’s philanthropic efforts focus on child passenger safety, school safety and disaster preparedness, such as earthquakes. By appointing 131 community champions across seven U.S. states, it ingrained the initiative into the business’s culture.

Since launching the program in 2016, the company saw a rise in employee engagement numbers, moving from 82 percent in 2016 to 88 percent in 2017.

AAA also lends its community a hand by providing free car seat inspections and running the AAA School Safety Patrol program, which teaches children leadership skills and safety awareness.

For its efforts to keep its communities safe, AAA of Northern California, Nevada and Utah is the 2018 Optimas Award Silver winner for Corporate Citizenship.

— Aysha Ashley Househ

Bronze

StratEx

F

or its efforts to use StratEx Serves to give back to the community based on employee feedback, StratEx is the 2018 Optimas Award Bronze winner for Corporate Citizenship.

— Aysha Ashley Househ

Gold

UN Development Programme

Develop Yourself. Develop the World

U

nited Nations Development Programme is the UN’s oldest and largest agency.

Its mission of eradicating poverty and ensuring sustainable economic and social development to more than 170 countries and territories requires its staff to be on the cutting edge of international development and to be constantly innovating. However, due to a decrease in governmental funding and changing needs globally, UNDP was faced with a management challenge on how to best equip its 18,000 employees to deliver these ambitious goals.

A 2016 global staff survey showed employees were “not receiving sufficient training relevant for their job,” according to the nomination application. This emphasized “the demand for improved talent development opportunities.”

A new chief of talent development joined UNDP in 2016 and had a bold vision “to disrupt the way things were done for the last decade [at] UNDP’s administrative ‘learning resource center’ by introducing a ‘continuous learning culture,’ ” according to the application.

The supporting strategy to this vision was created and approved by UNDP’s senior management. The learning resource center was transformed into a new Talent Development Unit made of teams covering topics including capability development, leadership and senior executive development, and career management. Thus, the “Develop Yourself. Develop the World” initiative was created.

Out of this initiative, the TDU created various learning and leadership programs: manager toolkits; a new online learning and development portal; a talent hub; newsletters to promote L&D topics; a leadership development portfolio; and a series of broadcasted thought-leadership talks.

The TDU’s career management team established a growth-based career model. Virtual career labs, career conversation guides with tutorial videos, virtual career management workshops and speed mentoring events were available throughout UNDP.

Overall, the initiative provided “stronger contributions to achieving UNDP’s objectives — with increased retention rates,” according to the nomination application.

Marvin Hoff, manager of talent and leadership development, said, “Introducing ‘Develop Yourself. Develop the World’ has expanded UNDP’s talent development portfolio and has shifted the way we develop our staff.”

For its efforts in creating and fostering a continuous learning culture for its employees, United Nations Development Programme is the 2018 Optimas Award Gold winner for Global Outlook.

— Rocio Villaseñor

Silver

AbbVie

Learn. Develop. Perform.

T

he need to achieve faster results for their patients prompted AbbVie, a research-driven biopharmaceutical company that targets treating diseases and chronic conditions globally, to create a developmental organization.

AbbVie wanted its employees to be more highly engaged, show improved behaviors and focus on advancing skills. Therefore, in 2016 “Learn. Develop. Perform.” was created as a call for employee self-development.

Learn. Develop. Perform. was launched in January 2017 with a voluntary weeklong global event. AbbVie vice presidents and industry experts held webinars on the topics of careers; feedback; goals and development; and education and strategies. AbbVie also delivered additional solutions several times each month and offered a dedicated week in January 2018. The initiative continues today.

The event allows development conversations between management and employees, and the actions and results are posted to the “Learn. Develop. Perform.” social site, according to the company’s nomination application.

For its efforts to raise awareness and engage employees about developmental organizations, AbbVie is the 2018 Optimas Award Silver winner for Global Outlook.

— Rocio Villaseñor

Bronze

Tata Consultancy Services

F

or its efforts to use its onboarding and integration program as a workforce management initiative, Tata Consulting Services is the 2018 Optimas Award Bronze winner for Global Outlook.

— Rocio Villaseñor

Gold

SmartSimple Software Inc.

The Flux Capacitor of Innovation

A

s SmartSimple Software Inc. found its team growing, they realized an innovative solution was needed to ensure ongoing employee engagement.

Inspired by the time machine from the movie “Back to the Future,” the cloud software provider built its model to manage the flow of incoming issues, ideas and comments, allow discussion and collaboration and finally output the solution, according to the application. It also provides a structure and concrete road map for fostering and developing innovative thought.

Growth in a company can be good, but it also comes with its challenges. SmartSimple began to gain interest from organizations outside of its traditional clients, causing them to move into unexplored territory and causing the company to face a steep learning curve. Because of this, additional talent was recruited to help provide insight into the unknown fields.

“The Flux Capacitor of Innovation is a concentrated dose of the processes and activities that were part of our everyday when we were a smaller organization and innovative thought flourished organically. It has enabled us to carry on our test-and-learn, curiosity-driven, start-up mentality that has brought us to where we are now,” said Alex Wong, director of marketing at SmartSimple.

Before the Flux Capacitor of Innovation was implemented, communication and ideas weren’t being developed past each team or department. The company realized that communication is key and now encourages every person in the company to share their opinions.

“The Flux Capacitor of Innovation changed this entirely because it introduced an element that every department had common ground in working with — our clients,” said Wong. “The feedback mechanisms that inherently feed the top end of the Flux Capacitor funnel foster inter-team collaboration and communication because every department has a stake in managing the client relationship.”

For its efforts to use the Flux Capacitor of Innovation as a structured road map for communication within the company, SmartSimple Software Inc. is the 2018 Optimas Award winner for Innovation.

— Aysha Ashley Househ

Silver

NCSoft

NC Launch Onboarding

W

hy not start the first day on the job with a game? NCSoft executives realized they needed to up their game where employee onboarding and retention was concerned.

Their onboarding program, NC Launch Onboarding, is a way to make the process more effective and increase employee retention. The site is filled with characters from the company’s games and takes new hires on “quests” to finish items like payroll, playfully referred to as “loot.”

The gaming business knew it needed a change when departments such as IT complained equipment wasn’t being set up on the first day and there wasn’t enough communication between managers and new employees.

The program has succeeded since launching in 2017. Future plans include incorporating more of an employee’s journey into the program, such as leaves of absence and training.

For its efforts to improve its onboarding process with a new platform, NCSoft is the 2018 Optimas Award Silver winner for Innovation.

— Aysha Ashley Househ

Bronze

Riverside Healthcare

F

or its efforts to use its Well in Mind Employee Support Program to provide strong mental wellness to its employees, Riverside Healthcare is the 2018 Optimas Award Bronze winner for Innovation.

— Aysha Ashley Househ

Gold

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

HR Management International Services

T

he U.S. immigration system is undergoing major changes.

That’s significant to Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, whose mission is to enhance the nation’s defense and respond to scientific issues of national importance. Lisa Hsu, Lawrence Livermore’s strategic human resources management operations manager, said the advancement of science and technology is tied to the organization’s ability to attract and retain world-class scientists from around the world.

Hsu said the recently revised mission statement of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services suggests protectionism and isolationism in America.

“That reflects the widespread, unprecedented implementation of procedural changes and reinterpretations of existing immigration law that will have a lasting impact on U.S. immigration,” she said. “Within this landscape of uncertainty, managing immigration has evolved into a practice of managing change.”

With the changes in immigration policy and practice, there are unforeseen challenges in hiring and training global talent. Lawrence Livermore’s International Services Office aims to harness the multiple perspectives and experiences of their international employees. Hsu said the lab’s population strives to be diverse and inclusive. “Science today knows no borders,” Hsu said.

Since 2013, Lawrence Livermore’s International Services Office has improved its human resource management practices in leadership and diversity and inclusion, including improving its J-1 program through feedback from exchange visitors and internal stakeholders. Hsu said Lawrence Livermore’s International Services Office embraces the fundamental privilege of stewardship of the lives entrusted to them.

Lawrence Livermore brings in more than 600 international employees and visitors each year into the STEM field, which plays an important role in the economy. By managing international services internally, Lawrence Livermore also reduced its costs in this area by 50 to 75 percent rather than using a third party.

For its efforts to use its strategic human resources management international services initiative to conduct science at a large-scale with the most qualified international candidates, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is the 2018 Gold winner for Managing Change.

— Ave Rio

Silver

Antah Schindler Sdn. Bhd.

Employee Engagement and the Flexi Hour

A

ntah Schindler Sdn. Bhd., a service provider for Schindler elevators and escalators in Malaysia, is learning the importance of employee engagement.

Management made a conscious effort to change the organizational culture of the company from a “getting your work done” and “deadline driven” mindset to one driven by employee engagement.

In the company’s new workforce management initiative, they implemented “Flexi Hour,” which allows employees to adjust their daily working hours if the specified number of hours within the day is fulfilled. They also extended their leave policies to one and a half months maternity leave and five days paternity leave.

Further, they implemented an event calendar with monthly events and activities for employees such as dinners, celebrations, motivational talks, diversity days and more. The final effort was to roll out an employee-of-the-month program to recognize specific employees.

Since the company’s last employee engagement survey in 2016, engagement rose from 76 percent to 84 percent. In addition, its turnover rate dropped from 14 percent to 6 percent.

For its efforts to improve employee engagement, Antah Schindler Sdn. Bhd. is the 2018 Optimas Award Silver winner for Managing Change.

— Ave Rio

Bronze

Neymours Children’s Hospital

F

or its efforts to use its physician leadership development program to improve physician retention, engagement and alignment, Neymours Children’s Hospital is the 2018 Optimas Award Bronze winner for Managing Change.

— Ave Rio

Gold

HR Acuity

Employee Relations Roundtable

T

here aren’t many roundtables that focus on employee relations, so HR Acuity built a community for companies that want to talk, strategize and navigate all things employee relations.

The Employee Relations Roundtable Community is a platform that brings together chief human resources officers and senior employee relations leaders from more than 100 organizations and across different industries. A unique element is that HR Acuity doesn’t promote its own services. The community was developed to provide a forum specifically tailored to employee relations after numerous calls from employee relations practitioners.

“Time and again, these leaders expressed the need for a forum to help them build their teams, do their jobs better and, most importantly, affect change,” said Deb Muller, HR Acuity’s CEO. “Since HR Acuity was already committed to helping organizations manage employee relations the right way with its technology solution, the company was uniquely positioned to take a leadership role in creating a partnership of leaders.”

Even though it was something that stood out to the California-based company and they went ahead and organized the roundtable, they knew they were taking a bit of a risk.

“If we build it, will they come? Since the roundtable was the first of its kind for the employee relations functional area, the initial challenge was whether or not HR Acuity could fill the table. And once people were there, would they be willing to share sensitive information with other practitioners they did not know?” said Muller.

However, the company had nothing to worry about. Since forming it in 2015, the roundtable has received overwhelming support from attendees and grew from a four-hour event to an ongoing one throughout the year.

For its efforts to use the Employee Relations Roundtable Community as a way to connect employee-relations professionals, HR Acuity is the 2018 Optimas Award winner for Partnership.

— Aysha Ashley Househ

Silver

Arise Virtual Solutions

Operation Irma 2017

T

hanks to two departments teaming up, Arise Virtual Solutions doesn’t let natural disasters — including hurricanes — get in the way of their work.

The Florida-based company created Operation Irma 2017 as a way to ensure employees are safe and sheltered while maintaining business continuity during hurricanes and severe weather. The process involves decommissioning thousands of call center agents, the ramp-up of call center agents in non-threat zones, evacuation of key personnel and the set-up of temporary command centers.

On the employee side, the company allows and encourages them to take time to make personal preparations such as shuttering their homes. Human resources partnered with the IT department to set up an employee emergency line and partnered with other departments to fly people to locations where they can work without storm impact.

For its efforts to work with other departments to prevent workflow disruption, Arise Virtual Solutions is the 2018 Optimas Award Silver winner for Partnership.

— Aysha Ashley Househ

Bronze

Bloomingdale’s

F

or its efforts to use its Bloomingdale’s Business Impact of Training program to increase employee retention and provide consistent safety training, Bloomingdale’s is the 2018 Optimas Award Bronze winner for Partnership.

— Aysha Ashley Househ

Gold

SSM Health

Improving Graduate Nurse Recruitment

A

mid a health care worker shortage, SSM Health needed to improve its recruiting practices. The St. Louis-based Catholic, not-for-profit health care system includes 24 hospitals, more than 300 physician offices and many other services that require an influx of nurses. Despite great need to hire quality graduate nurses, SSM struggled to do so, sparking its graduate nurse recruitment program.

“It’s a scarce talent market, and the needs of our communities need to be met and filled,” said Tom Ahr, vice president of talent at SSM Health. “We have to continue to get better every day to attract the best talent for us.”

To do so, Ahr’s team interacted with schools and identified goals and metrics to plan ahead of hiring needs and move candidates through the hiring process efficiently. A team of educators, operations leaders and new graduate nurses met in spring 2016 to review programs to best explore the needs of an improved recruitment plan.

By June 2018, SSM implemented a variety of solutions, particularly around the candidate experience. To make the process efficient, the team enhanced communications, using texting, email and phone while also pre-screening via video interview to best fit the busy schedules of nursing students. These and other efforts helped SSM to share the job decision within two business days, as well as share detailed feedback with the candidate.

In addition to the recruiting process improvements, SSM revamped its residency program to better retain talent.

Results include identifying internal demands earlier, thus going to market with the positions more than 30 days sooner than last year. SSM then filled all open nursing positions in June 2018; in June 2017, 33 positions went unfilled. In the same time frame, operation costs were reduced to save $90,000.

“Any time that our business can tell us what they need and we’re able to deliver and do it in a really timely way and in a way that is really efficient with our resources, then we consider that a successful initiative,” Ahr said.

For the organization’s efforts to improve graduate nurse recruitment, SSM Health is the 2018 Optimas Award Gold winner for Recruiting.

— Lauren Dixon

Silver

Choptank Transport Inc.

#ChooseChoptank

C

hoptank Transport Inc. needed to grow its hiring strategy in conjunction with its increasing headcount.

To meet aggressive hiring goals for 2018, the third-party logistics company created #ChooseChoptank, a hiring and recruiting initiative that focuses on employer branding, candidate experience, employee referrals and digital optimization.

Branding efforts include pushing a fresh brand logo in all photos and videos to “ensure a consistent, well-branded presence that candidates will see and remember,” according to its award application. To get more eyes on job postings, the company added digital advertising for jobs and increased the referral program’s payouts. Through advanced training for new employees and outlining potential career paths, retention efforts also improved.

Results include a 16 percent increase in employee referrals and 70 percent increase in candidates who reach the first in-person interview.

For its creation and use of #ChooseChoptank, Choptank Transport Inc. is the 2018 Optimas Award Silver winner for Recruiting.

— Lauren Dixon

Bronze

ReedTMS Logistics

F

or ReedTMS Logistics’ creation and implementation of its 212 initiative, the third-party logistics provider is the 2018 Optimas Award Bronze winner for Recruiting.

— Lauren Dixon

Gold

Siemens Healthineers

Healthcare Integrated Learning Solution

S

iemens Healthineers is committed to advancing human health and enabling health care providers worldwide toward forward-thinking products and solutions to shape and transform the health care industry.

The company reinvented itself and determined the need to strengthen its position for educational excellence through an online strategy that is globally accepting and relevant within the health care industry.

The educational online strategy began in 2011 when its Personalized Education Plan — knowledge-based online training, skill-based exercises and ability-based assessments — was launched. In 2012, the Personalized Education Plan administrator was developed to assign and track a plan’s completion. However, in 2015 it was replaced with PEPconnect, which provides access to virtual education and performance support activities for health care professionals. The PEPconnect app was launched in 2017 and enhanced the user-friendly concept. The device’s camera can scan an object and access associated learning activities instantly, according to the company’s nomination application.

Additionally, Virtual Education Solutions, which executes the learning strategy in alignment with the vision for Siemens Healthineers, announced in 2017 their “one way of learning,” according to the nomination application. This resulted in a reduction of 37 learning management systems to just one: the global Healthcare Integrated Learning Solution, also known as HILS.

HILS is an internal education enterprise solution comprised of multiple integrated tools for both front-end and back-end management. The public interfaces for HILS are PEPconnect and PEPconnections, which was also delivered in 2017 and is a premium subscription to virtual education services that manages the health care institution’s performance growth with integrated group management and administration features; it gives health care managers the ability to assign, track and manage group education.

HILS provides access to education and information at time of need to Siemens Healthineers customers in 120 countries, including 48,000 employees and partners, according to the nomination application.

William Magagna, vice president of virtual education solutions, said, “HILS offers evolving content that is rich in interactivity, multimedia objects and adaptable for future evolution of the virtual education element expansion.”

“We are once again excited and honored to be recognized by Workforce and look forward to continuing our relationship with this program,” Magagna said. “The commitment of Siemens Healthineers to revolutionizing virtual education for the future has been the most influential factor.”

For its efforts in global health care education, Siemens Healthineers is the 2018 Optimas Award Gold winner for Training.

— Rocio Villaseñor

Silver

Tata Consultancy Services

Leader in You

T

CS transitioned their learning framework to focus on strengthening leadership development in the organization — specifically for middle managers.

The Leadership in You, or LiY, program was launched a year ago for leaders in the operational tier — middle managers as team leaders or as individual contributors. LiY is voluntary and focuses on three aspects of internal certification: managing self, managing teams and managing the business. It is designed to anticipate and manage change through curated Skillsoft content combined with expert and mentor sessions and webinars.

“A healthy pipeline of ongoing registrations and growing adoption among middle and tactical level leaders across the organization and global coverage assures us that the program is in the right direction,” TCS stated in the nomination application.

For its efforts in leadership and management competencies, Tata Consultancy Services is the 2018 Optimas Award Silver winner for Training.

— Rocio Villaseñor

Bronze

Raytheon Co.

F

or its efforts to use its Export/Import Compliance Program as a workforce management initiative, Raytheon Co. is the 2018 Optimas Award Bronze winner for Training.

— Rocio Villaseñor

Gold

University of Utah Health

Thrive@theBedside

F

aced with a high turnover rate and unable to afford losing nurses because of a new ambulatory care complex and rehabilitation hospital set to open, the University of Utah Health searched for a solution.

Thrive@theBedside is the medical center’s program was created by nurses for nurses, according to the application. It focuses on bedside nurses but is available to all nurses. Key program areas include recognition, growth and financial strength to help attract and retain employees.

“In the annual listening tour, I heard over and over again that we were not doing enough for those nurses who choose to stay at the bedside, foregoing promotions and other job paths that would require them to leave direct patient care,” said Margaret Pearce, chief nursing officer at University of Utah Health.

Due to the demanding nature of nursing, the center found it difficult to maintain a stable workforce of nurses in direct patient care roles. Nurse leadership had help from the human resources department to put together the program.

“We created Thrive@theBedside as a comprehensive package to retain our bedside nurses. The program would also be key in recruiting new nurses to support growth of our health system,” said Pearce.

With the new program, nurses now get a number of perks including rewards and recognition. Patients nominate nurses who left an impact on them, and then they are recognized for their efforts. The program also allows nurses to grow their careers professionally and academically. For new associate degree nurses, Thrive@theBedside provides instructor funding to the university’s College of Nursing.

For its efforts to use Thrive@theBedside as a solution to their turnover rate and attracting new hires, the University of Utah Health is the 2018 Optimas Award winner for Vision.

— Aysha Ashley Househ

Silver

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

Livermore Laboratory Employee Services Association Work-Life Programs

S

urrounded by Fortune 500 companies can prove to be a challenge for a company like Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, where the competition is high. The research company realized they needed to add perks to attract and retain employees.

Lawrence Livermore partnered with the Livermore Laboratory Employee Services Association, or LLESA, a nonprofit, to create the LLESA work-life programs in 2013. The goal was to provide quality recreational, educational and convenience programs to the company’s 7,000 employees. With companies like Google and Apple in the same vicinity and offering competitive compensation packages, Lawrence Livermore realized the importance of work-life balance to employees. Some programs include onsite fitness, a children’s center and blood drives.

The company has seen an overall increase in the employee satisfaction rate since introducing the newly organized work-life programs run by LLESA.

For its efforts to rise among the surrounding competition, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is the 2018 Optimas Award Silver winner for Vision.

— Aysha Ashley Househ

Bronze

Ultimate Software

F

or its efforts to use Women in Leadership to help women reach their maximum potential, Ultimate Software is the 2018 Optimas Award Bronze winner for Vision.

— Aysha Ashley Househ