Science Fair With Flair title
Science Fair With Flair title

ach year during Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s Student Poster Symposium, interns make posters representing the work they’ve accomplished during their tenure at the Bay Area federal research facility.

The sheer number of 2019’s interns, however, took the annual event to an entirely new level.

Compared to 278 students who presented their work last year, 2019 boasted 382 students presenting work in STEM topics such as global security, computing, engineering and other related topics. This year the symposium took place in three sessions over two days in August followed by the awards ceremony.

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory logo
From left, Jan Patrick Lehr, Elizbeth Grace, Christopher Lam, Michael Wadas, Susan Lowder, Sam Iaquinta, Trevor Pollack and Courtney Quinn. Lowder oversees the student hiring program and the interns participated in Lawrence Livermore’s Student Poster Symposium.
Science Fair With Flair title
Science Fair With Flair title

ach year during Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s Student Poster Symposium, interns make posters representing the work they’ve accomplished during their tenure at the Bay Area federal research facility.

The sheer number of 2019’s interns, however, took the annual event to an entirely new level.

Compared to 278 students who presented their work last year, 2019 boasted 382 students presenting work in STEM topics such as global security, computing, engineering and other related topics. This year the symposium took place in three sessions over two days in August followed by the awards ceremony.

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory logo
From left, Jan Patrick Lehr, Elizbeth Grace, Christopher Lam, Michael Wadas, Susan Lowder, Sam Iaquinta, Trevor Pollack and Courtney Quinn. Lowder oversees the student hiring program and the interns participated in Lawrence Livermore’s Student Poster Symposium.

The event is the culmination of a three-month project that encompasses much of the organization while partnering Lawrence Livermore with regional schools. It also bolsters the lab’s future workforce.

For excelling in at least six out of 10 Optimas categories, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is the 2019 Optimas Award winner for General Excellence. Its efforts to enhance its internship program and improve its hiring pipeline through a comprehensive and inclusive internship program showed excellence in Corporate Citizenship, Innovation, Managing Change, Partnership, Recruiting, Training and Vision and place it among this elite group of organizations.

Susan Lowder with Elizabeth Grace image
Susan Lowder, right, with Elizabeth Grace, a fourth-year graduate student at Georgia Institute of Technology majoring in physics, and her poster submission. Grace’s research focus is in ultrafast optics and digital holography, and laser-plasma interactions.

Susan Lowder, scholars and visiting scientists group lead at Lawrence Livermore, coordinates the event so that everyone on her team and employees in other departments know their roles and responsibilities to ensure that everything gets organized for the symposium.

“We didn’t know if we’d have enough space for everyone, but we managed to get them in. Next year we’re probably going to have to do four sessions. It just keeps growing,” said Lowder, who has been involved with the event for a decade and oversees the student hiring program at Lawrence Livermore along with her staff of nine. In addition, 250 volunteers also help make the symposium run smoothly.

A Long-Term View on the Hiring Pipeline

The program enhances Lawrence Livermore’s hiring pipeline, said Lisa Hsu, operations manager at Lawrence Livermore, in the organization’s award application.

“To ensure we recruit a talented workforce on behalf of national security, the lab aims to attract strong talent early on in a person’s career,” she said.

For the Student Poster Symposium, interns — typically undergrads or graduate students — make posters and present the project they’ve been working on for the three-month internship, according to Lowder. Students mostly intern in the summer but may also in the fall or spring.

Mentors assign projects to students and help them finish on time, and finding interested mentors is an organizationwide process. Employees who work in any one of Lawrence Livermore’s six departments — physical and life sciences, global security, weapons and complex integration, National Ignition Facility and photon science, computing, and engineering — will put up their own job posting, go through résumés and find a student to mentor.

“The work [students] do is sometimes work we want to do, but for some reason we haven’t been able to. And it’s important work,” Lowder said. “They get assigned this project, and many times something they might create we later use. They’re doing things that are very noteworthy.”

Mentors aren’t the only ones who help students with their projects. After students complete the work, they must go through a “review and release process” — an efficient and customer-friendly review process which the information management team provides to manage, protect and disseminate the Laboratory’s valuable information before it is released to the intended audience, Lowder said. Experts within the organization who know the ins and outs of the process offer guidance to students, helping them learn this valuable skill for their chosen field.

Further, a team with doctorates who are experts on the presentation of technical posters teach students how to create and present their posters.

The program helps Lawrence Livermore develop its workforce, Lowder said. At the end of summer, departments can look at graduates with bachelor’s or master’s degrees as potential candidates. This can be helpful for competitive positions, like those in the computing or engineering, Lowder added. With a degree in computer science, for example, candidates are employable and ready to work with a bachelor’s degree.

“Many interns, once they come here, they want to stay,” Lowder said.

Neurodiversity in the STEM Pipeline

Diversity and inclusion is one key factor in the success of this program, and neurodiversity — the acceptance of people with neurological differences such as autism spectrum disorder, dyslexia, ADHD and Tourette syndrome — has been a strong area of focus for the past several years, Lowder said.

Sam Iaquinta, Christopher Lam, Courtney Quinn, Elizabeth Grace, Susan Lowder, Michael Wadas, Jan Patrick Lehr and Trevor Pollack image
Left (back): Sam Iaquinta (arm of chair), Christopher Lam, Courtney Quinn, Elizabeth Grace and Susan Lowder. Front: Michael Wadas, Jan Patrick Lehr and Trevor Pollack.

Lawrence Livermore partnered with the Orion Academy, a prep school for students with neurocognitive disabilities such as learning disorders and Asberger syndrome, four years ago. That’s how it came to hire an intern named Sam, who is responsible along with his mentor Matt Toomey for creating the iPad app that judges still use to evaluate student posters at the symposium. The app calculates who the symposium winners will be based on the judges’ scores. Previously, scores were recorded on paper and judges had to calculate winners manually.

“many times something they might create we later use. They’re doing things that are very noteworthy.”
— Susan Lowder, scholars and visiting scientists group lead, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

Since then, the organization has expanded its neurodiversity efforts, Lowder said. Lawrence Livermore has created a committee called The Abilities Champions, which is vital in finding mentors who are interested in mentoring neurodiverse students.

The people in this committee have a passion for this diversity initiative, Lowder said. They have connections with people in various departments and use their strengths to network and find employees who have the competencies to take on a mentee with autism spectrum disorder or who has a different way of thinking.

It’s amazing how many Lawrence Livermore employees are willing to help, Lowder said. For example, two neurodiverse students worked in the weapons integration complex this summer with engaged mentors, she said.

The Abilities Champions also found a source that can help fund neurodiverse students’ internships for a period of two to three months through an organization called the Regional Center of the East Bay, a nonprofit that works in partnership with individuals and agencies to coordinate services and support systems for people with developmental disabilities.

This year, Lawrence Livermore found 20 neurodiverse students through this program, Lowder said.

Looking at this population, many people with autism spectrum disorder are unemployed or not employed to their full capacity, she added. But their differences are workable, and other companies like EY, SAP and Microsoft are recognizing this, as well.

“We just have to find ways to understand each other. It’s a joint partnership. They adapt and we adapt, and then we have a wonderful partnership,” Lowder said.

And the Winner Is …

Just as a lot of work goes into setting up the students for success, the symposium itself requires a lot of organization and collaboration. The scholars team that organizes the event sees involvement from other departments as well, Lowder said.

The IT department ensures that judges have enough iPads to input their scores. Someone also needs to make sure the scoring app is updated. Lowder and her team work with the head of each department, who finds up to 35 employees who will be judges from that department — bringing the 2019 judge count to 150 people. Judges take an hour each to evaluate six different projects and even more time to deliberate the winners.

“It’s like an orchestra; everyone has their piece,” Lowder said.

This year students from all departments did some impressive work, she added. Makayla Arcara, a student from the University of California, Berkeley, with an internship in the global security department, presented her research on “recovery efficiencies of DNA-tagged particles,” Lowder said, adding that the judges were impressed.

Previous interns have also created impressive projects, she said. An intern in the environment restoration group created a geographic information systems mapping tool that can be plugged into certain tools to provide locations. A returning environment restoration student created a new look and feel for the system. Meanwhile, a student in the radioactive and hazardous waste management program developed the mobile capabilities for their website.

This year, the winners got a little extra recognition for their success.

Lawrence Livermore partnered with the nonprofit Livermore Lab Foundation — which is not associated with the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory — to help enhance the symposium. The two organizations cobranded T-shirts for the students to wear, and the Livermore Lab Foundation provided the funds to give a monetary reward of $150 to each of the students in the top 10 percent. This year that meant that 38 students received the prize.

Whether the students end up employed at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, “Our main focus with the poster symposium is to give students practice presenting their work, have them leave with something tangible that they’ve done over the summer, and leave with some experience they can apply in their careers,” Lowder said.

For its workplace initiative demonstrating excellence in the Optimas categories of Corporate Citizenship, Innovation, Managing Change, Partnership, Recruiting, Training and Vision, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is the 2019 Optimas Award General Excellence winner.

Andie Burjek is a Workforce associate editor. To comment, email

O.C. Tanner logo
O.C. Tanner
Employee Benefits Package

mployers don’t need to choose between strong traditional benefits like health care and more innovative perks.

At O.C. Tanner, the nontraditional perks are just as important as the traditional. Company leadership asks employees directly what they needed to be successful, both at work and at home. The organization’s benefits package reflects this mission to offer more thoughtful benefits offerings that could “genuinely improve employee well-being,” spokesman Kameron Baetge stated in the Optimas Award application.

These offerings include pet insurance, tuition reimbursement and adoption benefits. The company supports health through a variety of means, including hosting onsite dental and mammogram services, sponsoring health fairs and hosting monthly lunch and learns geared toward physical, mental, emotional and financial well-being.

O.C. Tanner has also partnered with organizations like One Refugee and The Refugee Education Initiative to further their decades-long priority of employing refugees and supporting their growth in the workplace.

Further, the organization improved its paid parental leave policy in 2017. While new parents used to get five days of paid time off, now new mothers get six weeks and new fathers get two weeks. This new policy has received positive feedback from both current employees and helped elevate O.C. Tanner’s recruiting efforts, Baetge said.

O.C. Tanner, as an employee recognition company that is headquartered near Utah’s tech hub known as the Silicon Slopes, finds it especially necessary to attract and keep good talent. A competitive benefits package and a culture that supports employee well-being helps.

Many organizations have relied on perks like snacks in the common area and in-office pool tables to stand out, Baetge said, but O.C. Tanner wanted to go a step further with thoughtful nontraditional benefits that genuinely impact employee well-being.

“O.C. Tanner has strived to provide benefits and amenities that help employees focus on work while they’re at work, as well as be able to enjoy their time at home without worrying about or putting off tasks such as routine medical checkups and financially preparing for their future,” Baetge said.

For its ongoing work to work to inspect and improve its employee benefits package, O.C. Tanner is the 2019 Optimas Award Gold winner for Benefits.

— Andie Burjek
Hudson Valley Credit Union logo
Wellness Programs

inancial cooperative HVFCU has earned the designation as an “Employer of Choice” in New York’s Hudson Valley, and its wellness initiative has helped to earn that title.

HVFCU, with about 900 employees, is one of the Hudson Valley’s largest employers and part of its strategy to design its wellness program was to get employee feedback on what they wanted to see. The organization sees the program as a key differentiator from other financial institutions and employers.

A committee of employee representatives from all locations administers the wellness program and works on staying on top of industry trends, continually enhancing the program to support employees’ needs and wants.

In 2018, HVFCU paid over $16,000 in gym reimbursements and $1,500 in preventative care incentives. Meanwhile, those who have participated in the Weight Watchers at Work program have lost over 400 pounds.

For a wellness program that stands out, HVFCU is the 2019 Optimas Award Silver winner for Benefits.

— Andie Burjek
Cumberland (Wisconsin) School District

or its success in partnering with a new health insurance plan that helped reduce health care costs by $500,000, the Cumberland (Wisconsin) School District is the 2019 Optimas Award Bronze winner for Benefits.

— Andie Burjek
Mercer logo
Mercer Consulting (India) Pvt Ltd
Make in India

fter doubling its customer base following an acquisition, Mercer Consulting needed to adjust its workforce to accommodate the brisk expansion. Rather than consider customer-service bots or hire new staff by the dozens, Mercer saw the solution in its existing talent pool.

“Make in India totally aligns itself with where we want to be globally. The philosophy and strategy behind the program breaks the silos that we have been working in.”
Shane Kelly, transformation manager

The Make in India program was designed to create a cross-location operating model between Mercer and its partner of 13 years, Global Operations Shared Services ANZ. The partnership emboldened Mercer in creating the strategy for Make in India. The program was an answer to challenges faced by Mercer such as inadequate workforce, depleting support structure and process inefficiencies in its business. By creating a multiskilled and engaged team, Mercer was able to save over $3 million in one year.

Mercer and Global Operations Shared Services ANZ have worked together on more than 50 projects, and according to the Optimas Award application, Make in India has been their most ambitious and transformational.

By cross-skilling, upskilling and reskilling its current employees, Mercer was able to transition 120 positions to the India office. Boundaries between roles evaporated as Mercer shifted focus to create a task force equipped to find solutions for whatever problems they may face.

Digital fluency, rather than literacy, was also one of the key strengths Mercer wanted to instill in its staff in India. Creating actual consultants instead of administrators was key for ensuring dexterous personnel.

“Make in India totally aligns itself with where we want to see ourselves globally. The philosophy and strategy behind the program breaks the silos that we have been working in,” said Transformation Manager Shane Kelly. “It outlines setting up seamless streams of work to ensure minimum handoffs, oriented toward innovation to achieve best possible outcomes.”

For its efforts to use its Make in India initiative to invest in their employees through multiple channels of culture and skill, Mercer Consulting is the 2019 Optimas Award Gold winner for Business Impact.

— Kerry Snider
Turner logo
Bold Hiring

hrough online seminars, hiring managers and leaders at Turner are able to not only build a pool of talent from varied backgrounds but also create an inclusive culture so that talent is motivated to stay.

The Bold Hiring initiative began in 2017 and is expected to expand to parent company WarnerMedia during company restructuring.

“If Turner is to compete with both traditional and nontraditional competitors, it’s important that everyone involved in talent selection understand key moments of choice where we have the opportunity to challenge assumptions and think about candidates in different ways,” Turner stated in its application.

For its efforts to use its Bold Hiring initiative to optimize a workforce based on celebrating diversity rather than the status quo, Turner is the 2019 Optimas Award Silver winner for Business Impact.

— Kerry Snider
Ultimate Software logo
Ultimate Software
UltiPro Giving

ltimate Software is a cloud-based human capital management and employee experience solutions provider. Its human capital management suite, UltiPro, delivers a variety of services including human resources, payroll, time reporting, talent recruitment, surveys and other HR solutions.

“Since we founded Ultimate Software, our mission has been to care for all people beginning with our employees, continuing to our customers and extending into our communities,” said Vivian Maza, chief culture officer at Weston, Florida-based Ultimate Software.

The company’s UltiPro Giving initiative is an internal application that’s been available to Ultimate Software’s 5,200 employees. That program now will be offered free to all of Ultimate Software’s North American customers. UltiPro Giving facilitates voluntary employee donations to company-sponsored causes by automatically deducting the donation amount from employees’ paycheck.

“Throughout our 29-year history, we’ve been extremely fortunate to be able to give and serve others across our communities. And now with UltiPro Giving, we can pay it forward by helping our customers and their employees make a meaningful difference on a global scale,” Maza said.

The initiative expands upon the Ultimate Software’s “People First” founding philosophy, and in 2018 Ultimate Software utilized UltiPro Giving to raise $1.27 million for causes and charities such as the Make-a-Wish Foundation, the American Red Cross, the Los Angeles Fire Department, the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Campaign and other charitable causes.

UltiPro Giving also enables employees to come together to support co-workers experiencing sudden or unforeseen hardships or tragedies. In the past this has included raising $68,000 in honor and memory of a co-worker and all employees affected by illness requiring hospice care; and donating $60,090 to the University of Miami’s Health Systems Neurological Department in support of a colleague diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Integrating UltiPro as part of the overall employee experience has helped Ultimate Software maintain a 94 percent retention rate and a 96 percent customer retention rate.

For its efforts in charitable giving and now extending the program free to its customers, Ultimate Software is the 2019 Optimas Award Gold winner for Corporate Citizenship.

— Francesca Mathewes
Tata Consultancy Services logo
Tata Consultancy Services
Ignite My Future in School

ata Consultancy Services is an international IT services company that understands the value of education in STEM subjects. The implementation of its Ignite My Future in School initiative has served as a proponent of STEM education since September 2017 and uses a multilayered engagement model to support students, teachers, parents, administrators and schools, emphasizing students from marginalized groups and under-resourced school districts.

The initiative provides in-person teacher professional development, and ensures that the content provided is aligned to Next Generation Science Standards, Common Core State Standards Initiative and other frameworks so that the educators can easily integrate it into their lesson plans. There also is a free open-source platform,, that provides year-round support through knowledge-sharing sessions, webinars and access to self-paced learning modules.

Because of its commitment to educational causes such as Ignite My Future in School, Tata Consultancy Services is the 2019 Optimas Award Silver winner for Corporate Citizenship.

— Francesca Mathewes
Valmont logo
Valmont Industries Inc.
New Employee Onboarding

almont Industries Inc. knows the weight of a first impression. Rather than a dry, daylong PowerPoint presentation, the Omaha, Nebraska-based manufacturer of infrastructure and irrigation equipment created a new-employee orientation program from the ground up for every individual role in the multinational company.

Training courses for new employees were designed to be easily translatable so employees at international sites could hear important safety information in their native language, since Valmont manufactures products in over 80 different facilities spread across six continents and does business in over 23 different countries.

Rather than have a manufacturer in Vietnam watch American executives in an office setting, each work site has its own specific videos so workers can see themselves in their own workplace.

Managers also took on a more significant role in training. Tracking new hires’ progress with online learning modules gave managers a hands-on role in shaping their team. Holding managers accountable was also a new facet within the updated curriculum, creating a consistent training experience from employee to employee.

“With this new program, we give people a view of what you’re a part of, to be part of something bigger than yourself, how your little piece fits in the organization,” said Kendra Davis, Valmont’s e-learning instructional designer. “It makes you want to stick with that organization because you see how you’re making a difference.”

While the importance of safety was fundamental teaching in previous training seminars, company culture previously was more of an afterthought. Valmont realized if they wanted a workforce to share their commitment to continuous learning, methods of learning would have to change.

A program comprised of both online and face-to-face lessons that tailors to every employee’s role function ensured that different types of learners could retain the knowledge necessary for getting their own job done. Going forward, Valmont looks to expand this program in Chinese, Danish, French, German, Portuguese, and Russian.

For its efforts to use its New Employee Onboarding initiative to make orientation more engaging and universal for new hires, Valmont Industries Inc. is the 2019 Optimas Award Gold winner for Global Outlook.

— Kerry Snider
Turner logo
One World One Team

hile the media landscape transitions swiftly, the ability to quickly adapt is vital.

That’s why Turner decided to focus on its One World One Team initiative, which had a global reach that eliminated jobs in some regions and created jobs in others.

Global implementation of six significant organizational transformations at the same time included the creation of 40-plus positions in Argentina from 2017 to 2019 while several positions were eliminated in APAC and EMEA regions. With developments in leadership, training and communication, the One World One Team strategy saved 10 percent of costs from 2017 to 2018.

“Turner has focused on maximizing efficiencies and reducing operating costs to enable innovation and investment,” Turner stated on its Optimas Award application. “By streamlining accounting functions, the organization can create expense efficiencies that will allow us to invest in content creation and innovation.”

For its efforts to use its One World One Team initiative to build a solid foundation to fit its expansive global organization, Turner is the 2019 Optimas Award Silver winner for Global Outlook.

— Kerry Snider
Philanthropy U

or its efforts to expand accessibility for educational courses in nonprofit management and utilizing technology to extend training opportunities globally, Philanthropy U is the 2019 Optimas Award Bronze Winner for Global Outlook.

— Kerry Snider
Teachers College, Columbia University logo
Teachers College, Columbia University
From No Code to Low Code App Development

eachers College at Columbia University is a graduate school of education, health and psychology in New York City and has served as the faculty and Department of Education of Columbia University since its affiliation in 1898. It functions on the founding idea that education alone cannot correct society’s problems.

Teachers College seeks to maximize the opportunities of all people while focusing specifically on supporting under-resourced communities with physical and nutritional health, education, special education, conflict resolution and spirituality through its curriculum.

The No Code to Low Code app development initiative brought app design to noncoding professionals and entry-level talent about to enter the workforce in various industries. The initiative explores how noncoders can design apps for web or mobile health apps. With the growing need of businesses, and various industries including health, to meet their clients and patients where they are at — on their mobile phones — there is a dearth of coders.

Offering subject-matter experts the opportunity to develop their app ideas with no code and low code will not only empower these experts but also help combat the lack of coders, reduce cost and offer faster app deployment, according to the Teachers College Optimas Award application.

The overarching goal was to provide future health workers with a better understanding of how to apply learning theories in a practical manner accompanied by design strategies used for mHealth via mobile phones.

“All of this was in pursuit of maximizing mobile health learning and for promoting technological skill development in their work and life in the mobile era, utilizing technology for the benefit of staff and people as patients,” said Dominic Mentor, director at Teachers College.

For its work in technological advancement and innovation through the use of the From No Code to Low Code initiative in the mobile health field, Teachers College of Columbia University is the 2019 Optimas Award Gold winner for Innovation.

— Francesca Mathewes
Riverside Healthcare logo
Riverside Healthcare
Focused Provider Rounding

iverside Healthcare is a health care system serving the needs of individuals and communities in central Illinois. As part of the Riverside Healthcare system, Riverside Medical Center — a 312-bed hospital — provides a full scope of inpatient and outpatient care and is a nationally recognized Level II trauma hospital focusing on heart care, cancer care, neurosurgery and orthopedics.

Studies have shown that long-term, high-touch care in the health care profession can ultimately result in provider burnout if not sufficiently identified, addressed and managed. In an effort to effectively affect provider burnout through a more preventative approach, the Riverside Healthcare Well In Mind Employee Support Program has implemented the Focused Provider Rounding initiative to complement the current infrastructure of well-being programs. This workforce management initiative provides the health care organization’s doctors and advanced-care providers with the knowledge, skills and resources necessary to address the signs of provider burnout, improving the working experience of the entire staff.

For the Focused Provider Rounding initiative, Riverside Healthcare is the 2019 Optimas Award Silver winner for Innovation.

— Francesca Mathewes

or its work through The DailyPay Benefit initiative, DailyPay is the 2019 Optimas Award Bronze winner for Innovation.

— Francesca Mathewes
LaSalle Network logo
LaSalle Network
Training & Development Program

xpanding the workforce can be daunting, especially when hiring en masse, but LaSalle Network saw the challenge as an opportunity. 

LaSalle Network has hired 200 new employees in the past two years, with 48 current staff members promoted from within. But without a formal training and development program in place, company leaders were seeing some of their new hires resign within the first three months. They felt ill-equipped to do their job and were unhappy as a result.

In order to ensure they were hiring the right people and equipping them for a successful first few weeks and months, they invested time, money and resources into revamping their new-hire onboarding and training program to better train and retain new hires. That meant hiring a head of training and three trainers as well as working closely with executive leaders to craft a program that was impactful and engaging.

When revamping its initial training program to accommodate their recent hires, Chicago-based LaSalle Network decided to pull out all the stops with ongoing training and an accreditation program for all employees. The team of trainers helped ensure that the company’s core values were understood and implemented through every step of the orientation or accreditation process.

The new onboarding system isn’t the only tool being used to maintain the company’s 91 percent overall employee engagement rate.

Alongside the two-week intensive new-hire onboarding system, the training team also implemented specific programs in mentoring, coaching and supervisor development.

“We’ve found when we outsource these core functions, they aren’t executed at a level that we believe they can be, and the level of service isn’t what we expect,” said Sirmara J. Campbell, chief human resources officer at LaSalle Network. “So we made the decision and the investment to hire and develop a training team. We believe in promoting from within and creating career paths for our employees who show they have the work ethic and commitment to the company. Our training team is no exception.”

One of the skills emphasized in LaSalle Network’s training and development program is communication. To develop everybody’s speaking skills, every morning employees share with their team members their priorities for the day.

For its efforts to use its training and development program to provide their workforce with continuous learning opportunities, LaSalle Network is the 2019 Optimas Award Gold winner for Managing Change.

— Kerry Snider
Tata Consultancy Services logo
Tata Consultancy Services

aced with low attrition rates while trying to expand its workforce, Tata Consultancy Services needed a new onboarding program that would encourage talent to stay.

The iBelong initiative set out to thoroughly welcome new employees while training them, even when working remotely. The online program not only allows for learning company policies, but also creates opportunities for building a network with both customers and fellow employees.

“With the growing number of lateral hires comes the challenge of having them ‘feel’ the same as someone who has always been a TCSer. … With this initiative the new hires associate and identify with TCS although they have to work at customer locations,” TCS stated in its Optimas Award nomination application.

For its efforts to use its iBelong initiative as a means of integrating new employees to their company culture, Tata Consultancy Services is the 2019 Optimas Award Silver winner for Managing Change.

— Kerry Snider
Columbia Zoo and Aquarium logo
Columbus Zoo and Aquarium
Edge Program

he Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is a nonprofit conservation organization based in Columbus, Ohio. It aims to lead and inspire in connecting people and wildlife.

Its facilities include a zoo, water park, safari park and golf course, employing about 2,000 people each year. Its Edge Program initiative partners with the Ohio Department of Education and the governor’s office to recruit high school students to work at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.

“The Columbus zoo and Aquarium is very proud of the of the partnership with the Ohio Board of Education.”
Carman Wirtz, senior vice president of human resources

“The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is very proud of the partnership with the Ohio Board of Education and being one of the pioneer employers to assist with this very important initiative. We are delighted to offer Ohio high school students an opportunity to develop job readiness skills,” said Carman Wirtz, senior vice president of human resources.

The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium does this by specifically filling a mentorship requirement in the Readiness Seal, a formal designation that high school students can earn on their diploma by demonstrating the professional skills that are required for success in the workplace. The Edge Program sets up supervisors with students that work together every day, and are responsible for providing feedback on a variety of readiness skills.

Throughout their employment with the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, students in the Edge Program will receive feedback and at the completion of 300 hours of work, have official forms signed and submitted to their high school. The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium seeks to be not only a partner in fulfilling requirements for the Readiness Seal, but active partners in developing the skills and eventually the careers of young people in the state of Ohio. For its partnership with the Ohio Board of Education and commitment to educational and community development, the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is the 2019 Optimas Award Gold winner for Partnership.

— Francesca Mathewes
DPI Specialty Foods logo
DPI Specialty Foods
DPI Specialty Foods Journey

PI Specialty Foods is a specialty food distributor, supplying perishable and non-perishable food products across five continents in varying temperature ranges. DPI also provides sales and other services to food providers, retailers and independent operators across the United States.

Through its partnership with Ceridian’s Dayforce human capital management system, DPI was able to achieve higher levels of consistency, transparency and reliability from recruitment through onboarding and retention. This partnership has streamlined numerous DPI Specialty Foods’ processes, particularly onboarding, as well as collecting data-driven insights and providing more visibility to employees to create a more connected, engaged and satisfied workforce.

For this partnership, DPI Specialty Foods is the 2019 Optimas Award Silver winner for Partnership.

— Francesca Mathewes
Clemson University – Human Resources logo
Clemson University – Human Resources (Talent Acquisition)
Picture Yourself Here

s the Clemson University employee family continued to grow, the human resources department realized a new recruitment initiative was needed to reach a wider spectrum of candidates and promote the unique aspects of working at the South Carolina university. Thus, the Picture Yourself Here campaign was developed.

The campaign bridges the gap between hiring managers and candidates while broadening recruitment from regional to nationwide. It created “a cohesive and consistent way to reach candidates regardless of location, position or hiring department,” according to its award application.

The Picture Yourself Here campaign focuses on three tiers of recruitment materials that correspond with the salary levels of the offered position. As the salary increases, prospective employees can expect to receive a benefits booklet, a Tiger Rag (Clemson’s sports mascot is known as The Tiger), a personalized interview itinerary and a Clemson-branded virtual reality viewer. The VR viewer provides the candidate a chance to picture themselves on the university’s campus in the city of Clemson. Josh Brown, director of talent acquisition at Clemson, said, “Oftentimes we aren’t only recruiting just the candidate but their family as well. Having the capability to do a virtual tour provides a unique experience for everyone involved.”

Since the inception of the campaign one year ago, Clemson has received glowing reviews of the program from candidates. One candidate, M. Floyd, stated, “I was so impressed by the materials and the positive impact they had on shaping my perceptions of the university as a candidate, I shared the materials with my then HR team to explore how we might be able to implement a similar program for high-demand and hard-to-fill positions.”

Results include a revenue of $33,000 from local companies’ advertisements on the Picture Yourself Here materials. This revenue was distributed back into the budget to support Clemson employees. In addition, the university’s acceptance rate is currently at 98 percent.

“This campaign helps to leave candidates with an impression of Clemson that will last for years, and makes Tiger Town the place they want to be,” Brown said.

For its efforts on the Picture Yourself Here campaign, Clemson University-Human Resources (Talent Acquisition) is the 2019 Optimas Award Gold winner for Recruiting.

— Erin Stanis
Interim HealthCare Inc. logo
Interim HealthCare Inc.
Project: ROR (Recruit, Onboard, Retain)

n an industry with a high turnover rate, Interim HealthCare set itself apart from the competition with Project: ROR, short for recruit, onboard, and retain. The program strives to not only hire the best candidates but also increase productivity and employee satisfaction among current employees.

Project: ROR focuses on three primary components: achievement dashboards, biannual contests, and professional development courses and certifications. The achievement dashboards assist applicants, track patient encounters and workforce utilization. Biannual contests create friendly competition between franchises and encourage an increase in hiring and utilization. In addition, professional development courses and certifications can lead to incremental pay increases and have improved retention and caregiver satisfaction.

Through the achievement dashboards, Interim HealthCare has five times the number of candidates. Additionally, turnover continues to decline while engagement continues to rise.

For its efforts on Project: ROR, Interim HealthCare is the 2019 Optimas Award Silver winner for Recruiting.

— Erin Stanis

or CDW’s creation and implementation of its Technology Sales Bootcamp, the technology solutions provider is the 2019 Optimas Award Bronze winner for Recruiting.

— Erin Stanis
Panda Restaurant Group Inc. logo
Panda Restaurant Group Inc.
Store Leadership Training Program

he University of Panda’s Store Leadership Training Program was a solution to a paper-based and outdated training program that did little to prevent the shrinking talent pool and increasing turnover rates of managers for the Panda Restaurant Group.

Part of the Rosemead, California-based Panda Restaurant Group Inc.’s corporate university, the University of Panda offers a series of instructor-led, video, e-learning and on-the-job training modules specific to different levels of associates at Panda’s more than 2,200 locations. The program is set up to be a road map for users to determine necessary steps for their individual career paths, with courses focusing on operation skills and leadership training, as well as the opportunity to practice running a store.

“We are honored and humbled that Workforce has recognized our University of Panda Store Leadership Training Program and the way it supports our company’s mission to inspire better lives,” said Leonard Yip, chief people officer for Panda Restaurant Group, parent company of Panda Express. “We believe the unique mix of personal and professional development courses that comprise our University of Panda curriculum encourages current and future leaders to see and realize new possibilities for themselves.”

This new training program has been in place for one year, and Panda Restaurant Group plans on maintaining it as the organization grows. Changes to the program will be made “on demand” based on feedback from training leaders, trainees and department leaders regarding its ability to meet their learning needs and expectations.

So far, Panda Restaurant Group has seen improved retention rates with internal general managers and an increase in employee satisfaction since launching the initiative.

For its efforts in strengthening its core L&D program for all its employees, the Panda Restaurant Group is the 2019 Optimas Award Gold winner in Training.

— Elizabeth Loutfi
AbbVie logo
People Leader Quick Guides

t AbbVie, the People Leader Quick Guides were developed to help company leaders approach and engage in meaningful conversations with their direct reports.

Conceived in October 2017, AbbVie’s talent development team began working on the initiative in April 2018 after identifying a hesitancy and lack of confidence among leadership when it came to having conversations with direct reports because they feared how the report would respond, using feedback from both the employee engagement survey and the people leader index. Data also revealed that employees wanted more transparency from their managers.

AbbVie wanted to create an initiative that would allow leaders to experience situations with positive, neutral and negative outcomes before they happen in real life, so they in turn feel more prepared and confident for whatever the outcome. The end result is a series of short videos demonstrating various scenarios — informal and formal feedback, development planning, coaching and career discussion — based on real situations.

“The People Leader Quick Guides offers insight to them in a private, self-paced manner so they can see themselves in the role and actually doing this work. The workforce management initiative was integral to the solution because it removed the mystery, mystic and myths about how to do these things,” AbbVie stated in its application.

For its efforts in leader and manager training, AbbVie is the 2019 Optimas Award Silver winner for Training.

— Elizabeth Loutfi
Tata Consultancy Services (Emerge)

or its efforts in launching Emerge, a one-day leadership development and networking program for U.S. employees that is part of it’s larger North American initiative, Inspire, Tata Consultancy Services is the 2019 Optimas Award Bronze winner for Training.

— Elizabeth Loutfi
Turner logo
Make You Matter Week

edia company Turner’s people development team is responsible for creating iniatives and strategies that put “employees first by creating relevant, easily consumable content,” while also “leveraging existing ‘core’ offerings and evolving offerings as necessary,” according to Ashley Costine, manager of learning culture at Turner, a division of WarnerMedia.

Make you matter week Is a global learning, inspiration, wellness and recreatonal event across all turner locations, which span Europe, Asia and North America.

One such creation is the Make You Matter Week initiative, which follows significant changes that Turner experienced in 2014, including changes to organizational structure and reduction in its workforce. At the time, the people development team created a new strategy to address the shifting needs of the organization. It was discovered that “employees prioritized the demands of their day-to-day jobs over their own learning and development,” according to Costine.

The Turner People Development team sought both internal and external inspiration for their new program, looking to learning and development programs such as Ogilvy’s daylong personal and professional development event, as well as CNN’s “eventizing” of their on-air content during the 2016 election.

Moving forward with these ideas, they created Make You Matter Week, a global learning, inspiration, wellness and recreational event across all Turner locations, which spans Europe, Asia and North America. During the weeklong event, which is structured like a conference, employees are encouraged to engage with speakers and workshops to expand their personal and professional development while prioritizing and discussing self-care.

Each year, Make You Matter Week has a central theme that is relevant to business, including innovation, collaboration and resiliency. The creation and evolution of this event has encouraged employees across all of Turner’s locations to prioritize their personal needs and improve company wellness culture. For the Make You Matter Week initiative and strides in wellness education, Turner is the 2019 Optimas Award Gold winner for Vision.

— Francesca Mathewes
Sagicor Group Jamaica Ltd. logo
Sagicor Group Jamaica Ltd.
Sagicor Group Jamaica Pro-Millennial Mentorship Society

agicor Group Jamaica Ltd., a full-service financial institution based in Kingston, Jamaica, offers a wide range of products and services, including pension and insurance services, real estate, banking, investment and other financial solutions.

Its Sagicor Group Jamaica Pro-Millennial Mentorship Society initiative aims to focus and customize professional development for the organization’s millennial employees through interactive training and real-world problem solving. This mentorship program embraces a more collaborative, group approach to mentorship, moving away from more traditional one-on-one programs, specifically fostering vibrant intergenerational professional relationships between employees across the four generations represented in Sagicor Group Jamaica Ltd.

For its implementation of their Pro-Millennial Mentorship Society initiative, Sagicor Group Jamaica Ltd. is the 2019 Optimas Award Silver winner for Vision.

— Francesca Mathewes