SHRM Names Economic Stimulus Prize Winners

By SHRM Online staff Feb 12, 2009

Providence Health & Services Oregon Region promotes retention and helps its employees cope with the economic downturn through its “Inflation Busters” program—an expanded educational, transportation, retail and wellness benefits program.

And after the Ellis County, Texas workers’ compensation premiums doubled in January 2008, the county launched a wellness program that has led to a 3 percent decrease in its 2009 workers’ compensation premium.


Those are two of the 15 winning submissions from HR professionals who won $1,000 apiece in the Society for Human Resource Management’s “HR Confronts the Downturn” economic stimulus prize. They also will receive a SHRM Certificate of Recognition and a letter from SHRM President and CEO Laurence G. O’Neil.

Winners are SHRM members at nonprofits, private companies, universities and state and local governments. The winning case studies highlight best HR practices to:

  • Attract and retain talented employees through leadership training and career development.
  • Create cost-cutting strategies to avoid layoffs.
  • Reduce health care costs through employee wellness programs.
  • Implement financial literacy programs that help employees cope with difficult economic circumstances.

Online submissions for the contest had to be completed by Jan. 20, 2009; the entry had to have been a strategy that had been developed in response to the economic downturn.

I salute these 15 outstanding HR professionals for their leadership and bold thinking to tackle some of the toughest workplace challenges caused by this recession,” O’Neil said in a statement.

The winners were selected from among 164 submissions. They are:

  • Juliann Brown, HR Director, Central Susquehanna Opportunities Inc., located in Shamokin, Pa. CSO implemented an innovative health waiver strategy that allows it to maintain its excellent health benefits (no co-premium), retain employees, keep morale high and cut costs.
  • Diana Buckley, HR Director, Ellis County, Texas. After its workers compensation premiums doubled in January 2008, the county launched a wellness program that has led to a 3 percent decrease in its 2009 health premiums.
  • Mark Fogel, vice president of HR and administration, Leviton Manufacturing Corp., located in Little Neck, N.Y.HR developed a low-cost, in-house Talent Management Program aligned directly to the pressing needs of the company’s different businesses as they face stiff economic challenges.
  • Catherine Harris, Organization Development Specialist, Toyotetsu America, Inc., located in Somerset, Ky. HR devised a strategy to continue providing a full career development training program, principally through employee creativity in finding new ways to cut costs.
  • Timothy Hess, assistant vice president of HR, McLeod Health, located in Florence, S.C. McLeod launched “Helping Enhance Employees’ Financial Well-Being,” a multifaceted program designed to address several root issues the company’s workforce is facing.
  • Todd Hunter, Workforce Training Coordinator, Arkansas State University/Beebe, located in Beebe, Ark. A growing concern in Arkansas about workforce training programs led the university to create a comprehensive, user-friendly training program catalog to be distributed to more than 250 businesses, chambers of commerce, economic developers, mayors and public school systems.
  • Kim Jackson, senior HR Staff, Noblis, located in Arlington, Va. Noblis made employee professional development its No. 1 corporate priority for 2009, doubling participation in its formal leadership development program.
  • Mary Klein, vice president of HR, Westminster Services, located in Orlando, Fla. Westminster launched a wellness initiative, a supplemental health care benefit and a pharmacy reimbursement program that has helped employees and led to a significant reduction in company and employee health care coverage rates.
  • Jennifer Mason, HR Manager, Oakland County, located in Pontiac, Mich. The county deleted 180 positions without laying off a single employee by using a separation incentive program for employees who were eligible for retirement.
  • Rodney Pasch, HR Director, City of Fond du Lac, Wis. To counter the negative economic mood and to promote employee well-being and morale, the city developed the “Have a Career—Make a Life” program with positive results.
  • Curtis Powell, vice president of HR, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, located in Troy, N.Y. HR implemented a contingency plan that achieved a $24 million budget reduction while maintaining the institute’s comprehensive strategic course.
  • Judy Samples, Regional Director, HR, Providence Health & Services Oregon Region, located in Portland, Ore. Providence launched its “Inflation Busters” program to promote retention and help employees cope with the economic downturn. The program expanded Providence’s educational, transportation, retail and wellness benefits.
  • Steve Sturm, HR Consultant, American Family Insurance, located in Madison, Wis. HR developed a range of 2009 projects to continue its strategic alignment with the company’s customer-centric mission to confront current economic challenges and help position the company for future growth.
  • Sally Wojcieszyn, Workforce Development Representative/Recruiter, Delaware Economic Development Office (DEDO), located in Dover, Del. DEDO will launch “Bridge to a New Position” in 2009. This is a statewide career development program to help recently unemployed people succeed in their job searches.
  • Karen Wolf, HR Manager, Dorner Manufacturing Corp., located in Oconomowok, Wis. Because layoffs could not be avoided, all 170 employees—including senior executives—agreed to take a one-week layoff per quarter in 2009. This is a strategy that Dorner says worked successfully during the 2001 recession.

More detailed overviews of the winning programs can be accessed at:

These fresh ideas and innovative programs,” O’Neil said, “clearly demonstrate HR’s role in creating smart and sophisticated business strategies in response to the growing economic crisis.”

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