Intuit CEO and HR VP Share Their Perspectives on Innovation

SANTA CLARA CONVENTION CENTER—(MAY 2, 2013)—HR Symposium 2013 kicked off its 27th year with an insider’s peak into HR innovation at Intuit, a company that has been recognized by Fortune Magazine as one of the “Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For” each year since 2002.

The symposium was attended by hundreds of new and seasoned HR professionals who were taking a half-day break from the usual day of firefighting to learn from some of the brightest and most successful leaders in the industry.

On the Santa Clara Convention Center stage for an informal executive discussion were Brad Smith, Intuit CEO and president, and Sherry Whiteley, who has served as Intuit’s senior vice president and chief human resources officer since 2000.

Smith and Whiteley, who have spearheaded an “employees first” culture, admitted they have been known to finish each other’s sentences and have neighboring offices in the Mountain View financial software company.

Employees As Air

It’s no accident, Smith told the audience. It symbolizes, he said, how important employee stewardship is to the company. In a wilderness survival scenario, the human body needs air first, then water and then food, said Smith.

“If we were a human body, and the employees would be the air, the customers are water and the shareholder would be the food,” Smith said. The top priorities at Intuit are employees, customers and shareholders. In that order, he said.

According to Harvard Business School, a 10 percent increase in employee engagement leads to a 6 percent increase in productivity and a 2 percent increase in sales.

Intuit Workforce Innovations

Best known for TurboTax and QuickBooks, Intuit is known for its employee "idea jams," or science fairs that allow employees the opportunity to show off ideas and get feedback. The company has formal rotation programs for new employees and supports employees’ pursuing their own projects on company time. The company has promoted innovation by rewarding top innovators with cash, stock and funding. Work-life balance programs have included support for in-home childcare, telecommuting options and matching contributions to dependent-care accounts.

Smith became president and chief executive officer in 2008, after five years leading several of its major businesses. He served as senior vice president and general manager of the company’s Small Business Division, head of the company’s Consumer Tax Group in San Diego.

Whiteley, who joined Intuit in 2000, leads the team responsible for acquiring, developing, mobilizing and rewarding the company’s global workforce.  She also leads the diversity and inclusion program and community giving efforts. She and her team have worked to support a high performance culture. With a passion for employee-driven philanthropy, Whiteley is also president of the Intuit Foundation board of directors. She also impressed the audience as a leader at home where she has five teenagers.

Enabling a Community of Innovators

“They’re empowered to be their best,” Smith said. “We try to create an environment where people can fulfill their dreams.”

Smith said Intuit is “a leadership development factory” with 8,000 leaders. “We try to create an opportunity where we can grow and stretch them. They grow by the questions they ask, not the answers they have.”

Inuit trains people, embedded throughout the company, to be innovation catalysts. Rather than focuses on new creation or inspirations, employees are encouraged to reimagine things in existence as well, to create something that borrows best practices.

“We don’t view innovation as someone’s job in a lab” he said. “It’s in 8,000 people’s job. We think of it as a new way to do their job better.”

Customer-Centric Challenge for HR

Two years ago, Smith challenged all functions to be more customer-centric, to function more like a business. For HR, that posed unexpected challenges, Whiteley said.

Our business organization has high business acumen and is strategic, she said, noting that her department still struggled to clarify offerings. They struggled to find the owners of offerings and even to put them in the language of the customer (employee and vendor).

The question, How are we going to delight our customers end to end? would mean the person closest to the product would make most of the decisions around it, she said.

The aim is to have the most talented and engaged employees. They want to wow their employees with HR offerings as well as any company wows its customers with its products.

“Are employees’ heartbeats beating faster because they work at Intuit?” Smith asked. “Would they leave for a job down the street for the same pay?”

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HR Panelists: Reframe Risk To Support Culture Of Innovation

SANTA CLARA CONVENTION CENTER—(MAY 2, 2013)—In a culture of innovation, employees throughout an organization see themselves as problem solvers and company executives are role models, re-imagining new ways to do business, according to a panel of HR leaders from companies throughout Silicon Valley.

“Historically innovation is thought of what comes out of the lab,” said Kaye Foster-Cheek, Senior VP of Global Human Resources at Onyx Pharmaceuticals, one of four panelists gathered recently for a broad-ranging discussion on innovation at HR Symposium 2013.

Joining Foster-Cheek in speaking to these challenges, were Mary Humiston, Senior VP of Global Human Resources at Applied Materials; Eric Severson, Senior VP of HR at Gap Inc.; and Derek Sidebottom, VP of People at Rocket Fuel. They discussed innovation methodologies used inside their companies – approaches that have been successful and those that were not, as well as ideas that HR professionals could implement to make an impact on the culture of innovation and how they were helping employees discover the next era of fashion, cancer treatment, marketing data analysis and technology.

The event, held at the Santa Clara Convention Center before an enthusiastic audience of about 450 people, was moderated by Eddie Sweeney, former Senior VP of Human Resources at National Semiconductor.

Innovation Outside the Lab

The challenge, for HR professionals in companies, large and small, mature and in the start-up stage, is how they can best support environments where new ideas are welcomed and risk is considered an expected learning opportunity rather than a stifling limit on new ideas.

“What we’ve been trying to get employees to accept is innovation isn’t an outcome but an opportunity for everyone in the business to think about what they do is different and ultimately holds value,” Foster Cheek said. “It’s been a bit of a clarion call for people across the organization to really think differently and really challenge themselves to think creatively about what they do. Having that as a mindset enables you to be more accessible across the organization.”

Risk and Innovation

Testing methodologies helps manage risk. Managing risk in the ideation process means opening the pipeline as wide as possible, Sweeney said. There is no way, however, to avoid risk and nurture innovation. Panelists said their companies worked to reframe the inherent pitfalls of trying something new as learning opportunities.

At Onyx, a cancer treatment company, there is a “cycle of continuous learning.” The reality is more drugs fail than make it through the clinical trials. If the point were for every single drug to work, there would never be an industry. Onyx employees are encouraged to test and learn.

“We don’t reward failure but we reward learning,” Foster-Cheek said. “There is a mindset shift. There is risk inherent in every step of that journey.”

At the Gap, where executives tried unsuccessfully to roll out a large-scale new store format about eight years ago, the company used the experience to exercise more caution the next time. When they tried again to introduce a new format again, they used more caution, testing and adjusting, applying lessons learned wherever possible. Although a more recent pilot roll-out did not actually get implemented storewide, top executives framed it as a successful experiment. The company delivered full value because leaders were able to leverage research that was generated and improve the layout overall. The end result was a better store design.

“The president says it was a huge success,” Severson said. “It taught us the value of rapid prototyping.”

To foster a high level of risk-taking for growth, find the employees who really want to be part of something much bigger, Humiston, said. Bring in different viewpoints and help teams be critical of customer roadmaps. “They have to show the viability of the return of what they’re proposing.

Results-Only Work Environment

In trying to better meet the needs of employees and the company, The Gap clothing designer, manufacturer and retailer landed in 2008 on the idea of results-based work rather than time-based work, known as “Results-Only Work Environment.” Originally adopted in 2005 by Best Buy, the results-only work environment was implemented cautiously at the Gap along with continuous testing and responding methodology.

“In each instance, we saw engagement rise 30 percent and turnover drop 50 percent,” Severson said.

The company piloted a revised version of the program in a production team then expanded the program, trying it in a cross functional team, eventually testing it in a division. Each time, the HR leaders measured specific results before and after, adjusting and adapting the program along the way.

Although initially frustrating to implement the program at such a slow speed, Severson said he eventually came to see the wisdom of the measured steps. It was important to create the foundation of evidence, he said, to test changes in the program as it was being introduced and to build confidence throughout the company in the radically different model. Today ROE is actually a key recruiting tool for The Gap.

Testing, Measuring, Adapting

“Flexible work doesn’t mean what most people think,” Severson said. “Most people came to the building every day.” They still have to accomplish everything on their job description. “You just have to figure out how to do that.” The company did less monitoring and goal changing than expected. In exchange for absolute freedom, managers get absolute accountability on results, Severson said.

“That was so powerful that all the other architecture wasn’t needed. We wouldn’t have known that if we hadn’t tested it on so many smaller teams. It was an invaluable lesson.”

What you wouldn’t know about a thing like ROE is it’s the opposite of a flexible work program, Severson said, noting that the majority of Gap employees don’t use the flexibility of ROE to work at home. The biggest shift has been in starting and ending times.

“People are using their ROE flexibility to shave commuting time and they are often reinvesting their hours in the work,” Severson said. “Interestingly enough, it almost counter-intuitively increased the number of hours people work and increased their retention and engagement.”

Innovation Starts With a Business Problem

How do you embed methodology and set of tools that allows that to happen? Sweeney asked. What would you have to put in place to make sure the organization truly makes innovation accessible?

Fifty percent of the Onyx workforce has less than six months of tenure at the company. It’s a mature company with a start-up culture. “There are literally 30 more people walking through the doors every cycle.” The question became, How do you help people understand the company evolution and its eras of growth? How do people have a shared context of mission and values when things are moving so quickly? For Onyx, the price of not venturing into the risky unknown translates directly to lives not saved.

“It’s one of the things that really drives us,” Foster-Cheek said. “The reality of the business we’re in is that there are patients dying every day as we continue to bring therapies to the market place. What that does is it creates a sense of urgency. That is what we are in service of everyday.”

Charting A Road Map For Innovation

Onyx developed a series of maps charting the evolution of the company and explaining the leadership expectations. The maps, intended to be experiential, are coupled with a series of questions for small groups of people to explore. “It starts to form a context for you about this organization,” Foster-Cheek said.

The company also hired an acquisitions manager from Google, someone who had experienced large, rapid growth cycles. That person introduced new decision science and the algorithms to challenge data sets. HR began to monitor new pools of information and data for recruitment. It was a way to reimagine the way we do business, Foster-Cheek said.

Another innovative recruiting tool at Onyx has been to have cancer patients thank future employees for coming to the company and finding a better solution for treatment.

“For me it’s that constant reimagining how we do things,” Foster-Cheek said.

Language of Innovation

For Rocket Fuel, a small five-year-old data-driven marketing startup that is hiring a person a day, the challenge has been to explain the bigger picture of what is highly technical service.

The story of innovation “is really one that starts at the front door, said Sidebottom. In the midst of a rapid growth period, it has been important to build aptitude for innovation by helping algorithm scientists consider the language of the customer. Not all the new employees need to understand code, but they need to articulate the magic of what the company is doing, Sidebottom said. “We continue to build strong connective bonds that hopefully will be a catalyst moving forward.”

Wellness & Performance

Wellness is another area of constant innovation. There are no soda vending machines at the cancer treatment company in South San Francisco. Onyx is a place where ergonomics are prioritized along with healthy available snacks and Wednesday walks – the kind of behaviors employees can transfer to their home life.

When an Onyx employee complained she couldn’t get a diet soda at the office to save her life, Foster-Cheek replied, “We’re trying to save your life!”

The Gap has introduced a Performance for Life initiative, piloting an employee wellness program to encourage the use of evidence-based practices involving physical, spiritual and emotional well-being. When those areas of life are well cared for, performance in the workplace improves, Severson said.

A health fair at Rocket Fuel reached people who have been afraid of going to a doctor, Sidebottom said.

Applied Materials is establishing this year a wellness center in Santa Clara with onsite medical, employee assistance programs, acupuncture and chiropractic services.

“Everyone knows how much healthcare costs are going up,” Humiston said. The company is attempting to manage that by helping not pass on costs while people improve their health. “If you think about engagement as a foundational element, health is a foundational element. The Applied Materials program goals for employees this year include:

  • Getting health assessments
  • Speaking to an advisor
  • Leveraging dossier company for portability of health information

“A very large percentage of employees had not been to doctor in a long time and some had not had blood drawn in their lives,” Humiston said. “We have hundreds of employees calling or coming by and saying, ‘Thank you for saving our lives.’”

Engagement, Executive Sponsorship, Clearing Obstacles

Removing obstacles to innovation is as important for HR professionals as ensuring methodologies are in place to foster a dynamic culture

“I think HR plays an incredibly important role in enabling the culture of an organization,” Humiston said, identifying three necessary elements: visible leadership sponsorship, removal of barriers and engagement. HR controls the levers. “There’s a lot in our environments that block us from doing our best work.”

Remember This: Parting Advice From Panelists

  • Keep learning. Keep growing. Most of you are here because you’re also learners.
  • Show; don’t tell.
  • Let us lead the way as role models.
  • Squelch bureaucracy wherever it exists. It is the No. 1 enemy of the nation.
  • There is a beauty in working in “small” for innovation, small pilots, small groups.
  • Test results beat theory.
  • Be open to learn from other industries and spaces.
  • Think of yourself as a business professional rather than as an HR professional.
  • Remain intellectually curious about the business you’re in. Follow the major shifts on your business so you are solving real business problems rather than practicing HR.
  • Challenge yourself.
  • Remember that our job is to enable performance within the organization, not focus on HR solutions.
  • Tell stories. Share your energy and passion.

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HR Symposium Awards $30,000 To Eight Top Candidates

SANTA CLARA CONVENTION CENTER—(MAY 2, 2013)—The HR Symposium Scholarship Committee awarded $30,000 in scholarships to eight deserving California students this year, thanks to funds raised from attendance at the annual half-day conference.

The Lynne Boone Memorial Scholarship program was created in 1994 to support promising students pursuing human resource careers and has awarded more than $330,000 to students pursuing HR-related bachelor or graduate degrees.

The program was named in honor of one of the early members of the HR Symposium Steering Committee who served as chair and as a member of the Board of Directors of Human Resources, Inc. Boone’s distinguished career included working as corporate staffing manager for Intel Corp., vice president of client relations for Lee Hecht Harrison and senior staffing manager for Cadence Design Systems.

One of the guiding principles that Boone held dear was to consider each candidate’s passion for the industry and experiences in addition to their academic accomplishments. Boone loved her work. She believed that the best HR leaders are grounded in a broad range of life experiences and urged each of us to continue learning.

“Unfortunately Lynn became ill and ultimately left us her legacy,” said Deanna Fairchild. “When selecting candidates, the committee has always strived to look beyond academics to Boone’s “guiding principle” and balance academics with passion and life experience.

The committee studied 25 applicants this year, finally settling on eight deserving students.

Scholarship recipients, who are pursuing their bachelor’s degree and received a $3,000 scholarship award, include: Christopher Manuel, Elizabeth Gomez and Mandip Sekhon of San Jose State University; Stephanie Hockett of California State-Stanislaus; and Lauren Taylor of University of Phoenix.

Three other recipients, Michael Welsh and Kate Morris, both of UC Berkeley and Erica Paul of Santa Clara University, are currently pursuing master’s degrees and received $5,000 scholarship awards.

“Their passion for the field and their extracurricular activities could represent a budding leader who will be an asset to any organization by bringing a lot more than facts and theories into the workplace,” Deanna Fairchild said.  “It is in considering this balanced approach that we strive to recognize budding leaders.”

“It was a very tough process to select candidates, and we wish you great success in continuing your education and your career,” Fairchild said.

Scholarship Committee members included Deanna Fairchild, HR business partner at LSI, Dianna Wilusz executive consultant and cofounder of The Pendolino Group, Stephanie Ferguson, HR director at Kabam, and Natasha Hoady, HR director at SuccessFactors.

The Committee hopes to increase its scholarship program each year and encouraged attendees at the Symposium to meet the stellar applicants and offer them jobs.

Scholarships are available to graduate and undergraduate students enrolled in Human Resource degree-related programs in California as well as HR professionals enrolled in MBA programs with the objective of advancing in the HR field. Scholarship awards start at $3,000 and are awarded annually at the discretion of the Symposium Scholarship Committee. Applications will be received throughout the year. For more information, go to

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HR Excellence Award Goes to Four HR Leaders

Each Innovator Spearheaded Impactful Change

SANTA CLARA CONVENTION CENTER—(MAY 2, 2013)—The HR Symposium 2013 Awards Committee recognized four innovation champions this year citing diverse initiatives that helped produce positive, fundamental change within their organizations.

  • Tiffany McGee, Vice President of Human Resources for Global Sales for the Enterprise Group at Hewlett-Packard
  • Dorothy J. Smith, Human Resource Academic Program Director for Golden Gate University
  • Amelia Merrill, Vice President Global Talent Acquisition and Employee Engagement at RMS
  • Katie Scott, Director of Global Compensation at LSI Corp

The annual Excellence Award recognizes a team or individual that has championed an innovative human resource program, an idea or a system that has produced positive, fundamental change. It recognized people whose ideas have led to a major business impact within their organization. Nominations are solicited from the HR Community throughout the year. The selection committee includes the prior year’s award winners.

“For 27 years these awards have recognized extraordinary achievement in the human resource profession,” said Deborah Morton, chair of the HR Symposium Award Committee. It was no easy task this year as there were a number of strong and impressive nominations this year, Morton said.

Tiffany McGee of HP wins HR Excellence Award

Sales Productivity Initiative to Develop “Best Sales Force On The Planet”

In the midst of a significant, company-wide transformation involving strategy, brand and culture, Tiffany McGee, Vice President of HR for Global Sales in the Hewlett-Packard Enterprise Group, set out to elevate a sales team of more than 18,000. Her mission was simple: develop “the best sales force on the planet focused on productivity and engagement.”

Coming out of a huge transformation of its sales organization where organization and roles were being redefined in the HP culture “was a great time to focus in on engaging and evolving the productivity of our teams,” McGee said.

The plan involved identifying 85 “Pride Builders,” top performing individuals and motivational leaders in the organization and articulating the behaviors that made them successful. McGee said she worked with a great team at HP and with the Booz consulting group. Her team identified “change agents” and helped them tell their stories to grow and create a high performance culture.

The company is integrating winning behaviors into sales tools improvement activities and a pilot group of 300 sales reps are linking the behaviors into a sales coaching tool that can be utilized in real time. Managers can help coach teams with ideas suggested for each phase of the sales cycle.

“This increased coaching focus with specific recommendations and tools from the Pride Builders also serves as a great bank of resources,” said Tony DeBlauwe, who presented the award to McGee. DeBlauwe, founder of HR4Change, is a career strategist, workplace coach and author. He received an Excellence Award in 2012.

McGee said the idea was to identify specific behaviors driving higher success and engage the organization around new roles and culture.

“From interviews and focus groups, we were able to distill these behaviors and identify formal and informal ways to spread these behaviors,” McGee said.  The program is now in the implementation phase. Leaders and teams are working to spread the behaviors across the organization.

Several things differentiate the project, McGee said.

  • A strong analysis that can be tied to performance.
  • A focus on engaging the mind and heart through Pride Builders.
  • An effort to focus on motivators, people who inspire others rather than just top performers, and people whose stories could be tied back to the Voice of the workforce.
  • A balance of focus on formal metrics and informal storytelling and behaviors.
  • The effort to ensure things stick by addressing systemic reasons behind many behaviors.
  • The identification of behaviors set apart by a specific role.

"It is truly an honor in such an esteemed group of creative, inspiring HR leaders as we have seen today and every year,” McGee said.

GGU’s Dorothy J. Smith Recognized for Excellence

HR Management Academic Programs Flourished Under Smith’s Leadership

Dorothy J. Smith, director of HR Management Programs at Golden Gate University, received the HR Excellence Award this year for her years of passionate and effective leadership in building a top-notch, nationally certified HR degree program. Her academic life follows a distinguished professional career in the field.

Since Smith, a GGU alumna, took the helm as program director when there were just 34 HR students. The program now serves about 250 students, and produced 111 graduates this year.

“Not only does she interact with each (of 42 adjunct professors) on academic and student issues, she challenges them to raise the bar each time a course is taught,” said Tony DeBlauwe, who presented her with the award on Thursday. “She singlehandedly networked and used her charms to strategically expand the programs to become second in enrollments.”

Smith is responsible for elevating the reputation of the program in the business community. It is one of 42 Human Resource Management programs worldwide to be recognized as being fully aligned with the curriculum guidebook of the Society for Human Resource Management.

“I was very fortunate that I have found my niche in a profession of 40 years at an early stage of my career,” Smith said. “I’m still as passionate about it as I was on the first day I engaged in this discipline.”

After receiving her graduate degree in HR from GGU, Smith went on to work with Pacific Bell for 28 years, where she was Executive Staff Manager before taking an early retirement and migrating to academia. She began a second career in 1994 as an adjunct lecturer at GGU. She earned a Golden Gate University Senior Adjunct Faculty Award 2010. She is also principal of Designing Judicious Solutions consulting firm and has consulted with both mid-size and large corporations. GGU now keeps her busy, but she maintains a current business consulting license for her firm. She attained partial Certified Employee Benefits Specialist certification and has held Senior Professional in HR certification for the past 20 years. She is completing a DBA with a concentration in HR.

“As many of you know, this discipline is not an easy journey to manage, but the rewards outweigh the cost,” Smith said. “I will continue to make a difference in the world of HR.”

True to form, Smith encouraged her audience to consider paying internships for her students.

“If you are in need of a qualified intern, preferably with pay, please contact me and I will provide you with one.”

Amelia Merrill of RMS Wins Excellence Award

Spearheaded Company Board Game to Promote Understanding of Company

The ability to create a winning game as a recruiting tool won Amelia Merrill, Vice President Global Talent Acquisition and Employee Engagement at Risk Management Solutions (RMS) the Excellence Award for 2013.

Her challenge was to hire a significant number of technical talent versed in the newest tools and programming languages for a company that had little name recognition in Silicon Valley.

“Amelia knew her team was going to have to work really hard to find creative solutions to connect with potential candidates,” said Brad Cook, Vice President of Talent Acquisition for Informatica. Cook, who received the award last year, presented the award to Merrill.

Merrill, he said, overhauled the company’s careers site so potential talent would easily understand what RMS does. She humanized the company on the site and highlighted its cool technology. She then decided to take a risk, partnering with a top-selling mobile game making company that featured RMS as an expert/character in a game called Plague Inc. It was a way to introduce the RMS brand in subtle and professional ways.

“A conservative estimate is that the RMS brand has received over 50 million impressions as a result of this game,” Cook said. “In the 12 months prior to Amelia joining the company, RMS hires averaged 12 per month. They now average 22 per month.”

Merrill also took ownership of a newly formed Employee Engagement function so her team could impact the retention of hires by strengthening their connection with the company post-hire. One of the first engagement projects was a trading card contest to reinforce company messaging and terminology related to its new direction.

They also implemented a token recognition program, a way that managers and peers can thank each other for a job well done. There are different tokens for different purposes, each with its own value. At the end of the fiscal year employees can trade tokens for prizes.

Merrill credited RMS executives for believing in innovation and risk taking as well as her team, saying they had good problems to solve such as keeping up with growth and competing for talent in a hot market. “How do we tell our incredible story to more people quickly?” She said it was amazing what one can do with autonomy.

“It was a risk, putting branding in a game, and they supported me the entire way,” she said. “Lastly, I want to say thank you to all to all of you,” Merrill said. “I am super-competitive. When I come to these conferences and hear all the ideas, I think I’m a slacker and how do I implement some of these ideas? Thank you for pushing forward and keeping me in the game.”

Katie Scott Championed Compensation Changes At LSI Corp.

Transparency and Catch The Spark Program Ushered In Positive Change

Katie Scott, Director of Global Compensation at LSI Corp., received the Excellence Award for her acumen in restructuring her company’s compensation program after a complex global acquisition.

“There were different philosophies, programs and standards being used to compensate the two organizations’ global employees,” said Brad Cook who presented Scott with the award.

The complex acquisition involved 4,800 different job titles with different numbers of job levels and grading structures around the world. There was no way to compare employees and their jobs across functions and countries. Recognition was cash-only in most locations and because it typically appeared in employee paychecks, it limited the company’s ability to use it to shape organizational culture and reinforce company values.

“One of Katie’s guiding principles was transparency which enabled her to win the trust from everyone she’s worked with,” Cook said. “The impact on business has been impressive.”

Four major accomplishments include:

  • Implementing global leveling across more than 20 countries,
  • Instituting a new recognition program,
  • Elevating the credibility of Human Resources, and
  • Increasing the compensation education of management and employees. 

Scott created a globally consistent, easy to use, culture of strategic recognition that supported company values. The Catch the Spark recognition program was born.

“Katie’s expertise and clear communications style have enabled her to win the trust and respect of everyone she works with,” said Jean Rankin, LSI chief counsel.

In more than three years, there have been no major executive losses and employee attrition has dropped almost 2 percent. In surveys, compensation programs have been rated as being highly important and highly effective and rated highest of all HR programs according to vice presidents, directors and managers.

“We were able to implement these programs because LSI has proven to be an organization willing to adopt new ideas and implement process improvements,” Scott said. “Successful program introduction requires an understanding of the business need, the identification of a clear and compelling solution, the ability to market that solution and then the passion within the entire cross-functional HR organization to make it so!”

Scott said she has been fortunate in her career, in part because she has been coached by incredible HR leaders. “In each of my roles, I have learned important lessons,” she said, citing two favorites: Cheap, Good, Fast. Choose Two; and, Check everything with a calculator.

“By observing the skills of these leaders, I have learned how to build and develop strong teams, and work hard to interact successfully with key constituents, inside and outside HR,” Scott said. “I have also benefitted from a strong network of professionals, many of who are in the room and who have been so open to sharing information, ideas and career guidance.”

The award, Scott said, “represents the collective talent of my network, my management, my company and, particularly, my team.”

Awards Committee members included committee chair Deborah Morton, HR director at Anritsu, Jessica Sneed, senior marketing manager at Synopsis, Gina DiCarlo, manager, talent offerings at DataDirect Networks, and Keli Gaines, senior HR business partner at Broadcom.

The Awards Committee collects nominations from the HR community throughout the years. The committee convenes with recipients of the previous year in early April to select winners. The selection committee may choose to reward multiple nominations a year. For more information, go to

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HR Leadership Award Goes to Bryce Williams of Blue Shield of California

Williams spearheaded Wellvolution, a company-wide employee wellness program

SANTA CLARA CONVENTION CENTER—(MAY 2, 2013)—The HR Symposium Leadership Award for 2013 went to Bryce Williams, vice president of Wellbeing for Blue Shield of California who envisioned and implemented a hugely successful employee health program.

Williams leads a next-generation program at Blue Shield of California called Wellvolution that is helping California become one of the healthiest states in the country starting with Blue Shield’s ownemployees. Initiated in 2008, Wellvolution had earned national accolades and media attention. In just five short years, employee participation in the program has climbed from 20 to 80 percent. Employee smoking cessation programs have helped push down smoking prevalence by 50 percent, to 6 percent, one of the lowest levels in the nation. The number of employees with hypertension has dropped from one in four to one in 10.

“Under Bryce’s leadership, the Wellvolution team has helped BSC employees’ move from just awareness of the benefits of healthful choices – to true adoption and ownership,” said Dr. Teri Eyre from Hewlett Packard, who presented the award. Eyre received the commendation last year.

Each year the award goes to a leader who has articulated a vision and demonstrated strategic leadership that has led to a broad transformation within the Human Resources function with large returns on the investment. It recognizes HR pioneers and innovative problem-solvers. Regardless of company size, the recipient has made an impact on a company, contributed to the industry and demonstrated principles of social responsibility.

“This year’s award recipient embraces and embodies all these qualities,” Eyre said. “Bryce is a wellness visionary.” As a team leader, Williams fostered a trusting, risk-taking and results-driven ethic that brought Wellvolution to life, Eyre said.

“The success of Wellvolution is the result of a well-designed ecosystem for positive change, including incentives, programs, communications to inspire healthier living, a mobile app rewarding healthy cafeteria purchases, and Health-O-Meter employee data to help engage executives,” Eyre said.

Williams and his team also established clear, high goals for Wellvolution in 2012. They aimed for:

  • 70 percent of employees meeting selected health goals or completing a wellness program;
  • 75 percent employee participating in biometric screenings; and
  • 70 percent of employees earning a Wellvolution reward.

“While these metrics set a high bar, the Wellvolution team exceeded each of their 2012 goals by 5 percentage points or more,” Eyre said. “Today, BSC is actually seeing a reversal in important health concerns that face every employee population.”

Williams thanked his team and the employees at Blue Shield of California.

By their nature, leadership awards are tricky, he said. “We all know our accomplishments stem from the efforts of those we lead.” Particularly in the field of wellness, “at best I serve as a trusted field guide.”

The program, he said was unfortunately not the result of dazzling divine inspiration.

“Like any good journey, ours started in a dark well of failure,” Williams said, noting it was a time when Best of Class solutions were simply not delivering much needed results and he sought outside expertise to create a more effective solution. “We really needed to reach out to experts who knew more than we ever would.”

The result has been a resounding success exceeding company expectations, he said. The wellness program has become an important part of Blue Shield of California’s value proposition and a differentiator for the company.

This year’s Awards Committee was headed up by Deborah Morton, Deborah Morton, HR director at Anritsu, Jessica Sneed, senior marketing manager at Synopsis, Gina DiCarlo, manager, talent offerings at DataDirect Networks, and Keli Gaines, senior HR business partner at Broadcom.

The awards presentations are a time to learn from industry pioneers and visionaries. If you’d like to submit a nomination for next year, please visit the HR Symposium website for more information. Nominations are accepted throughout the year until the committee convenes again in April 2014 to select the winners.

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