Rising Stars, Enduring Excellence & Innovation BC HRMA 2010 Awards Finalists

While the winners are marked below, all of the finalists of BC HRMA’s 2010 Awards are deserving of recognition for their various efforts and initiatives.

Rising Star Finalists

Rene McComber, CHRP (2010 Winner)

Grounded in the culture of the Vancouver Aquarium through a variety of administrative positions since 1997, from 2005 to present, Rene McComber, CHRP has committed her considerable energies to the organization’s HR functions. Now serving as HR Advisor, her efforts have contributed greatly to both staff engagement and core savings; thanks to McComber’s commitment, the organization most recently received a score of 99% on the CSABC C.O.R. audit of the corporate safety program, saving the company 15% on annual WorkSafeBC fees.

A tireless learner with a thirst for HR knowledge, McComber serves as both a mentor and mentee, as well as a coach to managers and employees at all levels regarding HR matters. Noted for her adaptable professionalism, she ably acted as co-manager of the HR department for six months pending the hire of a new VP, HR. Moreover, displaying mature professionalism, she acted as the organization’s sole HR practitioner for a month during peak staffing levels. Now leading the recruitment efforts for all hires, as well as the corporate health and safety program, McComber has also taken a strong role in communications and conflict resolution.

For past two years McComber has been a member of the BC HRMA Training and Development Roundtable. Whether chairing or leading various cross organizational committees, her propensity for the professional development of herself and others is matched by admirable communication skills.

Julia Simpson, CHRP

Over the course of three years, Julia Simpson, CHRP has made a major impression on Compass Canada’s Burnaby office, exhibiting such an aptitude for learning that she was promoted to the role of HR manager in less than two years. Defined by management as a “must have” asset, Simpson’s dynamic flexibility has led her into progressively greater realms of responsibility. From the development of HR Canadian team’s “Emerging Leaders Program” with its focus on succession training to her assistance in matters of collective bargaining, she has exhibited excellent communication skills.

Simpson has used these skills, along with a keen eye for development and detail, to great effect in saving the organization considerable grievance costs while administering the collective agreement and managing monthly meetings of labour. Her ability to find resolution and avoid costly dispute is further enhanced by working with managers to address worker issues before they are pushed to arbitration. One such dispute involved a high profile media case involving 200 employees which, with her input, was successfully negotiated along four year terms. On non-grievance matters alone, her proactive approach “has avoided costs estimated at $130,000 from July to November 2009”.

Mentoring in-house to a newly appointed HR assistant, Simpson also serves as a mentor outside the HR team with the operations managers as well. Whether coaching, counseling, training or negotiating, Simpson’s skills have amply proven the true worth of HR.
Allan Lau, CHRP designate

Over the course of the pst two and half years in his role as HR Assistant at Canadian Autoparts Toyota Inc. (CAPTIN), Allan Lau’s positive attitude and problem-solving abilities have earned the respect of staff and management alike. Noted as a patient listener fluent in both English and Cantonese, his ability to connect is matched only by his willing acceptance of new challenge, be it in the workplace or through independent study.

In his review and development of CAPTIN’s HR policies, Allan developed procedures whereby due diligence was observed with management and key input secured from all employees, resulting in HR policy understood throughout the organization.

Equally at ease with technical matters, he has become both the resident PeopleSoft HRIS expert and unlocked the technology’s potential to deliver key HR metrics. Moreover, the data and analysis within the monthly HR metrics reports he issues to management is used to complete the quarterly survey of BC HRMA’s Metrics Dashboard service.

Under pressure, Lau has also proven his mettle. When the “Cash For Clunkers” program was initiated in the summer of 2009, he ably shared the responsibility of co-ordinating the hire of 90 new employees in a one month period. As this action was integral to CAPTIN’s ability to meet the sudden industry opportunity, he is credited with having a tremendous impact on not only the organization, but upon the parent company Toyota North America.


Nella Garam, CHRP

Growing from an administrative support role to a full HR generalist during her three and a half years with the University of Victoria, Nella Garam’s drive to succeed has served her and others well. Garam stepped into the newly created role of HR Associate with a reputation for being “hardworking, innovative and intelligent”. Both an intense researcher and a team player, Garam is known to push herself far harder than others and enjoys a challenge.

Case in point: at the time Garam accepted the HR Associate role, she was completing her HRM program at Camosun College and preparing for her CHRP designation. This is indicative of the take-action professionalism that Garam has put the work at the University of Victoria. Taking on a four month secondment into the role of Work-Life Consultant in 2009, a role responsible for the university’s accommodation and return to work program, Garam once more exceeded expectation, delivering process improvements and exhibiting professionalism throughout. Her career has since evolved.

Noted for her “willingness to take risks and seek opportunities”, Garam was deemed well suited to a more senior position and is now UVIC’s HR Consultant Generalist, serving as first point of contact for a portfolio of 800 staff in 6 different employee groups in both academic and administrative departments. That each group holds its own collective agreement and conditions of employment only adds to the challenge that Garam seeks.

Award of Excellence:

HR Person of the Year Finalists


Cheryl Stafford, CHRP

As the Director of HR for the BC Children’s Hospital Foundation, Cheryl Stafford, CHRP has committed the past eight years to developing a fully-functional, in-house HR department for the organization. Since joining the Foundation in 2002, Stafford has “led the development of countless initiatives and policies” with a a definitive focus on openness, work-life balance and personal professional development.

Many of the positive changes in the culture of the organization are credited to her passionate and dedicated HR initiatives including: flexible work options, employee recognition programs, compensation program, as well as an on-boarding and orientation program.

Creating a firm foundation upon which to develop further HR initiatives, Stafford also cemented the value of sticky note sessions and the blue sky box, both designed to elicit innovative and honest employee input and feedback. Her close relationship with the senior leadership team and ability to secure buy in from all staffing levels is grounded in strategic professionalism and extensive research.

Developing the Foundation’s in-house HR from scratch, while utilizing emotional IQ diagnostic tools and encouraging managers to share action plans with their teams, has helped Stafford create a 360-degree feedback loop while evolving HR’s positive impact on the organization. As a certified coach, she works directly with employees, mentors emerging HR practitioners and sits with a local non-profit roundtable, developing others and demonstrating best practices. Personifying “personal and professional integrity”, Stafford is also persuasive when seeking solutions as evidenced by the union’s acceptance of a performance model based on merit.

Greg Conner, CHRP

As the Vice-President, HR and Communications for EDS Advanced Solutions in Victoria, Greg Conner, CHRP has taken HR past the proverbial table and into the inner circle of the organization. His “People First” operating philosophy has anchored collaboration as a cornerstone of the organization’s processes and his “work to successfully establish a strategically aligned HR plan” is reflected by both the company’s growth and success in a “labour-friendly” working environment.

With zero grievances moving beyond level one, Conner’s commitment to the community and culture of the organization has born multiple benefits. When Hewitt-Packard purchased EDS in 2008, Conner’s effort to build relationships with the most senior levels of HP leadership enabled EAS to maintain a level of autonomy, as well as its labour friendly vision. Handling these massive shifts in organizational change with an emphasis on people-friendly practices, Conner’s efforts have gone so far as to have EAS named an employer of choice by its union, the BCGEU.

A business leader who so happens to wear an HR hat, Conner has excelled in merging his combined portfolio to create functional and communicative HR with input from across the board. Utilizing HR metrics to gauge the organization’s ongoing people-driven success, Conner leads by example and shares generously of his energies.

An ongoing internal mentor, sessional lecturer at UVIC on best practices and a strong proponent of CSR, Conner has also created numerous employee-driven communities including: Social and Charitable, Business Image, Development, Health and Wellness and Sustainability. These communities have been integral to the internal and external recognition of EAS.

Diane Sullivan, CHRP, MBA (2010 Winner)

When Diane Sullivan, CHRP joined the BC Safety Authority in 2004, her task was considerable: to transform what was formerly an arm of the provincial government into an independent, self-supporting entity with strong entrepreneurial traits. Working with the executive team, Sullivan led the culture change initiative, initiating best HR practices and promoting innovative thinking at all levels of the organization. Spearheading the redesign of all primary HR processes, including the Occupational Health and Safety program, Compensation/Health and Benefits, Awards programs and Training and Skills Development, as well as the Performance Appraisal System, Sullivan not only revitalized the role of HR, but yielded numerous organizational improvements.

One of her most impacting initiatives involved her interactions with the union BCGEU wherein her positive-minded professionalism has helped forge a strong co-operative relationship in only four years. Leading the negotiation team through two successful collective agreements, she introduced new principles advantageous to all parties.

Maintaining a strong open door policy and motivated by the engagement of employees, the success of Sullivan’s new systems has been directly reflected in the strong increase in employee satisfaction. Anchored operational thinking is complemented by Sullivan’s strategic bid to create a working culture that encourages both interaction and individual initiative. Whether mentoring her in-house or via BC HRMA’s Mentoring Program, her “personal philosophy of dignity, respect and fairness for all” has been a trademark for Sullivan.

Other involvements with BC HRMA include participation in the HR Metrics benchmarking pilot project and assisting in the revision of the Required Professional Capabilities of the CHRP designation. Her sense of caring extends beyond BCSA and, driven by Sullivan’s support, the organization’s participation in donations has risen significantly with BCSA now raising more than $30,000 annually through its multi-charity fundraising group.

Award of Excellence:

Innovation Finalists

Sheri Hamilton (Salmon Arm Savings and Credit Union)
and Maureen Clarke (The Blueprint Group)

Working together with The Blueprint Group, an external work-life provider, the Salmon Arm Savings and Credit Union (SASCU), set out to create a work-life maternity transition coaching program. The resultant “Corporate Moms Learning Series” was designed to encourage and support employees in the their return to the workplace following a maternity leave. Since implemented in 2006, at a time when the SASCU was experiencing a spike in maternity leaves, the series has yielded appreciable results in ensuring the retention of the new mothers’ skills, knowledge and productivity.

At its core, the “Corporate Moms” program was designed to support SASCU’s strategic objective: “We will differentiate ourselves through our people and we will be a great place to work.” Led by SASCU’s Manager of HR Sheri Hamilton, CHRP and Maureen Clark of The Blueprint Group, the project was challenged by a lack of precedence and buoyed by the strong endorsement of SASCU. Innovative thinking was required to create a business case and develop a format that took full consideration of the program’s ROI.

Adopting a format of seven hours of curriculum with weekly learning objectives in a group coaching setting, an additional six hours of individual coaching supplemented the sustainability of the learning. Liaising with front line supervisors to gain input from the floor and receiving strong support from senior management, the “Corporate Moms” program was developed under the broader context of an in-house training program called “Corporate Work-Life: A Blueprint for Balanced Employees”. With one eye on raising management awareness of work-life issues and the other on confirming the worth of such initiatives, the SASCU project team has anchored this initiative with exemplary retention and employee satisfaction.

Lori Rilkoff – City of Kamloops – Kamloops

As led by Lori Rilkoff, CHRP since 2003, the City of Kamloops’ workplace wellness program has not only served the betterment of the City’s employees, but been used as a model for similar programs throughout the community and beyond. The “Wellness Works “program is even highlighted on Health Canada’s website due to both its comprehensive approach and strategic implementation process and and is also required reading for the Masters of Occupational Therapy program at UBC.

Fueled by innovation as opposed to a large budget, “Wellness Works” works as well as it does due to Rilkoff’s focus on forging functional partnerships, linking the City’s strategic objects and making use of pre-existing recreational and community resources.

Linking the concept of a healthy community to the health and wellness of City employees and their families, partnerships with organizations such as the Kamloops School District have resulted in high-profile speakers and a wealth of creative connections in the community. From the Rivers Trail Wellness Walk which grew to include the entire Kamloops community to TRIP, a program aimed at encouraging staff to take vacations and share their travel tips to the Wellness Works Cookbook with profits directed to the Food Bank, Rilkoff has created a workplace wellness program that exceeds expectation.

The creation of the Wellness Works program in 2002 coincided with the City of Kamloop’s pursuit of certification for excellence with the National Quality Institute, embodying and contributing greatly to the creation of a new organizational culture. With Rilkoff’s involvement, a program that originally faltered out of the gate gained fresh impetus and rooting in firm HR practices.

For her work, Rilkoff was selected as part of the city’s Innovation Committee in 2008 and four years earlier was awarded a “Senior Management Award of Excellence for Wellness Works Program Leadership”. Expressly tying the program to employee needs and the City of Kamloops’ objective of “Livability”, the strong response to the “Wellness Works” speaks directly to its innovation.

Teck Highland Valley Copper Mine Disability Management Program Team
– Logan Lake

Targeting employee wellness and productive employment opportunities for employees disabled either on or off the job, the Teck Highland Valley Copper Partnership and the United Steelworkers Local 7619 collaborated to create a unique Disability Management Program for injured or ill employees.

Adopting a three-pronged strategy focusing on prevention, administration and rehabilitation, the Disability Management program team,(including Rod Killough, HR Manager, Candace Droder, CHRP, General Supervisor Employee Relations, Jim Valin, Modified Work Centre Supervisor and Richard Boyce, President, USW – Local 7619) developed a program that houses a unique solution – the Modified Work Centre.

In 2002, the joint committee developed the 6,000 sq. foot Modified Work Centre as the anchor of the “Disability Management” initiative introduced as part of the revised Safety Program. Further strengthened in 2009 by the formation of a committed Disability Management Team with three CHRPs in its ranks, the Modified Work Centre has been an unconditional success.

An integral part of the program, the Modified Work Centre has had multiple positive impacts upon organization’s operational infrastructure, as well as employee morale. While providing accommodation and rehabilitation opportunities to all employees, the Centre is also sustainably designed to promote the 3 “R’s” of reduce, re-use and recycle. The tasks performed in the Centre require no technical or special skills to perform, allow injured workers to remain functional during their healing and allow for the pooling of duties from across many departments to be handled from one site.

In 2008 alone, 60 employees were accommodated in the Modified Work Centre, 51 due to non-occupational injuries/illnesses. The worth of such innovation can be translated into the 11,516 hours or work and “would be” net savings of $226,000.

BC Hydro Team – Vancouver (2010 Winner)

BC Hydro is not the first organization to explore the issue of generational diversity in the workplace.  While workforces large and small are more varied than ever, a group within BC Hydro drew a connection between engagement and diversity.  Confronted with a survey response rate of 66% from 5700 employees, the link was explored and an innovative study undertaken.

The applied research study “Generational Diversity at BC Hydro: Culture and Workplace” did more than confirm the benefit of dynamically engaged diversity.   It strategically re-aligned the workplace culture of BC Hydro. The study focused on how the organization might best benefit from such demographic diversity. Key players included Project Leader Karen Green, CHRP (Manager, Learning and Development), Rick Milone, (Manager, Total Rewards), Agness Terebka, (HR Advisor Recruitment) and Ashley Bennington, CHRP (HR Advisor, Workforce Planning).

Findings from the “Generational Diversity” report provided the organization with key insights regarding employee engagement within the generational pools.  Discovering a reverse trend between employee engagement and duration of employment cast the voluntary turnover of the younger demographic in a different light.

The Executive team saw the potential. Recognizing the value of diversity, BC Hydro has since moved forward with numerous changes including: a generationally focused redesign of its recruitment materials,  customized internal communications featuring tailored demographic snapshots, a benefits redesign featuring enhanced flexibility and the development of in-house sharing technologies to bridge the varied communities and enhance interaction.

Following the redesign of its employee survey, its most recent response rates have already grown to 83%.  Moreover, the BC Hydro-wide engagement scores exceeded both the 2008 results, as well as the aspired target for 2009.

(PeopleTalk: Summer 2010)

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