Magazine article Workforce

Optimas Award Winners Prove Excellence Is within Reach

Magazine article Workforce

Optimas Award Winners Prove Excellence Is within Reach

Article excerpt

Every industry has its gold stars, its crowns for the crowning achievements. We at WORKFORCE like to think the top prize for excellence in human resources is the WORKFORCE Magazine Optimas Award. It's more than acknowledgment of a job well done, more than recognition of something very special. It's really a celebration of the gains made by HR-and in HR-since the Optimas' conception in 1991.

It's true that we may feel a little proprietary about our Optimas Award winners. They're just so good. They are the reminders of the importance of HR, the need for HR. They are examples of the heights HR can scale when released from the binds of administrivia and allowed to be forwardthinking, challenging and creative.

Back in the early Optimas years, we heralded such exciting ideas as cutting-edge child-care programs, cost-snipping healthcare initiatives, work-task skills training. Big deal, you say? All good HR departments do that now. Exactly-now. But back five or six years ago, these HR professionals were blazing new trails, forging the image of HR we're so fond of today: A business-minded, outside-thebox-thinking partner-in-success for the new millennium. They've been an impressive group: Ben & Jerry's Homemade Inc., Texas Instruments, Saturn Corp., UPS, Levi Strauss & Co., McDonald's Corp. and Federal Express to name a few. All are companies recognized nationwide for their top-drawer people.

As the human resources function has grown more sophisticated and complex, so have the initiatives and ideas we celebrate. Last year, for instance, the health-care cost-cutting issue was represented again. This time, however, winning company Hannaford Bros. (Partnership) was out not just to correct the company's care problems, but-supported by a database and a coalition of health-care providers and purchasersplanned to mend the health-care system for the entire state of Maine.

Similarly, last year, work-task skills training popped up again. This time, however, it took the form of a women's conference that has grown to encompass the entire gamut of career development and personal growth. The program attracts thousands of women as both attendees and speakers-loria Steinem keynoted in 1996. The conference also brings in a lot of money for the HR development department at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (Service). …

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