Excellence in HR leadership was honored once again Thursday night at the 2010 HR Executive of the Year and Honor Roll Awards dinner in Chicago. The humility and class of the winners were also a large part of the fare.
Accepting his award as the 2010 HR Executive of the Year, Google Inc.’s vice president of people operations, Laszlo Bock, honored in return the people and culture of his company that has made his unique leadership possible and has turned Google’s HR function into a flagship for all HR practitioners to follow. “One of the nice things about the Google culture,” said Bock, “is it keeps you humble.” He jokingly referenced one colleague “who heard I was going to win this award, and she said, ‘For what?’ ”
Yet on a more serious note, Bock lauded his company for valuing freedom and transparency, “and giving people the knowledge that makes them free” — a poignant tribute from a man who, as a boy, fled with his ethnically Hungarian family from the despotic reign of Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu to come to America.
“Fundamentally, everyone wants freedom and meaning in what they do, and I am humbly proud to work for a company that recognizes that,” he said.
The dinner, presented by Human Resource Executive(R) magazine and sponsored by Monster, also honored HR Honor Roll inductees Mark Fogel, vice president of human resources and administration for Leviton Manufacturing Co. Inc.; Julie Wood, chief people officer for Crowe Horwath; and Stephen R. Fussell, senior vice president of human resources for Abbott.
Each Honor Roll winner was equally eloquent in praising the HR teams that brought them to that podium. Fogel — recognized for making the HR function at Leviton more strategic and globally focused — likened his good fortune to football, where “some have to block, some are on special teams, yet me, I’m lucky enough to be the quarterback who gets the ball to the right people to carry it down to the end zone.”
Wood, honored for cutting millions in payroll costs while still implementing programs to support both employees and the business, talked about the passion “any leader of any team feels about what we do every day.”
“I feel my team truly does understand the importance of people strategies at our firm,” said Wood.
Fussell too — recognized for having the vision and guts to both streamline and implement programs that eventually saved Abbott $100 million — thanked the staff behind him.
“Any successful chief human resource officer worth his or her salt understands we’re simply a reflection of the visions and the talents of the team we work with,” he said. “Every day I’m reminded by the people I work with that [human resources] is truly honorable work.”