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15Five Celebrates HR Leaders Making an Impact With the Second Annual High Five Awards


Every day we are inspired by the HR leaders among our customers who are making real change at their companies to empower their employees. We know that the hard work done by HR professionals often goes unnoticed or unappreciated, so we created the High Five Awards to highlight HR leaders who are going above and beyond to make an impact in their organizations. 

We had over 80 inspiring nominations for our High Five Awards at Thrive this year. These nominees are making a significant impact in HR and we were truly blown away by the outstanding work and dedication demonstrated by these individuals. We narrowed it down to 21 finalists, and the winners were announced at our annual Thrive conference in Denver, CO! 

Read on to learn more about the finalists and winners in each category.

The HR Superstars Community Award

The HR Superstars Community Award celebrates HR leaders who have been actively involved in sharing knowledge and supporting HR professionals through our HR Superstars community.

Finalists: Dennisse Bray from Snap! Mobile, Inc., Earl McFarland from Decisions, Lee Ulinskas from ebm-papst Inc, and Nicole White from Dojo Five.

Winner: Earl McFarland from Decisions

Earl has made multiple posts, connections, and contributions to the HR Superstars community. He’s always there to lend a helping hand, whatever the need may be.

Additionally, Earl is actively invested in his employees’ success. Earl has created a safe space within 15Five and outside of the platform to navigate difficult conversations through data-backed solutions. He is solution-based both within 15Five, and within our HR Superstars community.

Engagement Excellence Award

The Engagement Excellence Superstar Award showcases HR leaders who are building a highly engaged, innovative, and aspirational culture.

Finalists: Aisha Blackwell from Young Community Developers, Jamy Conrad from TrustRadius, Janette Hunt from CreditXpert, Inc, and Lynn-Ann Cuomo from CoreMedical Group.

Winner: Lynn-Ann Cuomo from CoreMedical Group

Lynn has made incredible strides this past year to build a company culture focused on employee engagement at every level. She made a push to get weekly check in submissions at almost 100%, rolled out Best Self Reviews and Best Self Kick Offs for all employee, and adopted the new HR Outcomes Dashboard and Manager Effectiveness Indicator. All of this was done while getting her CEO’s buy-in for her initiatives. 

The colleague that nominated her said, “Lynn has built a company culture that focusing deeply on employee engagement at every level. Thanks to Lynn’s efforts, our mid-management team has spent this year focusing on defining employee engagement and coming up with trackable, measurable ways to implement it in our daily work. It’s all paid off, as we were named a Best Company to Work For and our Engage survey results highlight what our employees love about working here.

Positive Performance Award

The Positive Performance Award highlights HR leaders who have meaningfully impacted company performance in a tangible way.

Finalists: David Pearson from Extensis HR, Joey Perez from Karius, Kristi Hanson from HSI, and Mackenzie Winkel from ChalkTalk.

Winner: Joey Perez from Karius

Joey joined Karius at a critical time when there was no performance management process or system in place. He has shown performance mastery by spearheading the implementation of a thorough performance management process using Best-Self Reviews, and made it seamlessly linked to organizational objectives. 

Joey’s foresight in doing this led to a systematic approach to performance assessment and organizational alignment. In the first year, Karius achieved an impressive 100% of their milestones including the Best-Self Reviews, upward and peer feedback, tracking individual objectives, and calibration. Joey also integrated the data from 15Five into the compensation decision-making process. This enabled leaders to reward top performers effectively, ensure equitable compensation differences, and keep expenditures within budgetary limits.

Joey’s streamlined process led to the successful outcomes of the performance management process objectives. The positive feedback reflects Joey’s capability to address leadership’s concerns and drive change that matters. 

Manager Momentum Award

The Manager Momentum Award recognizes HR leaders who have improved the effectiveness of their managers through training, education, communication, systems or processes

Finalists: Holly Bullock-Denniston from Oregon Public Broadcasting, Samantha Jacobs from AdamsBrown, LLC, Tiffany Price from Blueprint Test Prep, and Cora Walker and Sarah Murray from OmniCable.

Winner: Cora Walker and Sarah Murray from OmniCable

Cora and Sarah are a dynamic CHRO and HR Director duo who have worked closely together this year to advocate for their managers and put actions into place to improve and develop their managers. This past year, they narrowed down key engagement drivers and put into place an effective framework to make gains in manager development and make real change.

This includes 106 action plans, 10 surveys, 13 manager skill intensives, and 26 manager group coaching sessions. Through all of this, they saw high engagement scores and higher participation rates among their managers and employees. 

Tackling Turnover Award

The Tackling Turnover Award highlights HR leaders have meaningfully reduced turnover at their company through key initiatives, acting on engagement data, or resolving a cultural issue.

Finalists: Adrienne Dzelme at Seabrook Technology Group, Jordan McBride from Stock & Option Solutions Inc., Karee Vernon from Kreg Tool Company, and Ranya Hahn from Participate Learning.

Winner: Karee Vernon from Kreg Tool Company

Over the past year, Karee focused on efforts to create a workplace where every employee feels valued, motivated, and empowered to contribute their best. Her commitment to enhancing employee engagement and reducing turnover has yielded impressive results:

  • Turnover rates decreased from 40% in 2022 to a projected rate of 32% for 2023
  • Employee retention rates increased from 73% in 2022 to 81% in 2023
  • Employee engagement scores have indicated excellent ratings in regard to manager effectiveness and company alignment

Karee implemented several initiatives to help achieve these goals, including 

Focus group sessions where employees shared what they wanted, weekly check-ins, high fives, and 1-on-1s, fun check-in questions to help employees and managers get to know each other better, and rolled out their first review process in May!

This is a great example of how the focus on key projects can really make an impact. 

Shoutout to all of the nominees for the second annual High Five Awards! Your continued dedication to your work is what is helping us all transform the workplace into a place where people can truly thrive.