Winners of the Milwaukee Business Journal’s inaugural HR Awards were celebrated last night at an awards program held at the Hilton Milwaukee City Center. The HR Award program is intended to recognize the best human resources programs or practices that have had a positive impact on employees and the overall organization. More than 200 people attended the event, which included a cocktail reception, dinner, and the awards ceremony.

The many individuals and companies that were nominated for the awards were judged by a three person panel led by Business Journal Editor-in-Chief Mark Kass. Octavio Castro, Marquette University’s Vice President of Human Resources and Timothy Danielson, UW-Milwaukee’s Associate Vice Chancellor of Human Resources served as the panel’s other two judges. During his opening remarks, Editor-in-Chief Kass described the panel’s goal by saying “what we were looking for was simple – individuals and companies that are undertaking diverse approaches to human resources or methods that are enhancing their employees.”

The four individual and six organizational winners certainly took diverse approaches to their own HR challenges.

  • Kelly Renz of CoreLogic in Wauwatosa aligned HR practices with business issues and transitioned from a traditional HR operation to a strategic partner.
  • Laura Reyes of GE Healthcare in Waukesha implemented programs to support employee diversity, retention, and development by working with HR and business leaders, as well as affinity groups that help employees connect with others who share their interests.
  • Kelly Kauffman of the Milwaukee Bucks won the Corporate Challenge Award for creating a human resources department for the team while she also filled 70 new jobs and oversaw the team’s move from four different offices to a single location in Schlitz Park.
  • Susan Muenter of the Pewaukee School District adopted metrics programs to measure retention rates and encouraged input from all stakeholders as part of the District’s strategic planning process.
  • Associated Bank established a “talent philosophy” that focused on welcoming and supporting veterans, women, racial minorities, and LGBT staff in their workforce.
  • The Milwaukee Center for Independence developed a nontraditional benefits program that included an on-site medical clinic that saved over $120,000 in health-related costs.
  • Dental Associates created staff engagement teams and charged each of its locations with putting together a committee led by non-managers to address issues raised by staff satisfaction surveys.
  • Faith Technologies adopted wellness communications program for its 15 branches in different states that improved employee wellness engagement and overall health and productivity.
  • Laughlin Constable focused on actively helping employees in need while also offering reduced work schedules and flexible arrangements for parents, as well as adding two employee benefits or events each year.
  • PyraMax Bank donated time and money to more than 40 charities in 2014, instituted a “VolunteeraMax” program that gives workers eight hours to volunteer each year, launched a program called 12 Weeks of Giving to celebrate the banks’ 120th anniversary, and achieved a platinum-level award from the Wellness Council of America.

This year’s HR Awards were sponsored by MRA – The Management Association. Mueller QAAS President and CEO Jim Mueller provided each winner with a cash prize, which they could keep for themselves, share with the members of their team, or donate to charity. Supporting sponsors included Froedtert and the Medical College of Wisconsin, Marcus Center for the Performing Arts, Marcus Theatres, and WPS Health Insurance. The Milwaukee Bucks and PyraMax Bank also sponsored tables at the dinner.

To read more about the winners or view a slideshow from the evening, visit the Milwaukee Business Journal’s website.