In 2020, companies have had to drastically shift gears in response to COVID-19, from transitioning their entire workforce to a remote setting to finding new ways to cultivate employee connection. None of these changes would have been possible without the tireless work of People leaders everywhere, who have stepped up to find solutions to these new and unforeseen challenges.
To recognize these individuals for their hard work and unwavering commitment to making a difference for their employees, we partnered with our friends at Bravely to celebrate and give back to these inspiring People leaders. We asked employees at companies of all sizes to nominate human resources (HR) and People leaders who went beyond the call of duty in this intensely challenging year.
The number of nominations we received was overwhelming, and while all of the nominees are People Heroes in the truest sense, we chose 12 whose efforts helped their colleagues feel especially supported, included, and connected. We featured highlights from their nominations below.
Kelly Battelle, VP of People Operations at GumGum
“This year, Kelly has been the leader in driving massive and quick change. She created a plan and strategy around working from home, led the reorganization and layoffs, and created a diversity and inclusion (D&I) committee called STRIDE—all while being mindful of the challenges and struggles our team members are facing.
She has brought in large company initiatives and perspectives into a smaller organization, making us a leader in our People Ops initiatives and programs. I have learned so much from her and admire her both as a leader and friend. Her empathy, hustle, and innovative mindset are what make her an HR HERO!”
Tim Betry, VP of People and Places at GoPro
“Tim is a true people leader who models empathy and calm during these stressful times. He has led the COVID-19 Task Force for GoPro, listening to, and valuing, team input while also holding strong and informed opinions. Employee feedback shows that GoPro-ers have felt heard and supported with their health and safety during this pandemic. Tim actively engages and listens to input across the business.
As a new dad, Tim has also been open about the joys and stresses of being a parent during the COVID-19 pandemic, exemplifying the connections we build with each other when we share life experiences and share our stories. ‘Be a Hero’ is the GoPro motto, and Tim is absolutely a People Hero for GoPro.”
Julie Blaikie, VP of HR at Equity Residential
“Julie’s compassion has been a guiding light during this challenging year, and we fully recognize that she has consciously kept that light on for the rest of us. Her strength and emotional intelligence have been unwavering during these uncertain times, and, in typical Julie fashion, she always finds a way to bring a laugh and smile to every conversation.
Julie has done all of this while supporting each of us individually, leading us as a cohesive HR group, and covering an open talent acquisition leader position on her team. She’s done this all while juggling virtual learning at home with an energetic 6-year old and unexpectedly having to rework her exceptionally busy schedule thanks to an emergency appendectomy! With utmost respect and gratitude, you—Julie Blaikie—embody the definition of People Hero for each of us.”
Anju Choudhary, Global Head of L&D at NextRoll
“During 2020, Anju added far more value through learning and development (L&D) initiatives beyond making sure training runs smoothly at NextRoll. She helped employees adapt to the new remote and distributed team environment through impactful trainings, panel discussions, and case studies to create long-term sustainable behavior change.
She also supported all the D&I initiatives to encourage a more inclusive workplace, created a performance-oriented culture by coaching managers on how to have meaningful one-on-ones, and launched the Internal Global Mentorship and Underrepresented Group Career Development programs.”
Seema Daryanani, Senior Manager of Global Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging at Anaplan
“In February, Seema moved from a recruiting role into our first official Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging role. What began as good work accelerated to invaluable work through the pandemic and civil unrest. She has challenged our top executives on their ideals, hesitancy, and fragility. She also manages all of our Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) with grace and expertise in this.
Her support is tireless, and the spotlight is always centered on the people and leadership of that group—never herself or her efforts. I'd love to give her this opportunity to take care of herself because Seema is big, bold, and brave magic.”
Shannon Ferguson, Head of People at Blueboard
“Shannon relentlessly serves our people. She runs through brick walls to get our work anniversary program set up, establish a wellness stipend, host a lunch club, facilitate all recruiting, and implement scalable processes. She does it all.
In addition to spearheading these initiatives, Shannon approaches all her interactions with kindness, generosity, and compassion. Every employee at Blueboard knows they can go to her with their concerns, and she’ll be there to listen or offer a helping hand. We're so grateful for her.”
Anastasia Greenmore, Inclusion, Diversity, and Cause Business Partner at GoPro
“Anastasia is leading up Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging initiatives as well as philanthropic partnerships at GoPro with courage, patience, and commitment. We’re always learning from her practices of self-reflection, advocacy, and strategic planning,
She often stands up to represent Black and other POC employees in meetings and conversations at work. She frequently represents her ideas and perspectives to others who are not similarly invested. It’s challenging and incredibly important work.”
Merijn Helle, VP of Value Advisory at SAP
“Merijn is looked up to by the people who work for him, trusted by those he works for, and admired by peers at his level. His ability to combine the drive for achievement with honesty and compassion has allowed the individuals he leads to grow in their roles and over-deliver for the company. Some heroes do something extraordinary on a given day, in a particular situation. Merijn enables each of his people to do something special every day, without fail.”
Emily Hull, Head of Talent and Culture at Capital One
“Despite having to navigate a personal adjustment to work-from-home with her family, Emily has helped our team navigate shifting priorities in an environment of tremendous uncertainty. She leads with heart, showing every day that she cares for us in big and little ways.
Examples include taking time to ask about what's going on in our lives, encouraging us to prioritize self-care, trusting us to own our work, and creating opportunities to celebrate our results publicly and privately. She is empathetic and vulnerable, and authentically shares about her own efforts to learn and grow to encourage us to do the same!”
Mackenzie Jameson, Chief of Staff at Spectrum Designs Foundation
“In her role, Mackenzie works diligently to educate staff in our neurotypical workplace to ensure all, including those with Autism, are supported and set up to succeed and grow in both their professional and personal lives. The benefits of her work are immeasurable, from helping a young man with limited language to now sing in a band with his work friends to the person struggling with anxiety in the workplace who can now successfully take on more challenging tasks.
Additionally, as a licensed master social worker, Mackenzie utilizes her skills, techniques, and tools to further support our entire team. When our production shop was closed for a few months earlier this year due to COVID-19, Mackenzie instituted staff daily check-ins, offered continuing education programming, and hosted happy hour social Zoom sessions with our entire team, including those on the Autism spectrum, to engage and connect with each other. She is our hero and deserves to be recognized.”
Beth Stockmoe, Franchise Operations Director at MOOYAH Burgers Fries and Shakes
“Restaurants across the globe took a massive hit during the pandemic, including MOOYAH. Beth came to life, leading and getting her hands dirty, to support our franchise partners. Daily changes were coming at our restaurant teams, and she tirelessly called partners, managers, and team members to ensure they had what they needed to execute through all of the chaos.
She became more vocal with leadership, expressing opinions on behalf of the restaurant operators, and her commitment to our essential workers never wavered. She deserves a special nod of thanks and appreciation. She’s a People Hero whose future is bright—thank you, Beth!”
Tara Turk-Haynes, VP of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Leaf Group
“Tara navigated our employees through an intense and trying time of social unrest with grace and commitment to education and empathy. As a Black woman, she put aside her own needs and showed up for our team in a way that many could not have done. She developed resources for people to grow, and engaged in conversations with team members from a place of love and trust. It was truly heroic and remarkable.”
Cheers to these 12 People Heroes
Because of their hard work and dedication, each person on this list will receive a free year of Bravely coaching and their choice of experiential rewards to enrich their lives from Blueboard! We’re grateful for all your hard work and hope these nominations helped you see the impact of your contributions.