2014 HRLA Winners and Finalists


Honors a senior HR professional whose sustained influence and “above and beyond” leadership enables his/her organization to achieve improved business performance; a role model who demonstrates well-rounded pursuits, continuous learning, and giving back to the HR Community for at least the most recent 3-5 years.

WINNER: Evelyn Campos Diaz, Director, Human Resources Department, MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital

Evelyn Campos Diaz is a key leader in the Human Resource function for MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital. Never one to shy away from a challenge, Evelyn was tasked with enhancing the capabilities of the human resources staff when the organization was preparing to join MedStar Health System. She invested time in assessing the key challenges that were impeding the metamorphosis of the HR function, and devised a comprehensive plan to address the issues.
Evelyn created a multiple prong plan to address the organization’s issues. Her plan included implementing a strategic model of HR services, strategically partnering with leaders to enforce core values, and increasing workplace collaboration. To achieve her plan, she created an education program for HR staff, designed to increase their capabilities to support employees throughout the employment life cycle. She leveraged technology to streamline various processes, and increased focus on managing the whole employee.

Her efforts have had a very positive impact on the employees at MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital. Staff perception that management acts upon employee suggestions increased 21% from 2010 to 2013. Also, customer satisfaction scores for HR increased from 66.4% to 99.1% over two years. Further, staff turnover rates between 2010 and 2012 were consistently beneath the industry benchmark. Employee development also improved, with a 13% increase in internal promotions from 2010 to 2013. These results clearly demonstrate Evelyn’s commitment to creating the most positive work environment for the employees at MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital.


Christine Dellecave, Vice President Talent Management, Neustar
Charles McCormick, Human Resource Director, Titania Solutions Group, Inc.


Honors an individual and a team for developing and delivering a major strategic effort (a one to two year effort), which strengthened the organization’s ability to achieve at least one major business goal.

INDIVIDUAL WINNER: Theresa Marchese, Human Resources Director, Tishman Speyer

With healthcare costs on the rise, Theresa Marchese took strategic steps regarding preventative measures to mitigate these costs, save the company money, and make the employees healthier. Instead of cutting down on benefits, she sought a large financial contribution from the senior management, and pushed for the investment in the long term health, happiness and future well-being of their employees. Theresa conceived and developed an innovative multi-phase wellness plan, along with adjusting the employee contribution chart.

Theresa’s first step requested the addition of a 4th category called Employee + Child(ren) to Tishman Speyer’s contribution chart. This would help employees who are raising a child or children by themselves or where an employee’s spouse is on their own employer’s plan, as this designation is underwritten as less expensive than the current employee plus 1 rates and family rates. The employee would have an approximate 10% reduction in the rate that they would contribute. By restructuring the employee contribution chart Theresa is estimating saving the company close to a 250k in essence paying for the year’s wellness plan. The positive impact on employee morale is apparent. There was a 58% participation rate as compared to 33% most employers see in their first year.

The second step, after testing out the wellness plan and verifying its potential effectiveness at the local level in 2013, was to ask the CEOs for a $200k budget to get the program launched on the national level, which she secured and managed each phase as she put it into place. Phase one is a five percent insurance reimbursement for non-smokers in the company to encourage healthier practices. She also arranged for smokers to be offered a smoking cessation program, paid for by the company. Phase two is a biometric screening to accurately assess health risks. Phase three is a health risk assessment. Phase four, starting January 1, 2014, Theresa brought in on-site dietitians to consult with employees on a one-to-one basis to help improve eating habits and long term health goals. Phase five is the final push to get more employees involved. She established individualized quarterly plans for the separate markets to maximize employee participation.


Toni Potter, Lynette Shaw, Nicky Stewart, Chris Braccio, Kelly Wing, Melinda Haeff
When AMERICAN SYSTEMS was faced with the challenge of an “instant” surge in the workforce, a result of the company’s strategic asset acquisition of the Test& Evaluation (T&E;) business formerly owned by SAIC, AMERICAN SYSTEMS created a team of HR professionals dubbed “The Navigation Team” from within its ranks to mitigate the obstacles that such a large influx of new employees would face during their collective and simultaneous onboarding. This highly-cleared, uniquely-skilled T&E; workforce knew a year in advance that their business unit was for sale. The challenge for AMERICAN SYSTEMS was to: attract these employees to AMERICAN SYSTEMS, integrate the employees quickly into their employee-owned culture, and to develop a platform for their future business growth.

The Navigation Team consists of HR professionals representing Recruiting, Benefits, Compensation, HRIS, Talent Management, and Executive Leadership, all rolling up their sleeves during daily meetings, to identify and mitigate any obstacles to success. The team designed and developed new systems, tools, and resources to attract and support 300 onboarding employees in “navigating” their way through benefits, timekeeping, policies, and cultural changes that naturally accompany a quick asset acquisition.

Transitioning a large group of employees, many of whom had long tenures, meant pro-active engagement, listening and responding to their needs, keeping an open stream of two-way communications flowing—and developing a mechanism to help each new employee easily navigate their way into AMERICAN SYSTEMS.

The transition occurred without disruption to day-to-day operations, and the overall onboarding experience was positive, judging by all responses to the post-transition survey,. Of the approximate 300 T&E; employees who were tendered offers by AMERICAN SYSTEMS, 96% accepted. Survey results showed transitioning employees felt well-connected and well-cared for before, during, and after the transition date.

The success of The Navigation Team’s onboarding initiative paved the way for the plan to be installed as the go-to mechanism for all onboarding. The combination of big picture-thinking, collaboration, and years of HR experience gave The Navigation Team the necessary edge to face the daunting challenges and succeed beyond all expectations.


Akima, LLC
MHM Services, Inc.
Shaara Roman, Senior Vice President, Human Resources, National Rural Electric Cooperative Association


The Innovation Awards honor an individual and a team for thought leadership in creating and implementing new ideas, methodologies, or approaches that improve organizational performance.


Faced in the Fall of 2012 with an “instant” 25% surge in the workforce as a result of the acquisition of SAIC’s Test and Evaluation business, Chris Braccio utilized out-of-the-box thinking reaching across company disciplines to form a team that would mitigate the obstacles the influx of workers would create in simultaneous onboarding. The integration of these new employees was critical to the success of the acquisition as well as the success of bridging the gap between the “business” side and the “employee” side of the integration. The transition occurred without interruption of daily operations and overall exceeded expectations with a resulting 96% acceptance of the approximate 300 acquired employees and the group’s business development achievements exceeded goals by more than $10M.

Chris’s implementation strategy consisted of weekly acquisition business meetings and daily meetings with the onboarding team using an overarching theme of “Employees Matter” and a commitment to strong communication with her company-wide team, onboarding team, the transitioning workforce and the seller’s leadership team at the corporate level. Her noted accomplishments in this process included: 1) Directing the creation of an innovative web-based “Onboarding” portal to help transitioning employees “Navigate” through the transition, with Q&A; forums, access to important forms, benefits, information, etc.; 2) Making multiple in person, on-site visits to 11 acquisition locations, pre- and post-transition; 3) Crafting seller and buyer communication updates for transitioning employees; 4) Conducting webinars for those who could not be reached in person; 5) Re-appropriating $35K to build and supply an online “welcome gift” site at which transitioning employees could select a piece of complimentary branded apparel; 6) Seeking and obtaining Board approval to modify the Employee Stock Ownership Plan so that each transitioning employee received a special allocation within their first 60 days of service to reward tenure and high potential talent; 7) Designing and extending enhanced customized PTO plans; and 8) Conducting a post-transition survey of all transitioning employees to obtain lessons learned and valuable feedback.

TEAM WINNER: Neustar – Learning Solutions Team
Kim Austin, Craig Lutz, Gail Griswold, Sam Weber, Nichole Gunter (not pictured)

The challenge Neustar faced was how to create an onboarding experience for new hires, rather than an onboarding “orientation” that better conveyed who Neustar is with consistent and scalable solutions that would provide information to new employees in a fun, accessible and innovative way. In June 2012, “Reality TV Training Program” was born as a blended learning approach following the journey of five new hires and experience what it’s like to work at Neustar. Throughout the journey, new hires learn about important topics such as the culture, vision, mission, goal setting, performance management by watching our cast of five new hires, as well as by accessing eLearning courses and viewing commercial spotlights of important information and business units within Neustar. The program went from a ½ day new hire “orientation” to a 12-episode Reality TV Training program providing robust and useful content and information, when the new hire needs it.

The Learning Solutions Team’s 5 month long project required a great deal of communication, collaboration and support across the organization. They partnered with key business areas on script writing and content creation and also provided senior leadership with the program details. Open casting calls enlisted 75 real Neustar employees to appear in the program and create some excitement and interest around the project. The entire project was tracked closely in terms of time and resources using SharePoint.

Six months post-launch, the team implemented a 90-day new hire survey to learn more about an employee’s first 3 months of the job and gained an insight into the positive feedback to the program. Instead of following “best practices” in the industry, they used their knowledge, understanding and insight into how adults best learn and proved the value of their idea by gaining the buy in early in the process. This took not only creativity and the ability to take calculated risks. They needed to identify and overcome obstacles ranging from technical software issues to gaining support and buy in from every business partner. This required a well-though out detailed plan and ongoing tracking.


Phillips Corporation- Community Exceleration! Team
Candice Cook, Director of HR, IP Network Solutions


The Mentoring Award honors an individual who demonstrates leadership, dedication, and support to the professional growth and development of others.

WINNER: Miguel Joey Aviles, Program Manager, Department of Defense/DCPAS

Miguel Joey Aviles had to face many challenges early in his life and mentors played a vital role in his development. Those obstacles sparked his passion for mentoring. Today he successfully manages a Department of Defense worldwide mentoring resource tool as well as a national program, the Senior Executive Association (SEA) & Young Government Leaders (YGL) Mentoring Program serving senior executives and emerging leaders from various federal agencies around the United States.

The SEA & YGL Mentoring Program is a blend of formal and informal mentoring that provides a low cost strategy to develop emerging leaders in the federal government by connecting successful senior executives at the pinnacle of their careers with high potential emerging leaders. The program combines the connection with networking events, learning and development initiatives and a community of practice providing the right tools to nurture business connections and turn them into successful mentoring relationships. Miguel participated as a mentee during the pilot program and upon completion was selected as the first YGL Chief Learning Officer. His first initiative was managing the Mentoring Program which he grew from 25 mentee applications to 150 spanning 33 federal agencies and resulting in 64 mentees in the program. Miguel developed a comprehensive process to match the mentees with senior executive mentors. Miguel managed a team coordinating special events for the mentees to attend as well as developed an online community of practice to allow participants to interact, share resources, questions and best practices.

Miguel represents the Department at the Office of Personnel Management government wide mentoring group which is developing a strategy to promote a culture of mentoring. Miguel is leading the process for developing a DoD-wide mentoring resource tool with the goal of promoting and nurturing a mentoring culture and provide all DoD agencies and components access to an online mentoring one-stop-shop consisting of a mentoring toolkit, training resources, a mentoring library, and a space for mentoring best practices. The DoD-wide Mentoring Resource Tool will equip HR managers with the right tools to implement effective mentoring programs around the globe.


Rachel Wardley, Director, Corporate Support Services, LS Technologies, LLC


The Sister Eymard Gallagher Award honors an individual or team for leadership, dedication, and achievements in helping his/her or their organization create positive change in the communities in which he/she or they operate.

WINNER: Amy Yasneski
Community Exceleration! Team, Phillips Corporation

Amy Yasneski took over responsibility for the Phillips Corporation philanthropic initiative in the spring of 2011 when the decision was made to focus all charitable efforts on one organization in order to fulfill their community service mission, “to be leading contributors in the communities where we live, work and play.” Amy chose to partner with the non-profit organization For Pete’s Sake Cancer Respite Foundation. From the beginning, Amy established a committee of volunteers at the four U.S. offices to facilitate participation of Phillips Partners (employees) throughout the U.S. who would meet regularly to work towards shared goals. A captivating plea for support of the payroll contribution drive efforts and various fundraising events quickly engaged new Partners raising nearly $48,000 in the first two years under Amy’s leadership as well as other giving opportunities such as “adopting” families during the holidays and supporting drives to outfit two vacation homes owned by For Pete’s Sake.

Amy also spearheaded efforts to raise the awareness of For Pete’s Sake services engaging the talents of her peers in the marketing department to support a comprehensive plan including blogs on the Phillips website, posts on Facebook, articles in the company newsletter and organizing a vendor booth with a 50/50 raffle at the annual Phillips open house event.

She additionally worked with her counterpart in the Phillips Pune, India office to start a community service effort overseas selecting Concern India as the best organization for their India Partners to give back to the community. A similar approach to engaging support from Phillips Partners was rolled out similar to stateside and significantly exceeded their goals.

Phillips’ idea to partner with one charitable organization, and their successful initiatives Amy led, was the inspiration that led to For Pete’s Sake to develop their Pete’s Partners Program, encouraging companies to support their mission through their own events, payroll contributions and support. To date they now have four companies participating in the Pete’s Partners program.


CACI International Inc – VSDI Team


Honors the outstanding individual or team who demonstrates considerable and enduring commitment to ethical business practices in the field of HR management.

WINNER: Hugo Aguas, Assistant Vice President of Human Resources, Inova Alexandria Hospital

Hugo Aguas has been instilled with ethical values at an early age through his parents and Jesuit school upbringing. Hugo enjoys and excels in his role as the HR leader at Inova Alexandria Hospital because he has the ability to model these ethical behaviors to be an example to his staff, peers and employees at large. The hospital setting requires an individual to demonstrate this type of behavior moreso than other industries due to the vulnerability and sensitivity when dealing with patients and their families or caretakers. Hugo thrives in this type of setting. As a role model to the staff, he understands that he is constantly be looked to and staff will mimic his actions and behaviors.

Ethics is a common topic at Hugo’s HR staff meetings. Whenever an employee is in an ethical dilemma, Hugo confidentially uses the situation as an opportunity to learn and teach other staff members how to deal with similar situations if one were to arise. Hugo strongly believes promoting and fostering an ethical environment will go a long way to help prevent people taking advantage of situations.

On a community level, Hugo has worked with the MBA program at Seattle University as well as graduate students at Georgetown University’s Healthcare Management and Policy department teaching students about ethical behavior in the workplace. At Seattle University he successfully advocated for the need to require students to take an ethics course in order to graduate.

Hugo possesses a strong passion for team member engagement; developing his staff and ensuring all employees have a voice. He sets high standards and expectations of his team and has made a positive difference throughout the organization.

District of Columbia – Department of Human Resources