The 2013 HR Awards

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ERC and the Cleveland Society for Human Resource Management are proud to host and honor HR leadership in our region. The 2013 class of HR Award winners are making a difference through sound, creative and proactive HR management. We are also pleased to recognize the leading faculty adviser and student participant for student SHRM chapters in our region who are developing the next generation of HR leaders.

There was a significant increase in nominations for the 2013 HR Awards, which is a testament to the leadership shown in the HR community in this region. ERC and CSHRM are excited to work together to honor our winners and finalists who make a big difference in their profession and respective organizations.

Check out our winners’ information on these pages and also at They are truly leading by example and our hats are off to them for making a positive impact on others. There is no greater recognition than with your peers and that is certainly the case with this year’s HR Awards winners and finalists!

Last but not least, thank you to the HR Awards committee, judges and our sponsors. Without their hard work and support this program would not be possible.

Lauren Rudman, president, CSHRM and manager, HR, ERICO International Corp.
Patrick Perry, president, ERC


The 2013 HR Award Finalists:

  • Julie Maurer, Echogen Power Systems
  • Marguerite Grooms, Center for Families & Children
  • Charisse Sayles, Cleveland Sight Center
  • Corinne Saliba, AmeriMark Direct LLC
  • Christina McCrossin, NPCS Inc.
  • Cindy Bach, Structure Personnel Inc.
  • Erica Jacob, Baldwin-Wallace University
  • Mary Pisnar, Baldwin-Wallace University
  • Raymundo Garza, Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems
  • Chiara Bunch, FedEx Ground


The 2013 HR Award Winners: 

HR Partner

Aaron Grossman
Alliance Solutions Group

As president of Alliance Solutions Group, Aaron Grossman is a true entrepreneur with a passion for transforming his industry and community. Under his leadership, Alliance has grown rapidly with consistent double-digit growth rates in spite of two deep recessions, a disruptive partnership buy-out and a cash crisis created by a customer’s collapse.

The company’s growth in the early years was due to a focus on key hires, standardized processes and corporate culture. By 2007, the company had generated $20 million in sales. During the Great Recession, Alliance invested in the core business, infrastructure and marketing. Beginning in 2010, the company experienced massive, consistent growth. In fact, in 2010, Alliance grew five times faster than the staffing industry.

By the end of 2012, Alliance reported $41 million in total revenues — a 32 percent increase from the previous year. This growth rate was more than double the overall growth reported by the staffing industry.

Alliance is the only staffing firm in Northeast Ohio with nine brands, each highly specialized business units with deep industry experience. This experience allows Alliance to deliver consistent, qualified placements that enhance organizational productivity and provide customers with single-source convenience across multiple specialties.

Unlike many staffing firms that act as mere resume factories, Grossman has created a culture of values that encourages employees to act differently than other staffing firms. Grossman believes in his firm’s ability to leverage the individual candidate’s success on behalf of his clients. 


Talent Management 

Kevin Clere
manager of talent acquisition
Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems

Kevin Clere was faced with a number of challenges as he assumed responsibility for talent management at Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems.

He was asked to create a shared service model, one in which all organizations under the corporate umbrella of Knorr-Bremse would leverage his talent acquisition team. Clere built trusting relationships and now the model is reaping benefits. Companies such as New York Air Brake use his team, reducing its time and expense for recruitment activities.

Beyond a shared services model, Clere has led the rebranding of his team and its recruitment efforts. Bendix has a large university relations presence, but in the past it has always been branded as Bendix alone. The name Knorr-Bremse was not widely promoted.

Today, Clere has made it a point to speak about all the corporate entities, not just Bendix. He strives to make his organization more attractive by showing students they can move within the corporate structure.

Clere also promotes sharing talent within Knorr-Bremse. Just as with the shared services model, he needed to show that his team had the capacity to make things happen in rebranding and campus recruiting. The entities now share an applicant tracking system, relocation services and labor attorneys, and this has brought the parent organization significant savings.

In talent management, it is important that the function shares its value. Clere made it a point to create a recruiter scorecard and set a high goal of 90 percent satisfaction. Currently, his team is at 88 percent.


Business Leadership 

Douglas Dykes
HR director
Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District

Douglas Dykes was hired as director of human resources for the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District in May 2008 and has more than 17 years of human resources experience, most spent in leadership roles. 

Dykes spends his time directing an entire human resource department as well as putting forth efforts to pilot programs and projects such as the wellness initiative, service awards, performance management, contract negotiations and mentoring and coaching.

He takes the tasks he has been charged with seriously and performs them with integrity and a high degree of professionalism. Dykes is a dedicated leader with a genuine desire to see other individuals triumph in their aspirations. He is a great example of how professionals in leadership capacities should conduct themselves in nobility, dignity and humility.

Dykes is a true example of hard work paying off and many of his counterparts at Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District look up to him. The district is responsible for wastewater treatment facilities and interceptor sewers in the greater Cleveland Metropolitan area. This service area encompasses the city of Cleveland and all, or portions of, 61 suburban municipalities in Cuyahoga, Summit, Lake and Lorain counties,including a diversified group of manufacturing and processing industries.


Emerging Leader

Danielle Hanna
The Cleveland Foundation

If there were a dictionary entry for the phrase “emerging leader,” Danielle Hanna’s name and photo would appear next to it.

Hanna began her career at the Cleveland Foundation as a HR generalist in 2008 and was promoted to HR manager in 2011. She exhibits leadership qualities beyond those normally expected of someone early in his or her HR career. She is actively involved in every aspect of the highly visible and dynamic HR function of the foundation.

Recently, Hanna took a leadership role in developing the foundation’s new talent management program, which included a complete overhaul of its performance review process to ensure that it circled back to the foundation’s strategic goals and core values. She stepped out of her comfort zone to help customize and build a training program for all employees.

Hanna has taken the lead on many other initiatives, such as working with the employment law attorney to revise the way the foundation handles independent contractor arrangements, developing a new on-boarding process for newly hired employees and oversight of the HR internship program.

In addition to all of her project work, Hanna oversees benefits, payroll, employee communication, employee relations, recruiting and many other HR tasks. She regularly serves on internal committees designed to promote employee engagement and team building and is a highly respected member of the staff.



Renita Jefferson
director of training and development
American Greetings

Renita Jefferson is recognized for demonstrating great leadership to take diversity and inclusion to the next level at American Greetings. She has been working hard to help those members in her organization, including minorities, women and members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities.

Jefferson has focused on employee engagement at all levels within American Greetings. Several years ago, American Greetings started Employee Resource Networks. She initiated a four-session leadership series for the leaders of the ERNs to assist with their success. While each group is encouraged to have its own identity and focus, Jefferson set up an expectation to create a uniformity of documents for each of the groups such as a charter and strategic plan.

Her vision is to institutionalize the ERNs so that no matter what changes take place in the organization they remain relevant and continue to benefit American Greetings and its employees.

During the implementation of this process Jefferson has shown her use of change management skills and talent management, including both recruitment and retention. She has assisted with the development of the leaders within these ERNs, as well as with the branding, communications and marketing of diversity and inclusion within the company.

There are numerous other initiatives that have taken place under Jefferson’s direction and leadership. She has already created a Diversity and Inclusion Dashboard of Retention for the organization. Jefferson isn’t limiting her efforts to just the walls of American Greetings — she has led collaborations both internally and externally with other organizations to address diversity and inclusion issues within the community. 


Employee Relations

Jerry Joyce
director of HR
Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics

Jerry Joyce has applied his talents to the HR field for 32 years, having an impact on employees in several companies, including positions across two divisions of Saint-Gobain for the last 18 years. He is currently the director of HR for Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics.

Joyce currently handles employee relations across 11 locations with some 900 employees, and is part of a team that impacts employees on several continents for the global company.

Joyce’s interpersonal style has been a hallmark to his success. He takes steps to put people at ease, and they can readily grasp that his goal is to be of service to them and not to make gains for himself. One example of Joyce’s special approach is his progressive discipline process. He can discuss issues with employees and resolve them without the need for grievance processes or arbitration. He focuses on the employee, identifies the unconstructive behaviors affecting them and finds ways to get them to change.

One of Joyce’s major contributions to Saint-Gobain was heading up a large-scale Employee Engagement program. Joyce designed and managed the administration, taking extra steps to ensure all employees had a chance to participate. Application of the data was systematic and thorough, including a communication plan to employees and focus group assignments to address opportunities. He currently has several action teams operating to put improvements in place based on a survey.


HR Student of the Year

Vernon Kellogg
Cleveland State University

Vernon Kellogg has excelled not only in the classroom as a student at Cleveland State University, but outside of school in a number of different capacities.

In his senior year he has been a key member of CSU’s student SHRM chapter’s executive board. He volunteers as part of the CSU SHRM Volunteer Resume Project, which works with the VA and Volunteers of America. Kellogg works with veterans at the VA facility at Wade Park to identify the transferable skills from their military service back to the civilian workforce, resume concepts, computer skills and subtle self-marketing tips. Over the course of several months it became clear that Kellogg stood out among the student volunteers as one the best.

He easily related to the veterans and effectually explained the key points of resume writing in addition to quickly establishing a personal rapport. His skill for making those around him comfortable along with the ability to be patient with the veterans no matter their level of understanding also lends to his success with this project.

Kellogg has also supported student activities including the student tours of Tremco and the Cleveland Indians, and assisted with the facility logistics and establishment of the Business Professionals Night, which had 64 student participants and 23 employers.

Kellogg has shown a mastery of being able to blend the art to lead and follow when participating in volunteer projects. He has demonstrated his eagerness to learn by reaching beyond his academic track at CSU.


Compensation & Benefits

Martha Kimura
Benefits Specialist

Having worked in HR for 18 years, Martha Kimura has been applying her expertise with ACRT Inc. since 2008 as a benefits specialist.

Kimura has effectively partnered with executive management and an outside broker to map out benefit offerings, create the budget, plan and administer the benefits and 401(k) open enrollments, and coordinate wellness activities. She has also made key contributions to projects including an employee honors program, conformance with health care reform legislation and engagement surveys.

One of Kimura’s special projects has been the employee honors program, which identifies employees who demonstrate outstanding performance and cultivate their talents to be tomorrow’s leaders. The participants get to travel for a week to corporate headquarters where they meet with executives, learn about company initiatives and goals, and serve as peer leaders for their work groups. They also serve as advocates in the field for corporate initiatives and funnel information or questions to the corporate executives.

In 2011, Kimura started a five-year plan to be at the forefront of changes from new health care laws. She has focused on an education process for employees, promoted a Consumer Directed Health Plan as well as health savings accounts, and helped the company achieve 100 percent participation in benefits enrollment.

If that wasn’t enough, Kimura is also currently growing a wellness program that builds wellness into the fabric of ACRT and its insurance programs called Summer Shape-Up Challenge. The company now has an Internal Online Community where employees post their goals and progress updates online, share articles and tips, and even post encouraging notes to fellow employees across the country.  


HR Student Chapter Advisor of the Year

Tracy Porter
Cleveland State University

Tracy Porter is a professor at Cleveland State University, but her professional reputation doesn’t end there. Porter is a health care administrator, management consultant and is involved with both CSHRM and CSU SHRM.

Porter’s key skills include being a role model, a great motivator and an advocate for student success and growth both academically and professionally. As an active member of CSHRM, she serves as an example to students to look up to and openly encourages professional development. She tries to have everything that she does as an adviser have a direct impact on a student’s ability to develop as a leader.

One CSU SHRM accomplishment this year that would not have been possible without the support of Porter was a volunteer project with the VA and Volunteers of America. Called the CSU SHRM Volunteer Resume Project, students go to the VA facility at Wade Park one Saturday a month and work one-on-one with veterans to help them write their resumes.

Not only does Porter attend every session with the CSU SHRM, she also helps out when there are more veterans than students.

As a professor at CSU, Porter teaches undergraduate and graduate classes, including International Business, Management/Organizational Behavior, Managerial Skill Development, Principles of Labor/Industrial Relations, Principles of Management, Team Dynamics, HR Management, Intro to College Life, Organizational Theory & Design, and HR Management/Labor Relations.   


Organizational & Employee Development

Bob Sullivan
vice president of HR
Flight Options

Bob Sullivan lives and works by his company’s fundamental principles of treating employees as the foundation of a service organization, paying attention to detail and taking a long-term approach to relationships. He encourages all employees at Flight Options, a private aviation company, to follow these principles.

Not only does Sullivan take the time to understand what motivates and inspires each member of his own team, but as vice president of HR he has tasked himself to develop, motivate and train every member of the company through a service training project initiated this year. Starting with executives and upper management, the training program moves down the line to managers and every employee ensuring a real team spirit, a sense of oneness and unity in achieving excellence.

Under Sullivan’s leadership, Flight Options has become more of a team, working together to make the company succeed. In addition, his initiatives are fun, interesting and interactive. From the initial offer to a two-day, new-hire orientation with breakfast, lunch, meet-and-greets and games to the company’s 30- and 90-day follow-up lunches and continuous training programs, Flight Options’ employee development has been made a priority.

Sullivan and the company continually strive to have the best service levels in the field and by having happy, educated, dedicated and passionate employees, Flight Options’ service levels have naturally fallen into place at the top.