Who are EBN's 2016 Benny Award winners?

Published
  • September 08 2016, 12:26pm EDT
Benefits professionals today have their hands full, between controlling costs, grappling with compliance matters, helping employees get healthy, and, of course, retaining and attracting talent. But some are making it look easy. EBN's annual Benny Awards recognize excellence in the employee benefits/human resources field. Four awards — Benefits Professional of the Year, Benefits Leadership in Retirement Planning, Benefits Leadership in Health Care and Judges' Choice — are presented to employee benefit or human resource practitioners selected by EBN editors. Stay tuned for profiles of each winner throughout the week, but here is a sneak peek at this year's winners.

2016 Benny Award Winners

Benefits professionals today have their hands full, between controlling costs, grappling with compliance matters, helping employees get healthy, and, of course, retaining and attracting talent. But some are making it look easy. EBN's annual Benny Awards recognize excellence in the employee benefits/human resources field. Four awards — Benefits Professional of the Year, Benefits Leadership in Retirement Planning, Benefits Leadership in Health Care and Judges' Choice — are presented to employee benefit or human resource practitioners selected by EBN editors. Stay tuned for profiles of each winner throughout the week, but here is a sneak peek at this year's winners.

Benefits Professional of the Year

Christine Durkee

Vice President, Human Resources Operations

BJ's Wholesale Club

When Christine Durkee joined BJ's Wholesale Club in 2010, she inherited a host of problems. Tobacco use afflicted a whopping 25% of the company's employees. There was a lack of nutrition and physical fitness across the board. And the company was spending more than $100 million each year on medical.

So Durkee immediately turned to wellness, focusing both on tobacco cessation and nutrition. She also aimed to educate BJ’s 25,000 employees about exactly how their benefits worked. The efforts were a hit: Medical costs and tobacco use decreased, while employees' understanding of their benefits increased.

“I love to be a resource to people, because what comes naturally to me is a big deal to other people when they don’t understand it,” says Durkee, who has spent the last 30-plus years in human resources. “I just love to explain it to people and see their face change from confused to, 'OK, I get it now.'

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Benefits Leadership in Health Care

Angie Villamaria

Director of Associate Wellness, Centura Health

Yes, it's ironic, but healthcare workers have one of the highest obesity rates of all professions. Employees at Centura Health were no exception.
Tasked with the wellness of her colleagues, Angie Villamaria decided to walk the walk of her industry and do something about it. She implemented a weight-loss program through Retrofit.

Within three months, 90% of Centura participants were losing weight. An estimated 26% had lost 5% or more of their body weight, and 4% had moved out of the morbidly obese category. The total Centura Health pounds lost totaled 1,135, with an average weight loss of 3.7%.

"In the healthcare industry, we’re primarily female, and we’re caretakers. We take care of everybody else before we take care of ourselves," Villamaria says.

"Some of our challenge has been in shifting or trying to help [these workers] shift the mindset that they can’t really care for others until they care for themselves."

Benefits Leadership in Retirement Planning

Bahati VanPelt

Executive Director

The Trust, powered by the NFLPA

It’s hard enough convincing employees with 30-year careers to invest for retirement; much less men whose careers average three years. But that’s the mission of Bahati VanPelt, who helps former NFL players retire soundly.

VanPelt partnered with Financial Finesse to create and execute a groundbreaking program that holistically addresses all areas of former players' financial lives, so they can be as successful off the field as they were on it. The Trust, established in 2013, provides resources for former players to take care of brain and body health, career transition, entrepreneurship, education, financial literacy and personal interaction.

"I always say that we’re in the people business, not the football business," he says.

Judges' Choice

Mike Greenberg

Vice President of Benefits, Hudson’s Bay Company

When Mike Greenberg took the helm of HR and benefits for the oldest company in North America, he undertook a momentous challenge. Hudson’s Bay Company, which owns Lord & Taylor and Home Outfitters, had recently purchased Saks Fifth Avenue. Not only were employee benefits and personnel policies at Saks and Lord & Taylor completely separate, they did not share a single insurer or vendor and had separate payroll and HRIS systems.

Greenberg was tasked with unifying all U.S. employee benefits for more than 25,000 U.S.-based associates in 150 locations by Jan. 1, 2016. The guiding objective? Focusing on benefit harmonization to provide greater opportunity for HBC associates to transfer and progress their careers between banners and locations, while offering affordable, competitive benefit options, enhancing associate wellness awareness and assuring compliance with ACA healthcare reform requirements and regulations.

"Everything was changing," says Jason Krouse, senior vice president of consulting at Univers Workplace Solutions, the consulting company that helped Greenberg streamline benefits at the two banners. "None of the medical, life or disability plans stayed the same. He led one of the biggest benefit harmonization projects I’ve ever seen."