Reaching for the Stars!


MBA Honors HR Professionals With New Award for 2023

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Human Resources (HR) professionals play a pivotal role in driving business success, serving as the linchpin that connects employees to the organization’s strategic goals and objectives. Their “people management” responsibilities encompass everything from talent acquisition and development to employee engagement, culture nurturing and compliance. In today’s dynamic and competitive business landscape, the role of HR has evolved from administrative functions to strategic partnership, making HR professionals indispensable to a company’s sustained growth and prosperity.

This year, the Manufacturer & Business Association, in conjunction with the MBA Business Magazine, is proud to recognize the dedication and service of our membership’s HR professionals with the first annual HR Person of the Year nominees. Nominated by MBA members representing a variety of industries, these individuals are among the best in their profession, including: Christopher Holmberg of Curtze Food Service, Deana Burge of Bethesda Lutheran Services, Mary Barr of Sarah A. Reed Children’s Center, Jennifer Tshudy of American Turned Products, Kerry Lewis of SEPCO-Erie, Shannon Huddleston of Plyler Enterprises, Inc. and Stella LaPaglia of Marquette Savings Bank.

Online voting at will determine the winner, who will be announced and presented with the first ever HR Star Award at the MBA’s HR Conference on Wednesday, November 8, at the Bayfront Convention Center in Erie.

“At the Manufacturer & Business Association, we recognize that HR professionals are at the heart of every successful organization and this award is meant to celebrate the valuable work that they do,” explains MBA President and CEO Lori Joint. “They are often behind the scenes making sure that things run smoothly, and we can’t thank them enough.”

In many companies, the HR professionals wear many hats, such as being responsible for identifying, attracting and retaining top-tier talent that aligns with the company’s vision and mission. They not only craft compelling job descriptions but also leverage their expertise to employ innovative recruitment strategies, ensuring that the organization brings in individuals who possess the right skills, competencies and cultural fit. Furthermore, HR professionals spearhead the development of employees throughout their tenure, fostering a culture of continuous learning and growth.

“They drive businesses forward by ensuring that the human aspect remains at the forefront of strategic decision-making and by fostering an environment where employees can thrive and contribute their best efforts.”

“They understand the importance of training programs and skill development, and continue to lead by example,” says Joint, “which is why we are so excited to announce this year’s winner at the MBA’s 11th annual HR Conference — the premier HR training event in the region.”

The HR Factor

Experts agree that the role of HR can’t be understated, especially in the area of employee engagement, which plays a critical factor in determining an organization’s success.

HR professionals are instrumental in creating an environment where employees feel valued, empowered and motivated to give their best. Through regular feedback mechanisms, recognition programs, and open communication channels, HR fosters a sense of belonging and shared purpose among employees. This not only enhances job satisfaction but also boosts productivity, reduces turnover rates, and cultivates a positive work-place culture that acts as a magnet for top talent.

Beyond talent management, HR professionals are also responsible for ensuring the organization’s compliance with labor laws and regulations. This function minimizes legal risks and prevents costly litigation that could tarnish the company’s reputation.

“By staying up to date with evolving employment laws and regulations, HR professionals ensure that the organization’s practices remain ethical, transparent and in line with industry standards,” explains Tammy Lamary-Toman, JD, PHR, vice president and employment counsel for the Manufacturer & Business Association. “The MBA works closely with these HR professionals to answer questions and help them stay in compliance.”

HR also plays a pivotal role in managing crisis situations and change management. Whether it’s a global pandemic, economic downturn or a major organizational restructuring, HR professionals guide the organization through tumultuous times with empathy and resilience. They facilitate communication, provide necessary support to employees, and help the company navigate complex transitions while minimizing disruptions.

“In today’s business landscape,” Toman continues, “where success hinges on innovation, adaptability, and engaged employees, the role of HR professionals is more critical than ever. They drive businesses forward by ensuring that the human aspect remains at the forefront of strategic decision-making and by fostering an environment where employees can thrive and contribute their best efforts.”

“HR professionals are the backbone of business success, linking the human element to the strategic goals of the organizations,” explains Toman. “By skillfully managing their many responsibilities, HR professionals contribute to a productive and motivated workforce, a positive organizational culture, and legal and ethical compliance.”

To learn more about the MBA and the HR Person of the Year Award nominees, visit