HR professionals help keep businesses running smoothly behind-the-scenes—and now it's time to shine a spotlight on those who are doing an extra good job.

It makes sense that John Kelley started out as an educator. Even though he switched careers to become a human resources leader at White Castle, he never really left education behind. After all, a great HR professional is also a teacher, someone who works with all manner of employees—from custodians to new hires to those in the C-suite—to help them learn, grow and thrive.

For the seventh year, Columbus CEO is proud to honor the achievements of central Ohio's most talented and dedicated HR leaders. These creative, innovative and team-oriented professionals handle a dizzying array of responsibilities: compensation, performance reviews, retreats, succession planning—to name just a few. And they're at the center of one of the biggest challenges facing businesses in Columbus: finding employees in an ultra-competitive labor market. Yet the best HR leaders never waver from their commitment to their fellow employees and even find time to better their communities with innovative educational partnerships and outreach to economically disadvantaged groups.

Speaking of great partners: Columbus CEO is thrilled to work again with Findley, the HR consulting firm that's been our presenting sponsor for the HR Excellence Awards since the program began in 2012. Findley has a new name this year, but its commitment to exemplary HR remains the same.

After you read the inspiring stories in this feature, we expect you'll have newfound appreciation for the dedicated HR professionals in your midst. Remember that feeling in January, when Columbus CEO opens up nominations at columbusceo.com for our 2019 program. You won't want to miss this chance to honor your favorite HR superstar.