From teams running large corporate human resources divisions to a Lifetime Achievement winner who struck out on her own, meet some of the Columbus region's top people people.

Imagine what it’s like to be charged with making sure all aspects of human resources are meshing at a global company with 17,000-plus workers spread across several hundred locations. Keep in mind the job goes well beyond the traditional HR roles of providing equitable pay, good benefits and savvy hiring practices, extending into more complex areas such as getting every business unit aligned with the company’s guiding principles.

That is exactly what Bala Sathyanarayanan has been tasked with since joining Delaware-based Greif Inc. as chief human resources officer. We’re happy to tell you how he is doing (quite well in fact) and relate other stellar efforts of HR pros and employee-focused companies and organizations in Columbus CEO’s eighth annual HR Excellence Awards section.

Our honorees include HR practitioners at small businesses, nonprofits, a law firm and big corporations, including Greif and Huntington National Bank. Some are up-and-comers. Some are longtime HR professionals. Others are being singled out for the good works undertaken by them and the organizations they serve.

What they all have in common is working in one of the most challenging human resources environments in recent memory. That means finding and retaining quality employees at a time when Central Ohio’s unemployment rate is near a historic low.

At the same time, employers are trying to fill positions that require a high level of technical expertise and the people skills that are essential in today’s workplace.

We hope these stories not only recognize the good work being done by our honorees but also help you develop a new appreciation for these dedicated HR professionals.

Here are the 2019 honorees:

HR Excellence 2019 Executive of the Year winner: Bala Sathyanarayanan, senior vice president and chief human resources officer, Greif Inc.

HR Excellence 2019 Executive of the Year finalist: Valarie Kesel, senior HR director, COSI

HR Excellence 2019 Executive of the Year finalist: Shawn Richard, Palmer-Donavin

HR Excellence 2019 Team Excellence winner: Huntington National Bank Human Resources Team

HR Excellence 2019 Team Excellence finalist: ODW Logistics Human Resources Team

HR Excellence 2019 Future Leader Winner: Kristina Brannon, Human Resources Coordinator, Summit Home Care

HR Excellence 2019 Future Leader finalist: Kelsey Hines, human resources generalist, Advocate Radiology

HR Excellence 2019 Good Works winner: Laura O’Toole, area human resource manager, National Church Residences/First Community Village

HR Excellence 2019 Good Works finalist: Kasandra Cook, HR Manager, Greater Columbus Convention Center

HR Excellence 2019 Innovation winner: Whitney O’Malley, Human Resources Manager, BakerHosteler

HR Excellence 2019 HR Innovation finalist: Ohio Living

HR Excellence 2019 Lifetime Achievement winner: Matilda Woods, senior human resources director, ADAMH Franklin County

HR Excellence 2019 Lifetime Achievement winner: Sharon DeLay, founder, Go-HR

Katy Smith is the editor of Columbus CEO.

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