2016 HR Excellence Awards: Chris Rutter, Executive of the Year, Small Organization

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

Chief Human Resources Officer

Matrix Systems Holdings, LLC

Soon after being hired in 2015 as chief human resources officer for Matrix Systems Holdings LLC, Chris Rutter asked to see a copy of the employee handbook to get more familiar with company culture.

He quickly discovered a problem. The handbook was last updated in 1995 and Matrix, which had 165 employees handling technology security, had lacked any meaningful HR leadership for years.

"I called over and said, 'Completely respectfully, I'm not going to read this. I'm going to toss it aside and just start over,'" Rutter recalls with a chuckle. "I knew then I'd have to go in and train my own vision for HR and what I thought the company needed to be successful."

Execution of that vision, which included opening communication channels and creating policies that made sense for 21st century employees, earned Rutter the award as Executive of the Year for a small organization.

"I like to think I come to the table with a different outlook, a different perspective," says Rutter. "I have the perspective of young professionals. I don't say, 'We've done it this way for 10 years; let's tweak it for now.' I say, 'That was OK for 10 years, but what about scrapping it and trying something completely new.'

Reinvention has been the name of the game for Rutter since he was a communications major at Ohio State University and courses in business and HR 101 piqued his interest. He left OSU for Franklin University and earned undergraduate degrees in human resource management and business administration.

Rutter joined McGraw-Hill Education as a senior HR business partner; after earning his MBA in business administration with an HR specialization from Ashland University, he moved on to Uptivity as director of human resources. He was promoted two years later to vice president.

After Uptivity was sold, the Columbus native joined Matrix.

There, he started town hall meetings that gave all employees the chance to hear and be heard and understand the impact of the change to come. He next created a new employee handbook to frame policies that made sense for business in 2015.

Among his changes were a new payroll system, enacting a pay-for-performance culture, enhancing internal communications, developing succession planning and tying paid time off to performance.

After updating HR systems at Matrix, Rutter's continuing quest to spread HR excellence led him in the spring of 2016 to a new opportunity as vice president of human resources at Contactus, LLC.

Committed to advancing HR across Columbus, Rutter is preparing to take the helm of the Human Resources Association of Central Ohio. He also serves on the executive committee and as membership chair of the Create Columbus Commission.

"I'm used to being around the table with executives who are 10-plus years older than me," Rutter says.

"I think I bring a fresh perspective. I am not afraid of risk. We all make mistakes. I welcome them. The key is to make sure you learn from those mistakes and not make them again. Our candidates and workforce are changing in priorities and needs, and we have to do all we can to stay in front of that learning curve."

Finalist:Christine Childs, Loeb Electric Company

Christine Childs may have been the only one in human resources at Loeb Electric, but she proves a small staff can be mighty. Her skill in helping the company grow from 130 associates to 212 associates in less than three years led to her selection as finalist for Executive of the Year of a small organization.

Among Childs' many duties were sourcing, screening, developing key skills and competencies, interviewing candidates and hiring. She also developed a structured onboarding and training program that has lowered turnover and increased employee satisfaction.

In 2015 as HR manager, she helped the century-old company incorporate more than 70 new employees, coordinating a restructuring that included eliminating temporary workers, adding a night shift, promoting six supervisors, executing a comprehensive review of employee pay and implementing an employee-review program.

Childs' efforts also involved making newcomers to Loeb feel welcome and informed. To that end she created a new onboarding packet to provide one location for important information and an internship program that incorporated college students into various Loeb areas.

Equally committed to advancing the education of current employees, she created a training overview to document how the company manages employee training and administered training courses through the National Association of Electrical Distributors.

"The results speak for themselves," Childs' nomination stated. "Our company is better for it. Turnover is lower and associates are more engaged and better trained. They stay-and they are happy."

Executive of the Year Award

Executive of the Year recognizes an individual who has demonstrated significant achievements that advance both a person's organization and the HR profession. Nominations were categorized by workforce size: Large organizations have more than 2,000 employees, midsize between 500 and 2,000 employees and small organizations fewer than 500 employees.