2023 HR Experience Makers Award Winners: And the HR Award Goes to…

At BambooHR, we’re big believers in HR professionals’ unique ability to transform businesses and their people. It’s our immense privilege to recognize outstanding contributors in this field with the first annual HR award from BambooHR, the HR Experience Makers Awards, and present the winners for 2023!

These HR pros were nominated by their peers and colleagues for their dedicated and remarkable work in the following categories:

The Award: A $2,000 paid vacation for each category winner.

Why We Chose This Award: You can’t continue performing at your best and making an impact in your work if you don’t get the chance to rest, unwind, and enjoy life. That’s why we’re celebrating the efforts of HR Experience Makers by sharing with them one of our favorite benefits we offer BambooHR employees—the 2,000-dollar annual Paid-Paid Vacation stipend.

Read on to learn more about each HR award winner and their outstanding, inspiring contributions.

Please note: Quotes have been lightly edited for clarity and concision.

Employee Experience Winner: Khadija Moore

Why Khadija Was Nominated for This HR Award

Tanisha Callender, HR Coordinator at Gildan, nominated Khadija Moore for her commitment to improving the “company’s employee lifecycle from onboarding to exit,” with an exceptional focus on helping all employees succeed.

Tanisha especially highlights Khadija’s personal, hands-on approach: “She has coached so many employees and has helped them to transition into new roles which they are passionate about within the company through one-on-ones, and employees always thank her for taking the time to do this. She also saw it fit to invest time to meet, coach, and develop new and existing managers, and each coaching session is tailored to their profile and assessments.”

“The company has seen the fruits of her labor,” Tanisha says, “and we are so thankful to have her as an asset to the wider team."

In the Winner’s Own Words: Why Do You Find Working in HR Enjoyable or Fulfilling?

“The field of Human Resources is highly dynamic—there's never a dull moment! As HR professionals, we build strategies, solve problems, develop talent, drive initiatives, and more to positively impact not only business outcomes and the working environment, but the lives of others. I'm able to see and hear the differences made in real time from employees and leaders alike. This is truly fulfilling work.” –Khadija Moore

Business Growth Winner: Audra Bright

Why Audra Was Nominated for This HR Award

Callie Weldon, Standards Engagement Manager at Textile Exchange, nominated Audra Bright for being a “rockstar” HR pro: “inclusive, open, empathetic, and well-informed about the HR industry and what is essential to a growing team.”

As Callie explains, “Our organization has quadrupled in size since 2019, and Audra has allowed us to do so with grace and a strong sense of direction. For most of this growth, she was the only full-time HR team member. In 2022, she managed to have one-on-one check-ins with every single employee in our 125-person team. This is just one of the incredible ways Audra shows her dedication to the team.”

And that’s not all Audra has achieved during this period of explosive growth—she’s also juggled studying for a master’s degree in HR management and expanding payroll to five new countries.

There’s even more to come, Callie points out. “In 2023, we’re expected to have over 200 employees, an updated employee handbook, the second round of management training, a new maternity leave policy, PTO increases, and a cost of living adjustment—Audra is the tireless employee behind all of this work, and I am so proud to have her on our team.”

In the Winner’s Own Words: Why Do You Find Working in HR Enjoyable or Fulfilling?

"HR is at the heart of an organization and as an HR professional, I get the chance to work with so many different people from various backgrounds, cultures, and demographics. Each day presents a new challenge or exciting way to improve the health of the organization while taking care of the workforce that drives success.

"Being able to connect day to day with internal and external stakeholders expands my personal knowledge while collaborating with others in the HR field, creating a network of resources and progress to how we view HR and organizational strategy." –Audra Bright

Career Growth & Advocacy Winner: Amber Howard

Why Amber Was Nominated for This HR Award

Kelly Johnson, HR Generalist at Intelliswift Software, nominated Amber Howard for how she actively helps her people find and achieve development opportunities.

“During my first week working for her,” Kelly remembers, “Amber asked me what certifications I had and what I was interested in. From my first week, she knew she wanted to help me grow as a person and in my career. She has already helped me earn a DE&I certification and shares SHRM resources with me to become SHRM certified someday. Amber actively encourages me to find webinars, conferences, and research to become a better HR professional.”

“Until I started working for Amber, I had no idea how big the HR community was or how much more there is to learn about HR after you get a degree,” Kelly says. “I am already a better HR professional after only six months of working for her, and I know she will continue to help me grow in any way she can for as long as we know each other.”

In the Winner’s Own Words: Why Do You Find Working in HR Enjoyable or Fulfilling?

“I feel blessed to have found a career field that I love and am so passionate about. Human resources is fulfilling for me because I feel like every day I get to be an advocate for employees by protecting their rights and the company by ensuring compliance with all laws.

"Being a part of the shift of HR going from a more tactical field to being a true strategic business partner that has a hand in achieving business goals has been amazing to see. There is never a dull moment in HR, and it is always changing, so it keeps me on my toes, which is great!” –Amber Howard

Heart & Soul Winner: Cheryl Brown Merriwether

Why Cheryl Was Nominated for This HR Award

Mimi Tran, Chief Experience Officer at Culture Alchemist, nominated Cheryl Brown Merriwether for her efforts to improve the lives of employees everywhere through better mental health care.

“Cheryl is passionate about helping those in the workforce who struggle with substance abuse and other addictions,” Mimi explains. But Cheryl’s leadership and compassion isn’t limited to ICARE.

“Knowing the need for more mental health programs for employees,” Mimi continues, “Cheryl helped bring a free training program to the HR community. She is the Immediate Past President of the Greater Orlando Society of Human Resource Management (GOSHRM) and sits on the Board of Directors for Project Opioid. She was able to partner with local resources to provide much needed training to other HR and community leaders so that we can better support employees during their times of need.”

In the Winner’s Own Words: Why Do You Find Working in HR Enjoyable or Fulfilling?

“I did not start out in my professional career to work in human resources. But destiny led me into HR through the organizational development and training door, and I have never looked back. HR has provided me with the most incredible opportunities to learn, grow, and achieve success, both personally and professionally.

"So, in this season, my mission is to use my influence to give back as much as I can, positively impacting the lives and careers of others who I am privileged to meet and work with along the way.

"My signature quote [from Stephen Grellet​] perfectly expresses why working in HR has been so fulfilling to me: ‘I expect to pass through this world but once. Any good thing, therefore, that I can do or any kindness I can show to any fellow human being, let me do it now. Let me not defer nor neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.’” –Cheryl Brown Merriwether

Strategic Leadership Winner: Sarah Stephenson

Why Sarah Was Nominated for This HR Award

Casey Fenner, HR & Finance Professional at Eleven Software, nominated Sarah Stephenson for her clearheadedness and empathy in supporting both employees and leadership through a complex transition.

“Seven months ago, our software company was acquired and our beloved, longtime CEO decided to retire,” Casey recounts. “Several things could have gone haywire, but Sarah's warm, steady, and strategic leadership helped shape and guide each step so that our award winning company culture never took a hit.”

Despite the changes, Casey points out, “the company won a top workplaces award this year for the third year in a row because of Sarah's strategic work behind the scenes. From advocating for and spearheading better A/V for hybrid experiences to developing powerful and engaging employee programs, Sarah is deeply tuned into what staff need to help the company thrive. She is always thinking ahead and beginning to advocate for items she envisions in the future, aware that research, financing, and buy-in take time.”

“She is truly trusted by everyone,” Casey says, “and the company is thriving, despite what could have been a very tricky year, because of her!”

In the Winner’s Own Words: Why Do You Find Working in HR Enjoyable or Fulfilling?

“We live in a reality where, for the majority of us, working isn’t optional. Most employees work for a company because they need the money in order to put a roof over their head, food on the table, caretake for their family, etc. I enjoy working in HR alongside executive teams that put employees first because it’s an opportunity, within the work environment, to provide compassion, support, and tangible benefits through life’s ups and downs.” –Sarah Stephenson

Thank You, HR Heroes!

These incredible HR Experience Makers Award winners truly show how crucial it is for leaders and business leaders to empower HR to do their best work. People are at the heart of business, and HR keeps the business healthy and running smoothly by supporting the people. Thank you to all the HR pros doing this difficult, essential work!

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