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CIGNA Corp.'s John M. Murabito Named 2009 HR Executive of the Year

HORSHAM, Pa., Oct. 2 /PRNewswire/ -- Human Resource Executive®, the leading HR business magazine, named John M. Murabito, executive vice president of human resources and services for CIGNA Corp., its 2009 HR Executive of the Year.

In addition, the magazine named to its HR Honor Roll V. Michael Ferdinandi, senior vice president of human resources for CVS Caremark; Elease E. Wright, senior vice president of human resources for Aetna; Christina K. Picha, director of human resources for Austin (Minn.) Public Schools; and Natalie Saiz, director of human resources at the Johnson Space Center.

Winners were recognized on Oct. 1 during a special awards dinner sponsored by Monster at the University Club of Chicago.

"The HR Executive of the Year award recognizes human resource leaders who have made outstanding contributions to their organizations and who exemplify the increasingly strategic role of HR in business today," says David Shadovitz, editor of Human Resource Executive®.

After taking over the HR helm at CIGNA Corp. six years ago, Murabito was able to turn an anemic HR function into an efficient and productive one through analytics, teamwork and a talent transfusion.

One of Murabito's first tasks was to break down walls between the various HR silos. At the time he was hired, every department of the company had its own HR function with its own policies and compensation practices. Murabito replaced that structure with a pyramid, in which all of human resources and talent management came through his office.

CIGNA's HR leaders also began to study the human-capital metrics of each function of the organization and used that data to institute a number of significant changes, including the revamping of the company's pay-for-performance structure. Many of the changes led to substantial cost savings for CIGNA.

Murabito also successfully addressed turnover issues in CIGNA's service operations, significantly improved the company's talent pipeline and outsourced transactional services such as payroll and benefits to allow his department the bandwidth to focus on strategy.

The four executives named to the 2009 HR Honor Roll were recognized for, among other things, the following contributions and achievements:

- V. Michael Ferdinandi, senior vice president of human resources for CVS Caremark, has been instrumental in helping the company navigate a period of explosive growth that saw the national retail pharmacy chain acquire nearly 3,000 stores in 10 years. To ensure rapid alignment of newly merged company cultures, Ferdinandi helped to design, and still oversees, the Emerging Leaders Program, a series of management-training courses that put the company's stamp on everything, from how CVS Caremark fills prescriptions to the value it places on customer service. He also spearheaded an employee-engagement program called Stay, Say and Serve shortly after his arrival, and continues to make refinements to that initiative.

- As senior vice president of human resources for Aetna, Elease E. Wright has helped redefine the corporate values of the company, working closely with other business leaders to put customers at the center of everything it does and helping to create a culture of excellence and accountability. Wright was also instrumental in rolling out a new corporate wellness program for Aetna customers -- first piloting the idea on her own workers. Her efforts have earned Aetna the Platinum Award for Best Employers for Healthy Lifestyles from the National Business Group on Health and Institute for Effects on Obesity.

- Arriving in 2002 on the heels of a no-confidence vote for her predecessor, Director of Human Resources Christina K. Picha was tasked with mending the rift between management and the six unions that represent the Austin (Minn.) Public Schools system's 691 employees. By combining her knowledge of the law with a healthy dose of transparency, she played a key role in helping the district and its unions sign more than a dozen binding contracts with little disagreement. Picha also successfully moved the school district and its unions toward a more consumer-driven approach to healthcare by negotiating health-savings accounts and a high-deductible health-plan option into employee contracts, thereby saving the district thousands of dollars.

- As director of HR at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Natalie Saiz has played -- and is continuing to play -- a key role in transitioning JSC workers from the discontinued shuttle program to other opportunities within the agency, including the new Constellation program. She also was instrumental in creating the Workforce Planning Office, which works closely with center's chief financial officer to allocate training and other resources to support employee-development efforts. Further, Saiz and her team did an extraordinary job helping employees affected by Hurricane Ike last year navigate its aftermath. She set up a system of volunteers called Employee Recovery Advocates, which has earned nationwide praise.

Judges for this year's contest were Mirian Graddick-Weir, executive vice president of human resources at Merck & Co. and winner of the 2000 HR Executive of the Year award; Dennis Donovan, chief human resource officer for Cerberus Capital Management and the 2003 HR Executive of the Year winner; Fred Foulkes, director of the Human Resource Policy Institute and professor of management policy at the Boston University School of Management; Dr. Jac Fitz-enz, president of the Human Capital Source; and Human Resource Executive® Editor David Shadovitz.

The judges based their selections on the following criteria: the candidate's ability to handle significant problems or obstacles in the human resource field, the candidate's role and/or success in establishing the human resource function as an integral part of his or her organization, the candidate's management skills as demonstrated within the human resource function and his or her contributions to the HR profession as a whole.

The 2009 HR Executive of the Year and HR Honor Roll winners will be profiled in the Oct. 2 issue of Human Resource Executive®, which has a circulation of 75,000 HR vice presidents and directors. It is published by LRP Publications and is based in Horsham, Pa. On the Web, it can be found at

SOURCE LRP Publications

SOURCE LRP Publications
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