The Last Word: A Game Changing Group

By Rick Bell

Aug. 13, 2013

It seems these days that virtually every new app, software rollout or financial tool is hailed as the workplace’s next “game-changer.”
You’ve no doubt heard it before: In building a talent powerhouse, technology is a game-changer (eye roll emoticon justified but not included here). Similarly, new legislation often is hailed as a game-changer—usually by just one side of the aisle. Guitarists are even changing their tune with a gadget dubbed—ready for it?—The Game Changer. 
Perhaps it was inevitable that a game changer would become a well-worn buzzword in everyday business jargon. Sorry, but your next game-changer is not downloadable off Amazon for $199.99 and packaged with a three-year warranty. Game-changers aren’t political hype, overnight sensations or tools that produce one-hit wonders or even the next Daft Punk record. Stripping the phrase down to its original context as a sports reference, games change one play at a time. 
So the question arises: Who’s calling and executing those plays at work? Who is successfully changing the game in workplaces around the globe—a play at a time?
Well, it’s people like Monica Sauls, who plays a key role in career development at drug retail giant Walgreen, while Vanessa Graf at the Federal Emergency Management Agency is boosting engagement to new heights. Then there’s Leo Brown, who is developing an HR department from scratch at the University of Louisville Physicians.
These are just three of the 25 members of our Workforce Game Changers for 2013, all of whom are profiled in the August issue. Like the winners from the Game Changers program’s first two years, the class of 2013 is helping to redefine what it means to work. And like their predecessors, their accomplishments are impressive. 
Jenny DeVaughn overhauled international staffing firm Randstad Sourceright’s talent acquisition strategy. Matthew Painter built Berkshire Health Systems’ institute for organizational learning from the ground up—in just six months. Jennifer Benz is among the most authoritative and sought-after workplace benefits experts in the nation.
And here’s the cool thing: They’re young. Like, under-40 young—a criteria to be a Game Changer nominee. 
Alyssa Cole of H&M Communications, our youngest Game Changer ever at age 24, created and implemented her organization’s Millennial Task Force and also developed an in-house production department dubbed Studio 20/42 that’s now making money for the company rather than an outsourcing expense.
The Workforce editorial staff spent hours getting to know our nominees. When we convened as a group, it was nearly unanimous as to who our winners were. Note to the winners: We now know you all REALLY well. 
Of course, there were some who stood out for one reason or another. CultureRx’s Cali Ressler’s tireless promotion of her Results-Only Work Environment in the face of policy shifts away from telecommuting at Best Buy and Yahoo remains impressive. 
We also took note of winners’ efforts to shape the world around them. Rodney Byrd of the University of West Georgia serves as a minister, while Emily Douglas of Battelle for Kids heads up Grandma’s Gifts, a nonprofit organization she started when she was just 11 years old. 
But the winner who struck us all as someone who has achieved amazing results is Victoria Elangwa. We’ve had numerous past international winners, but Victoria is both our first nominee from the African continent and our first winner from Tanzania. 
Working for a government agency in a nation without much of a tradition of HR professionalism, Victoria is elevating the field beyond an administrative function not only in Tanzania but also across Africa. She is recognized throughout the continent as a leader in the profession, speaking at HR conferences and forums.  
While Victoria stands out as a true definition of a game-changer, it was rewarding to spend time with all of our winners. What we did in seeking out our Game Changers is what most HR pros do all the time—assess a talent pool and recognize the ones who make the big play day in and day out. 

Rick Bell is Workforce's managing editor. Comment below or email Follow Bell on Twitter at @RickBell123.

Rick Bell is Workforce’s editorial director. For comments or questions email

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