A resourceful tradition

Bucks County’s Fox Run Brands is nominated for two excellence awards

By Samantha Bambino

The Times

Twenty years ago, Scott Rosen had a vision. After more than two decades as a human resources professional, he felt he and his HR industry peers weren’t receiving enough recognition. A self-proclaimed “idea guy,” Rosen created the first Delaware Valley HR Department of the Year Award ceremony to shed light on talent and achievements in the field. On Nov. 16, the tradition will celebrate its 20th anniversary as HR departments across Greater Philadelphia, including Ivyland’s Fox Run Brands, vye for awards in a plethora of categories.

Best of Bucks: Ivyland’s Fox Run Brands is in the running for two excellence awards — talent acquisition and talent management. Last year, it took home the grand prize of HR Department of the Year thanks to the work of its senior director of human resources and operations, Jamie Rivero. PHOTO: HR Department of the Year Awards

When Rosen kicked off the annual ceremony, he had no idea it would be such a hit. In its first year, about 100 applications were received from HR departments across the region. Now, through self nominations and recommendations, that number has reached almost 400. According to Rosen, though the industry has improved over the years, HR professionals still deserve more credit for their achievements.

“HR people don’t get recognized fairly for their contributions to business success,” he said.

The awards consist of numerous excellence categories including talent acquisition, wellness and benefits, as well as a lifetime achievement award and CEO of the year. Finally, there’s the coveted HR Department of the Year, which was awarded in 2016 to Ivyland’s own Fox Run Brands. Though the company isn’t nominated for this award again, its senior director of human resources and operations, Jamie Rivero, will be returning to help in the judging process. The company is also up for two excellence awards in talent acquisition and talent management.

According to Rivero, it was an honor to be last year’s winner, especially since she had only been running the HR department for about three years prior. Fox Run Brands has been in business for about 50 years with more than 3,000 kitchen products on its roster. As a whole, the company has 65 employees in the United States, a second location in Canada and seven buyers in Shanghai.

Last year, two judges traveled to Fox Run Brands’ headquarters to see its operations firsthand. One was Felicia Smith, an HR professional at John Templeton Foundation, who said she was blown away by what she saw. Though she has viewed hundreds of applications and visited countless companies since, Rivero continues to stand out in her mind.

“You expect innovation and forward thinking from a startup company,” Smith said.

But Rivero, who was basically running the HR department as a one-woman show, took a longstanding model and brought it into modern times. Though she came from a large company, Rivero adapted to the atmosphere of a smaller work environment, building its recruitment brand from scratch and launching a culture guide. She also got promoted twice in three years, and now handles the operations side of the business as well.

By the time Smith visited, Rivero had completely transformed Fox Run Brands’ HR department, and was even serving as a strategic adviser to top management. According to Smith, everything she learned about Rivero was music to her ears. Not only did she have credibility with the CEOs, but employees also respected her and what she brought to HR.

“She was so in tune,” Smith said. “She took something barely chugging along and changed the entire dynamic.”

Now, as Smith comes to the end of her seventh year as a judge, she admits choosing a winner out of so many successful departments is difficult. After witnessing Rivero’s dedication and work ethic, contestants this year have a lot to live up to.

“The worst part is deciding who wins. They’re all so different. It’s like comparing apples to oranges,” she said.

But at the end of the day, the sole mission of Rosen’s ceremony is to recognize the hard work of peers in a feel-good event, which is expected to have more than 300 attendees. Going into the evening, he explained that none of the departments know if they’ve won yet.

“It’s a little bit like the Academy Awards,” he said.

If a department is the lucky winner of HR Department of the Year or one of the excellence categories, they’re able to give a brief thank you speech to their teams and companies.

“I’m really proud of the HR community,” Rosen said. “Every year it’s a celebration.” ••

If you go…

The Delaware Valley HR Department of the Year Awards will be held on Nov. 16 from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. at Crystal Tea Room, The Wanamaker Building, 100 Penn Square in Philadelphia. Steve Highsmith, VP of Institutional Advancement at Cabrini University and former anchor and community relations director at PHL 17, will emcee the event. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit hrawards.org.

Samantha Bambino can be reached at sbambino@newspapermediagroup.com