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2023 HR Innovator's Guide

People…they’re the most important ingredient to a company's success. They carry out your mission and simply put, are the lifeblood of your organization. Because of this, they deserve to work for workplaces that are building innovative, inclusive cultures. And that all starts with people leaders.

As we all know, talent acquisition and HR teams have had a lot to deal with over the past few years, which is why we wanted to take some time to recognize them for their amazing efforts. So, we asked our community to send us the HR leaders in their lives that are taking actionable steps to improving workplace culture and practices.

Then, we picked 20 who really impressed us.

Their accomplishments include launching DEI programs, implementing HR tech platforms to drive efficiency, numerous awards, exponentially improving Glassdoor review scores, and more. In no particular order, we present to you the top HR innovators of 2023.

*Nominations have been edited for clarity and brevity.

Jackye Clayton
Vice President of Talent Acquisition and DEIB at Textio

“Through Jackye’s leadership and execution, Textio is not only embracing diversity and candidates who will contribute to a climate that supports persons of all identities, abilities and backgrounds, but is also curating a culture where when Textio says they strongly encourage individuals from underrepresented and marginalized backgrounds to apply… they mean it. Jackye is a force in the DEIB and Tech space while being an authentic leader and visionary in her field.” 

Anthony Varner
Director of Talent at Recruiting Experiences

“Anthony has led an amazing career in overseeing HR teams within the tech space. Now, as he's transitioned to a large recruiting team in a Consulting role, he’s leading our team to drive positive change for our clients. We get the opportunity to create an inclusive environment for our team. More importantly, we have daily influence on the culture and team-building in our client's organizations.”

Dr. Hassan Abdulhaqq
Director of Human Resources at AHRC Nassau

“What makes Dr. Hassan a highly effective HR leader are his strong communication and influential skills. He is able to provide guidance on a range of HR issues and influence new ways of doing things to improve the organization's operations. He communicates with ease to employees and managers and is also able to effectively facilitate change. He is easily able to check the temperature of the work environment and gauge employees’ feelings and build relationships with them over time.”

Q Hamirani
Global Head of Live & Work Anywhere at Airbnb

“Q  joined Airbnb as its first global people ops leader and was responsible for the strategic vision, build-out, and execution of Airbnb’s people operations function from the ground up. Additionally, he has been responsible for leading Airbnb through numerous pivotal milestones including hyper growth, pandemic responses, workforce restructuring, IPO, and the future of work. Most notably, Q ideated Airbnb's formal Live & Work Anywhere program in 2022. This program created an extraordinary opportunity for Airbnb to become industry leaders in the future of work by enabling their employees to live and work anywhere. Q has done a great deal to enhance our employee experience and business growth collectively.” 

Cara Brennan-Allamano
Chief People Officer at Lattice

“Not only does Cara genuinely care about humans, she cares about how they affect business. Cara has demonstrated over her long career at pre-IPO (and post-IPO) companies that she is capable of truly changing the world. Not only has Cara made an impact within the companies she has led people at, but she has also built the community at PeopleTech Partners to support other leaders doing the same…changing the future of work.”

Sanjeev Parkar
Senior Director, Human Capital at PricewaterhouseCoopers

“Sanjeev uses technology and the data it provides to guide strategic workforce planning as well as talent sourcing. This is not only out of ease of doing business, but has also led to organizational savings. Additionally, he has led projects on design thinking methodology related to talent attrition. As a plus, he enjoys using film production to recognize the best performers on his team, which has become quite popular on social channels!”

Liz Gormley
Vice President, Global Talent Acquisition at Rapid7

“Liz combines creativity, partnership, leadership and a work ethic not to be believed to deliver extraordinary results. Our rapid growth has had her team hiring about 150 people per quarter while ensuring a balance of skill, "adds" to our culture, and high bar for quality. Running a global talent acquisition team in a fast growing company isn't for the faint of heart, but Liz makes it look easy. Bottom line: she's exceptional.”

Jasmine Burns
VP of People & Culture at Censys

“Jasmine has been the backbone of the Censys culture since the day she started, ensuring that diversity and inclusion is woven in the fabric of the company, and that leadership leads with a people-first mentality. She challenges her workforce to be better every day, incorporating powerful principles into the DNA - like assuming positive intent and pushing decision making down. She surfaces progressive people approaches to legacy challenges, and empowers every employee to have their voice be heard no matter how trivial or serious the topic.”

Adrianne Court
Chief Human Resources Officer at Tealium

“Adrianne has accomplished a lot through her innovative and intentional approach to building programs that matter in a collaborative and influential way. Just to name a few..she launched Tealium's Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging programs, Tealium Cares with volunteer and giving programs, and rolled out a global Employee Assistance Program. Due to these efforts in 2022, Tealium received the Nation’s Best & Brightest Award and the Tech Cares Award.”

Taylor Roa
Director of Talent at Wistia

“When Taylor joined Wistia, hiring was an organizational challenge. In his time at Wistia, he's been able to transform the process to improve consistency and uplevel the quality of candidates we're speaking to and hiring, having a massive impact on our product and customers. Additionally, he's been a transformative leader on diversifying our team. This has involved reviewing our process from job description to hiring decision for areas where bias can enter the process and lead to unconscious, but inequitable decisions. We've seen the diversity of our hiring classes increase YOY every year he's been at the helm of our hiring efforts. He's also thought creatively about our employer brand and how to expand our reach so we're more consistently able to talk to the best people for any given opening.”

Kelly Cartwright
Vice President of Global Talent Acquisition at Splunk

“Within her first 18 months at Splunk, Kelly has spearheaded initiatives to increase interviewer and hiring manager capabilities and the speed with which the organization makes fair, compliant, defensible, and high quality decisions across our recruiting process. Under Kelly’s leadership, the TA organization has launched key programs to improve hiring through external talent marketing, integrated technology enhancements, and recruiting process optimization. Kelly empowers her teams to innovate through a multifaceted programmatic approach to streamline and accelerate the hiring process, improve the candidate and interviewer experience, and increase quality of hire.” 

Melissa Theiss
Head of People at Column

“Melissa is a progressive HR leader who has helped us attract, engage, and develop wildly talented Columnists from around the globe. She's known as a leader in how to use HR tech to give HR teams time back in their day to focus on strategic initiatives and team member relations (check out her #techstackthursday posts on LinkedIn). She's a regular speaker on the topic of pay equity and recently launched updates to our stock option program. Overall, Melissa is an innovative and inclusive leader who leads the best People Ops team I've ever worked with.”

Anita Grantham
Head of HR at BambooHR

“Although she has only been at the company for ten months, Anita has quickly become a driving force propelling BambooHR and its culture despite a difficult talent market and economic outlook. Since joining, Anita has conceptualized and integrated new programs and initiatives that have elevated the BambooHR employee experience and solidified its status as a great place to work. She has also partnered with the marketing team to help BambooHR increase its number of active customers by over 20% in 2022 to 30,000 globally by launching a podcast (HR Unplugged), delivering keynote speeches at company events, and acting as a thought leader for various channels. Through her authentic leadership and creative approach to typical HR responsibilities, Anita has become a trusted advisor and resource to those both internally at BambooHR and externally.”

Cindy Blendu
Chief HR Officer at Clearwater Analytics

“Cindy has built a truly innovative and inclusive culture at Clearwater. In 2018, approximately 10% of Clearwater’s employees were outside the US and now that number has increased to 50%. We have adjusted our HR processes globally to improve diversity and now 58% of our executive leadership team are diverse. To know Cindy is to know and respect that she approaches her role with infectious passion, intellectual curiosity, and a collaborative working style.” 

Elaine Mak
Chief People and Performance Officer at Valimail

“Elaine led our company transformation by pivoting our organizational strategy, structure, and processes to scale up steadily. Her inclusive leadership took Valimail from a -7 eNPS and 2.8 Glassdoor rating to a +56 eNPS and 4.5 Glassdoor rating today. By designing and delivering structures and processes that realize our "DEI & People First" promise, our eNPS scores and Glassdoor ratings today are on par with tech giants like Salesforce, Google, and Microsoft. Elaine is not only an HR Innovator…she pushes "HR" beyond its traditional function and amplifies its role and impact as key to a businesses vision and strategy.”

Remy Bleijendaal
Chief People Officer at data.ai

“Remy has a strong product background, and the way he integrates that in the people function is rare in our industry. We run a lot of product motions at data.ai…pilots, testing, collecting feedback, comms plans, surveys, etc., and we always ask ourselves what’s in it for our employees. Remy has also helped data.ai stay ahead of the remote work trend with 'Remote +', our version built on hiring for talent versus location and launched a unique '90 Day Passport Program’ allowing employees to work from anywhere in the world for up to a quarter.”

Niki Hruskocy
VP, People at LinkSquares

“Niki joined LinkSquares just as the company was evolving from a scrappy startup into a significant industry force with a sizable footprint in Boston. Her skills and leadership have scaled with the company. In the past year alone, LinkSquares doubled its headcount to almost 400 people. Niki has actively collaborated with the C-suite to develop HR and people policies that further the company’s mission and values, such as a Parental Leave policy and numerous committees on wellness, charitable contributions, DEI, and more. Niki also takes a data-centered approach to the HR function, which has enabled her to uncover new, innovative ways to better support LinkSquares’ employees, culture, and success.”

Hope Williams
Director of Talent at High Alpha

“Hope has created more efficient interviewing processes while utilizing analytics, prioritizing diversity, and ensuring our leaders have the tools to create an inclusive work environment. She consistently maintains a clear perspective on HR initiatives and leads by example, maintaining authenticity and empathy. With her leadership, High Alpha has successfully launched 35 companies. Along with fostering connections within High Alpha and its portfolio companies, Hope has also embraced fostering connections within the Indianapolis community. By doing so, Hope’s envisionment is to provide resources, connections, and an ability to support further DEI efforts within our Indianapolis and tech communities.”

Gary Willis
Head, Global HR Operations at Abbvie

“I've never worked with a leader who is so forward thinking, intelligent, well-rounded, yet humble. The organization that Gary has built while leading us through the most trying times is simply amazing. He has led the vision and resulting strategy and implementation of Global Shared Services, technology enablement, people support and balanced it all with incredible people leadership. All this while also supporting a world impacted with uncertainty and an incredible work load on his shoulders.”

Orli Remez
Chief People & Culture Officer at Codefresh

“Orli is one of the most creative HR leaders I have met. She is always looking for ways to ensure our employees feel a sense of belonging. Beyond that, she has implemented an amazing feedback program that strongly encourages two-way communication throughout the year between Managers and their teams. This has established such high trust in teams making our Manager relationships score higher than 98% in our employee engagement surveys.” 


While we wish we could recognize every HR leader out there, we’re glad to put the spotlight on these 20 HR and talent acquisition rockstars. Congratulations, and cheers to building innovative, inclusive workplaces in 2023 and beyond!

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