SWPP Executive Director

Denise Kapalko Named 2015 Workforce Management Professional of the Year Award
March 3, 2015 – The Society of Workforce Planning Professionals (SWPP) has announced Denise Kapalko as the winner of the 2015 Workforce Management Professional of the Year Award, which recognizes a workforce management  professional who has shown outstanding leadership in the industry.

“We are continually amazed by the quality of nominees for this award, and are so thrilled to recognize Denise as this year’s winner,” said Vicki Herrell, Executive Director of SWPP. “Through her leadership and vision, she was able to achieve  great results for her company and their customers in the workforce management arena.”

Denise Kapalko is the Director of Workforce Management for Optum in Green Bay, WI. She has over 12 years of experience in workforce management and supports 8500 agents in 25+ locations with her team of 137 workforce management professionals. Denise is one of the first graduates of ULA (United Leadership Academy).

Over the past two years, Denise has combined four distinct workforce management teams, each with individual processes and practices, and built them into an operation with a consistent global capability. She achieved this feat through a  meticulous and thoughtful approach to systems thinking by identifying that process variation was a huge problem to be solved. “Variation is the root of all evil!” became the mantra of her entire organization. This drove standardization and consistency efforts within Optum’s workforce practices. At Optum, standardization is measured by conducting periodic process audits. Denise’s efforts have led to a 50% improvement in audit outcomes in the past year. This increased consistency has led to improved service outcomes. Service consistency is measured by looking at the standard deviation of daily service levels for a given month. This metric has improved by approximately 50% year over year, which is tremendously important for Optum’s internal and external customers. Operational efficiency increased 5.3% year over year to 73.1%, which yielded a total annualized savings of $3.8M.

Denise’s workforce management acumen is well established. However, it is her inspired leadership and how she applies her expertise that sets her apart from her peers. Each year, UnitedHealth Group surveys employees in order to get  feedback on business and culture and to gauge how the company is performing relative to its core values of Integrity, Compassion, Relationships, Innovation, and Performance. A big component of this survey is employee engagement which measures enthusiasm, feelings of accomplishment, and development among other things. Denise’s numbers were absolutely outstanding. Her team’s engagement increased this year to 86%, a year-over-year increase of 5%. Part of the employee engagement measurement is manager effectiveness and clarity of direction. The manager effectiveness index measures people, work management, and trust. Denise’s employees rated her effectiveness as a manager at 97% and leadership clarity of direction at 87%.

According to Todd Fladebo, Senior Workforce Analyst, “What makes Denise a successful WFM leader? Her dedication to standardization and consistency is definitely key. However, there is something very unique about her leadership style that is even more inspiring! Denise promotes collaborative problem solving and systems thinking, empowering her employees to arrive at the right answer! It is not uncommon for her to grab a rolling chair, sit down and say ‘How can I help?’”

The other finalists for this award include Scott Engman of Optum, Denise Kapalko of Optum, Shannon Rumohr of North American Bancard, Darlene Stephens of Infinite Energy Inc., and Stephanie Walker of Gerber Life Insurance. The SWPP Board of Advisors selected the five finalists from nominations submitted on the SWPP website. The Workforce Management Professional of the Year award was chosen from the five finalists by the Board of Advisors was announced at the 2015 SWPP Annual Conference.

About SWPP
The Society of Workforce Planning Professionals (SWPP) is an organization devoted to facilitating education and networking opportunities among workforce planners across all industries. Membership in SWPP is available to all workforce  planning professionals and other interested parties from consulting and vendor organizations. Both individual memberships and corporate membership options are available, with full benefits and costs outlined on the organization’s website at