President, RJ Harris & Associates
Danielle Harris, Esq.
Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion.
Rick Harris is a seasoned Human Resource Executive who specializes in improving individual and organization performance. He has over 25 years of experience in the Human Resources and Manufacturing Operations fields in Fortune 500 companies. His extensive and diverse background, in the corporate world, gives him a realistic grounding in the opportunities, challenges and politics that are present in most companies. His experience partnering and working with professionals from multiple industries gives him a keen understanding of the particular issues, obstacles, and diverse cultures that exist within many organizations.
Known and respected throughout North America, Rick is a sought after speaker and subject matter expert in Diversity, Talent Acquisition, Talent Management, and Compliance. He is considered an innovative thought leader in the Human Resources field.
Rick is principal of RJ Harris & Associates founded in 2008. The consulting firm specializes in general HR, Diversity & Inclusion, Affirmative Action, Equal Employment Opportunity, and Talent Management services. Rick has consulted and worked with several Fortune 500 companies and his diverse background enables him to bring expertise, innovation, and passion to tie Human Resources issues into an overall strategic plan with the goal of providing solutions and effectiveness throughout organizations.
Rick was formerly the Director Diversity Management & Strategy with Walgreen's. In this role, he was responsible for developing and executing enterprise wide strategy for an organization with 250,000 employees, 8,000 stores, and revenues in excess of $71 billion. He was also responsible for establishing metrics, analytics and scorecards to measure performance, and diversity training and development. In addition, he served as the compliance officer for the organization managing over 500 affirmative action plans. Prior to joining Walgreen's, Rick served as an executive consultant for Kraft Foods; providing leadership coaching and strategic direction in the areas of Diversity, Inclusion and Affirmative Action Compliance. Preceding this role, Rick was Senior Director, Corporate Employee Relations for Pactiv Corporation where he led the Employee Relations, Talent Acquisition, and Diversity and Inclusion functions. Prior to this, Rick spent thirteen years at Abbott Laboratories where he performed several strategic Human Resources and Manufacturing roles including Organizational Development, Talent Acquisition, Employee Relations, and Plant Operations Manager.
Rick is a dynamic coach and strategic business leader. His coaching and leadership style is direct, passionate, challenging, engaging, and insightful. Rick's specialty is effectively linking defined Human Resources initiatives to business results.
Danielle received her Juris Doctorate from Chicago-Kent College of Law, specializing in employment law. She graduated magna cum laude from Northern Illinois University with a B.S. in Human Resource Management and a minor in Business Innovation and Entrepreneurship.
Danielle is currently a Labor & Employment Associate Attorney of a Philadelphia based law firm. Her practice includes representing corporate clients with respect to employment discrimination litigation and providing counsel on a variety of employment policies and procedures in order to ensure compliance with the applicable state and federal laws. As a Founding Partner of RJ Harris & Associates, she provides guidance on client development, marketing, course content and compliance based projects.
Prior to her legal practice, Danielle interned for several Fortune 500 companies including Discover Financial Services and Target. Additionally, she has worked on special projects for McDonald's Corporation, as well as Sikich. In these key roles, her responsibilities included project management, talent management, talent acquisition, and employee relations.
From a social perspective, Danielle enjoys giving back to her alma mater by providing scholarships to graduating seniors in order to defray their college education costs. Danielle is also a member of the American Bar Association, Young Lawyers Division and enjoys providing employment law pro bono legal assistance. She also serves on the Board of Directors for the Lakeview Pantry in Chicago.
RJ Harris & Associates is comprised of dedicated, seasoned professionals with years of senior management experience in all aspects of Human Resources. We work with startup businesses to Fortune 500 companies to deliver comprehensive HR solutions. Our services are designed to align with and add value to the company's bottom line by increasing employee engagement, productivity, and revenue.
Bennett Williams specializes in facilitation, coaching, and organizational development. He has 30 years of experience in these areas and has also worked with organizations to develop recruitment marketing plans, employer branding strategies, talent acquisition technologies, and diversity recruitment and retention strategies. Throughout his career, Bennett has established long-lasting client relationships with an array of Fortune 500 companies, universities, banks, and healthcare providers.
The foundation of his career began at the Tribune Company where he served as the Recruitment Advertising Manager and was responsible for the sales and services of advertising agencies that placed over $20 million in classified ad revenue annually. Prior to his work in diversity, Bennett was Vice President of Business Development at Peoplefilter Technology where he focused on sales and identifying channel partners to improve the overall performance of their applicant tracking system product and related services. Prior to this role, he was Director of Client Services at Shaker Recruitment Advertising & Communications where he managed account teams that were responsible for servicing the advertising, communications, and branding needs of clients to meet their recruitment and retention goals.
Bennett's foundation in diversity was established at the Tribune Company as he served on multiple diversity councils working with diversity consultants. In addition, Bennett served as the Tribune's liaison for recruiting and provided scholarships for students from Historically Black Colleges and Universities. His passion for diversity heightened as he worked with organizations helping them build their brand through employee and client engagement, opposed to "basic" recruitment advertising. These skills are continuously sharpened by focusing on integrating inclusion and valuing differences toward creating a more engaged workforce.
As an Executive Consultant of RJ Harris & Associates, Bennett is passionate about helping leaders increase the performance of their teams through cultural competence, inclusion, and valuing differences.
He holds an MBA from Aurora University in Aurora, Illinois and a Bachelor's degree in Mass Communications from Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia. Bennett is both DDI and DISC certified.
Erika Walker-Thomas has over 20 years in Diversity Consulting, Human Resources, and Personal Development. As a leader in these areas she has expertise in coaching, client relationship management, global workforce dynamics, and global diversity issues. She is a published writer on diversity and coaching issues for the leading HR & Management magazine in Latin America, Conocimiento Y Direccion as well as Girlfriends Magazine for the Everyday Woman and Uptown Professional in the United States. She speaks regularly for the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), the World Diversity Leadership Summit (WDLS) in Prague, Greentech HR Conference in India, and other related forums. Erika is the founder of Becoming Woman, a movement for women to reconnect with their femininity and who they really are. She is also the creator of Leadership On the Go, a series of training sessions and streaming interviews with leaders around the world who share cultural aspects of doing business in different countries.
Prior to working with RJH and her own company, The Walker-Thomas Group, Erika was Vice President of the Kaleidoscope Group, a diversity consulting firm; and she owned Changing Mindz, a diversity consulting firm focused on diversity and women's issues. Erika has held multiple consulting positions with Hewitt Associates, one of the leading human resource consulting firms in the world. Her work has provided opportunities to work with C-level executives, global line of business leaders, HR managers, external partners, and women in all walks of life. She has designed diversity and global learning strategies and addressed attraction and retention issues for general and diverse populations. Additionally, Erika has coached women to successfully navigate their organizations, personal relationships, and create the lives they desire both inside and out of work. She has delivered solutions to clients throughout North America, Europe, Latin America, and Asia.
Erika is passionate about people, especially women and children. She consults and gives significant time to Chicago and Toledo Public Schools through professional development for faculty, as well as coaching and mentoring programs for students. She has served on the Board of Directors for Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), The Academy of Finance at Marshall High School, and supports multiple causes for women and children. She is the founder of National Feel Good Day, January 17, 2014. Erika attended Howard University and Lake Forest Graduate School of Management.
Charles Jones is a Human Resources Executive at RJ Harris & Associates with over 30 years of professional and strategic leadership experience at the C-Suite Level.
Prior to joining RJ Harris & Associates, Mr. Jones served as a human resources executive with Mondelez International (formally Kraft Foods), headquartered in Deerfield, IL. In this role, Mr. Jones was responsible for developing and leading the implementation of human resources strategies and activities in support of North America Sales with net revenues exceeding $6 Billion. In 2017, Mr. Jones was the recipient of the Most Influential African American in Lake County Business Award.
Mr. Jones began his career with Mondelez as a Financial Analyst in Madison, WI. He transitioned into human resources in 1995 and has since held a variety of human resources assignments in Wisconsin, South Carolina, California, and Illinois. Several of his previous leadership roles include HR Director, Oscar Mayer Division, HR Director, Cheese Division, and Director Staffing & Diversity Global Supply Chain. Prior to joining Mondelez International, Mr. Jones served six years as a US Army Officer, 1st Cavalry Division in Germany, Iraq, and Ft. Hood, TX. He reached the rank of Captain and is a decorated Gulf War Veteran.
Mr. Jones is a member of several civic and professional organizations to include Shriners, Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion, National Black MBA Association and Society of Human Resources Management. He has served on several boards to include the University of Illinois – Lake County Extension, March of Dimes – Lake County, Oak Grove School Education Foundation, INROADS of Chicago, 100 Black Men of Madison, and YMCA of Madison.
Mr. Jones is a native of Mississippi. He earned a BS in Finance from Jackson State University and an MBA from Lake Forest Graduate School of Management. He is married and has two daughters.
Since 1979, Susan has led workshops in business and non-profit settings. She is author of six books including "The Smooth Traveler: Avoiding Cross Cultural Mistakes At Home and Abroad." She has been a curriculum designer for major Fortune 500 companies plus recipient of national and international video honors for her training films.
For the pasty thirty plus years, Susan has led thousands of seminars in corporate as well as academic settings such as Columbia, Wharton, Kellogg and the University of Chicago Graduate Schools of Business.
In addition to writing and facilitation, Susan produces award-winning multicultural performances and videos including White, Black and Brown: Tribes & Bridges at the Steppenwolf Theatre and More Alike Than Not: Stories of Three Americans- Christian, Jewish, and Muslim. Also, for the past few years, Susan has worked as an Executive Consultant for RJ Harris & Associates.
Michael Cimarusti is a business and HR consultant. In 2020 he reunited with Rick Harris (Principal of RJ Harris and former Abbott Colleague) after working as an independent consultant. His consulting work with RJ Harris focuses on Human Resources, Learning and Development, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion strategies, and Business Consulting services to small and large organizations. Assignments include global healthcare, energy sector, financial institutions, small business consulting and not for profit leadership efforts.
Michael has experience in corporate governance, talent management, talent acquisition, learning and development, organizational development, DEI and compensation solutions. His broad business experience has allowed him to deliver value across corporate, manufacturing, field and retail sales locations. He has proven ability to design and implement progressive solutions to drive performance, increase employee engagement, and foster employee development.
He has led Human Resources for a North American Greenfield expansion of an Italian based packaging company, expanding their production capabilities and staff over 3 years before being asked to lead their Global SAP rollout and the standardization of learning and development processes. Prior to this, he spent 10 years as head of HR for a privately held beverage developer and manufacturer, refining the go to market strategy and associated people strategies. The company grew 3-fold before being acquired by a multinational firm.
Michael spent 10 years at Abbott Laboratories where he held a progression of management positions in Human Resources. His experience included work in 4 operating divisions, the creation of a corporate mentoring program, a divisional university structure. After leaving Abbott, he started an independent consulting firm specializing in human resources. His clients included not-for profit organizations and a long-term contract a leading producer of specialty packaging products for HR Leader Rick Harris. Here, he helped create a new product development team, centralize national staffing operations, and develop a college recruiting strategy and internship program.
Michael began his career in hospital and retail pharmacy, moved into capital scientific equipment sales, worked as a pharmaceutical chemist, and then as the Technical Staffing Manager for a contract services firm.
Additionally, Michael was an adjunct faculty member for the Lake Forest Graduate School of Management from 2004 to 2014 and was named a Professor of Business by the school in 2008. He taught Strategic Talent Management in the MBA program and was part of their Strategic Curriculum Development Committee which was responsible for the School’s recent redesign of the MBA Program. He was also member of their Human Resources Curriculum Council.
Michael holds a Master’s degree in Business Administration from the Lake Forest Graduate School of Management and a Bachelor's degree in Biology from the University of Illinois. He attended pharmacy school at the University of Colorado.