· Features

HR Excellence Awards: The Royal College of Nursing, almost a year on from winning the Gold Award

Last June, the HR Excellence Awards celebrated, yet again, many pinnacles of achievement in HR, both in the UK and overseas. How time flies: entries are now closed for this year and we are looking forward to the 2012 Awards Evening on 25 June.

Organisations and individuals interested in entering for the HR Excellence Awards often wonder what sort of things the judges look for in defining 'excellence'. Well, I am not a judge and nor am I trying to influence this year's awards, but a stroll down memory lane might be of interest. In 2011, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) triumphed in the HR Excellence awards, winning Best HR team, the Health and Wellbeing award and the prestigious Gold award.

The RCN (HRD David Cooper and chief execuitve Peter Carter, pictured with thier gongs) turned around a culture of poor staff morale through HR-led innovation.

It put into place measures that tackled stress and absence, re- designed training and established links between HR's performance and staff satisfaction that added value to the business.

The RCN is refusing to rest on its laurels. Government is looking to ?nd billions in savings and RCN members are among those in the firing line. The latest CIPD survey in February revealed satisfaction rates at their lowest since 2009. Staff confidence, in job security in particular, is decreasing.

RCN set up the 'Fantastic Four' working group, focused on: career development; participation; high-performance teams; ways to give back to the communities its members serve, through a CSR group.

CSR initiatives aim at improving the RCN procurement process and reducing the carbon dioxide emissions generated by its buildings. The RCN created the 'Turn it Off!' campaign, engaging employees on energy efficiency, cost savings and waste.

To the HR Excellence Awards, the RCN can also add a place on the Sunday Times Best Companies list: the only trade union to feature. RCN employee satisfaction rates buck the national trend, with the overwhelming majority (84%) responding they were proud to work for the RCN. Highlighting the importance of listening to the workforce - a factor Cooper says has been vital to turning the RCN around - 78% of staff feel their managers share important information with them and take an interest in their wellbeing.

Shortlisted companies in the HR Excellence Awards 2012 will be announced within the next week. The awards will be presented at a gala ceremony in London on 25 June.