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Our top interviews with... HRD of the year winners

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We look back over five years of HR Excellence HRD of the year award-winners

Following the success of the 21st annual HR Excellence Awards, we take a look at our top interviews with those who have held the prestigious HRD of the year award.

2012: Darren Hockaday, former HR director of London Overground

A deep understanding of socio-political and economic issues, a decisive and pragmatic approach to building effective and long-term relationships with unions, and a systematic and effective approach to leadership behaviour led to Darren Hockaday, then HR director of London Overground Rail Operations (LOROL), receiving the accolade in 2012.

Hockaday, who is now HR director at Gatwick Airport, discussed how keeping engagement high at LOROL was a big challenge. “Leadership needs to make all the difference; helping our staff understand their roles in terms of the ongoing success of the business," he said.

2013: Neil Morrison on the Penguin Random House merger, and sexing up HR

Neil Morrison, group HRD of Penguin Random House, was awarded the top prize in 2013 and has continued to raise standards across the industry. In 2015 he was ranked as the second most influential practitioner in the HR Most Influential listing.

After five years as HR director at publishing giant Random House, he played a leading role in steering the company through the most significant merger in recent publishing history. “It’s the biggest challenge of my career to date,” he said.

2014: Between the sheets: Meet Dorchester Collection's Eugenio Pirri

Dorchester Collection's Eugenio Pirri, HR Director of the Year in 2014's HR Excellence Awards, maintains a close connection to the event. Dorchester Collection sponsored the outstanding employee engagement strategy category in 2016 and Pirri presented the trophy to United Learning Trust.

In this interview Pirri discussed brand loyalty. “We love our workforce and hope they continue to love us,” he said.

2015: River Island HRD's innovative approach

Karen Beaven won the award in 2015 when River Island also walked away with the most effective recruitment strategy, best HR team, and gold awards.

In this profile Beaven explained her company’s entrepreneurial spirit. “Retail is changing so the shape of the business is changing,” she said. “We need to step up and adapt to that within HR and be more proactive than we’ve ever been before.”

2016: Pizza Hut's HRD on turning the brand around

The latest winner Kathryn Austin, chief people and marketing officer at Pizza Hut Restaurants UK, said she felt “amazed and very pleased” to win the award.

Speaking to editor Katie Jacobs for an interview in our May issue, she discussed joining ‘the Hut’ as part of a fresh management team and expanding her portfolio to lead marketing. “As an HR person who isn’t a marketer by background it was great to take over one of the UK’s biggest brands,” she said.