· 2 min read · Features

Reward sustained excellence, not flashy initiatives


It’s that time of year again when we’re all completing our submissions for the various HR awards on offer. It’s great for those who get shortlisted to put on their ball gowns, enjoy a nice meal, laugh along to the comedy act and then feel the adrenalin rush when the announcer pulls out the winner envelope for their category.

If they are the lucky winner they get the added bonus of being able to justify staying to the bitter end of the disco, knowing they'll be excused for having that rotten hangover at work the next day.

I'm not knocking awards; my organisation has won a fair few in its time. The only trouble with them is that it's difficult to win one if you happen to be a team that just does HR work really well, sustaining great results and making a significant and incremental impact on your business year after year.

This is because most awards are predicated on the notion that within a maximum of 18 months an HR team can dream up an initiative, run with it and is then subsequently able to measure a big increase in profit, growth or customer satisfaction.

The worst offender in promoting 'initiatives' - not naming any names - is a body that really should know better. To win one of their awards you must conquer the world with your project within record-breaking time as well as give it an incredibly cheesy name in order to have a hope of winning. As if any company really goes around saying we are going to run through a big restructuring programme called 'Operation Turnaround'.

Following through this example, an HR team can genuinely say it's brilliant at change is one that has steered its organisation through successive waves of change, supported managers to learn the lessons and embedded that learning in the DNA of the organisation. In fact, the very notion of a 'change management' category is anachronistic since organisations are constantly changing and effective leadership is about inspiring and earning trust every day, through all weathers.

I was recently privileged to be invited to join the judging panel for the Public Sector People Managers' Association (PPMA) HR awards. Both the winner and the runner up for the 'HR Team of the Year' were teams that didn't try to claim they had built Rome in a day. They showed in a very authentic way how they had operated in the real world; building up brick by brick from well laid foundations in an intricate pattern over a number of years to bring about genuine lasting change to people management practice and results. The measures of impact they provided were also real because it was genuinely feasible that what they'd done had been embarked on long enough ago to be capable of realising such results.

Well done Southend Council People and Policy Team. There was no glitzy initiative or glamorous project in your submission; just a really convincing account of how you worked hard on a number of fronts over time to deliver a preventative and holistic joined up service, without which, in your words, "your whole community would be a poorer place".

So to all the other award-giving bodies, why not consider having a new category called 'sustained excellence in HR over time'?

Helen Giles (pictured) is HR director at homeless charity Broadway