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HR Excellence Awards 2009: The shortlist for HR director of the year

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We present a list of the 10 HR practitioners we believe have pushed forward the boundaries of the profession in the past year.

Who has achieved the most in HR over the past 12 months?

Who has made the most effective contribution to their organisation from a shortlist developed by the HR editorial team and industry experts?

All those on our shortlist have pushed forward the boundaries of HR in their organisations and, importantly, have delivered real business results.

Here we offer a short explanation as to why the following 10 HR directors have been nominated.

Voting has now closed and the winner will be announced at our gala dinner at the London Hilton on Park Lane on 30 June.

HELEN ALLEN, DIRECTOR OF WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT, NHS PLYMOUTH

Helen Allen led a ground-breaking workforce development programme across NHS Plymouth, which has been highly commended and adopted by the SW Strategic Health Authority. She changed the organisation's culture from one where workforce planning was 'something HR does' to something all managers and budget holders do. The trust was the first in the UK to use Skills for Health's Six Steps guide, designed to help NHS managers plan staffing more effectively. 

SIMON CARLTON, HR DIRECTOR, INTERFACEFLOR

Simon Carlton takes a leading role in embedding sustainability into modular flooring giant InterfaceFLOR's culture. From rewarding staff for improvements to their work that encourages better environmental performance to a three-stage educational process that starts at induction, Carlton's HR practices have helped founder Ray Anderson execute his vision of sustainability. With the firm last year picking up the prestigious Queen's Award for Enterprise, no wonder people queue at Carlton's door for a job. 

JAYNE MEE, HR DIRECTOR, BARRATT DEVELOPMENTS

According to one nominee, Jayne Mee has excelled in creating and delivering a strong HR strategy at Barratt, which comprises 26 divisions and has 6,000 employees. Her achievements are particularly noteworthy during a very turbulent time for the building sector. Since joining two years ago, Mee has built a sound HR team and capability and has overhauled Barratt's entire HR platform. It has already made a visible impact on the business's culture and results. 

NORMAN PICKAVANCE, HR DIRECTOR, MORRISONS

Norman Pickavance was hired to drive a major change programme across the supermarket group, the fourth largest UK retailer, with 114,000 employees and an annual turnover of more than £12.5 billion. Having done this, he has moved on to recruitment and retention, announcing 5,000 new jobs this year and plans to put 18,000 staff through a new Fresh Food Academy. The supermarket has proved one of the success stories of past years, announcing a 7% rise in annual pre-tax profits to £655 million last month. 

SONIA WOLSEY COOPER, GROUP HR DIRECTOR AXA UK

Sonia Wolsey Cooper has worked to embed a culture of trust through strong and dynamic leadership. To achieve a change in culture, AXA has undertaken initiatives including preferred company roadshows, using imaginative techniques, such as circus performers, to convey the message of trust to employees. The HR team has been realigned and an HR services function developed to bring HR closer to the business. In 2008 AXA was awarded 19th place in the Sunday Times Top 100 survey of larger-sized employers. 

HELEN GILES, HR DIRECTOR, BROADWAY

Helen Giles's successes at homelessness charity Broadway are well documented - low sickness absence, low staff turnover and engagement scores well above average, But it is the work she has done across the whole sector that wins her this year's nomination. Giles shares Broadway's HR excellence through consultancy Real People. A pilot - Beyond A Helpline - was completed last year with 13 agencies, 77% of which achieved positive outcomes according to an independent evaluator, Triangle Consulting. 

IAN ICETON, HR DIRECTOR, VOLKSWAGEN GROUP UK

During a year of first growth and then decline, Ian Iceton has shown HR leadership across Volkswagen. He is recognised as having a pragmatic and effective leadership style, working across the business in a collaborative manner, and has been particularly active in measures that save money. He extended his influence across the group internationally by providing support to other European HR departments from the UK. In the FT Top 50 Survey, HR scored highly for staff contentment and Iceton for leadership. 

JIM SAVEGE, CORPORATE DIRECTOR HR, CUMBRIA CC

With his other role as the Public Sector People Managers' Association (PPMA) lead officer for pay and reward, Jim Savege has had a busy year. Last year the sector saw more than its fair share of strike action as teachers, police officers and local government staff called for pay increases. Unions demanded rises of 6%; the PPMA settled at 2.5%. At Cumbria he has focused on modernisation and improvement, along with how to develop shared services in all aspects across the public sector in Cumbria.

Jim is the former director of a change management consultancy working on transformation with blue chip organisations across various sectors including utilities, financial services, defence and technology. Earlier in his career he worked in secondary and higher education.

He moved into local government at Staffordshire County Council in October 2002 where he was involved in developing one of the largest HR Shared Services in the public sector and also became nationally recognised for his leadership in working towards the implementation of the Government's Single Status programme, working on this agenda at a regional and at a national level.

CAROLINE WATERS, DIRECTOR OF PEOPLE AND POLICY, BT

Caroline Waters has been tireless in her efforts to demonstrate that flexible working is good for business. She has been vocal over the past year in showing the results BT has delivered through smart working. But it is her activity in relation to care that marked her out in 2008. She chairs the new Employers for Carers membership forum, supported by Carers UK and designed to deliver advice to employers about supporting the UK's working carers. A passionate campaigner, she has the ear of politicians and business alike. 

SHEENA WEBSTER, HEAD OF HR, ALLIANCE HEALTHCARE UK

Sheena Webster has helped transform the traditional management culture at the former UniChem to one of inspirational leadership and empowerment. She is described as a forward-thinking leader and has introduced major learning programmes to support the cultural change. As a result, the organisation now appoints the majority of new leaders from within. It has a more agile style of leadership and is quicker to respond to market challenges and opportunities, which has contributed to increased market share.