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HR Excellence Awards 2012 - HR Director of the year: Darren Hockaday, HR director, London Overground

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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 – these are all areas in which our HR director of the Year Darren Hockaday excels, according to the HR directors and industry experts from HR magazine’s audience who voted for him.

Hockaday, who has been HR director of London Overground Rail Operations Ltd (LOROL) for five years, has played a key role in creating the fastest growing railway company in Europe and the most punctual in the UK, with a strong upward trend in customer satisfaction.

Over the past year, he has delivered a direct impact on results through productivity increases and efficiencies totalling £1 million. He has a commercial and pragmatic approach to driving business change and employee engagement in the 1,200-strong organisation through an HR department numbering 11 people.

During his HR directorship, Hockaday has achieved a complete turnaround in industrial relations. Operating in the volatile climate of London public transport, his approach has resulted in a long-term pay deal and LOROL was one of the first organisations to reach an Olympic flexibility agreement. All this against a backdrop of a number of high-profile disputes that have affected rail operators sharing the same RMT organiser.

Hockaday has also led rostering efficiencies (£100,000 saved in 2011) and completed the restructuring of 1,000 front line employees' Ts&Cs from traditional British Rail ones. This has enabled a 30% rise in customer satisfaction and the highest ever train performance. resulting in above-forecast passenger revenue.

In agreement with the unions, he has led a reduction in pension contribution rates, maintaining affordability for front line staff but at a level above what was recommended by the actuaries. In doing so he has maintained a buffer to increase the likelihood of a surplus position and sustainability of the pension in future.

He has also introduced an annual employee engagement survey across the organisation, sharing good practice as well as achieving 15% savings.

"Hockaday has developed London Overground into a forward-looking organisation with excellent people engagement in a traditional industrial relations environment," said one HRD while another commended his patience and vision. Extremely focused and with the respect of his team, Hockaday is a worthy recipient of this year's HR director of the Year award.

Finalists

Helen Bass, HR director, Childbase

Tracy Clarke, group head of HR and communications, Standard Chartered Bank

David Frost, group HR director, Produce World

Michelle Luxford, HR director, Travelodge

Amanda Menahem, HR director, Hastings Direct

Norman Pickavance, HR director, Morrisons

Dean Shoesmith, executive head of HR, London Boroughs of Sutton and Merton

Des Thurlby, HR director, Jaguar Land Rover

Jean Tomlin, HR director, LOCOG

Sponsor: Workday

For a list of all the winners and highly commended entries in the HR Excellence Awards 2012, click here