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HR Excellence Awards 2012 – Most People-Focused CEO, Public/Voluntary Sector: Steve Walker, CEO, AmicusHorizon

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As Fiona Deal, corporate services director of AmicusHorizon, says: “There’s never been a transformation like ours in the housing world.” And the catalyst for this has been CEO Steve Walker, who has revolutionised the way the organisation works. It is, says Deal, nothing short of a miracle.

If that sounds somewhat of an exaggeration then consider this. In 2008, AmicusHorizon was in serious trouble, facing financial meltdown, organisational disharmony, poor performance and in government regulatory supervision. Walker's challenge was to drive culture change, rebuild belief, confidence, performance and financial stability.

Getting staff in16 locations and 22 local authority areas to sign up to a ' one team' message and deliver brilliant performance was a massive undertaking. Add to this the fact that AmicusHorizon came into existence through the takeover and merger of three local authority transfers and three other housing associations, none of who wanted to merge, then it would take a leader of exceptional skill to achieve a turnaround.

But Walker is exceptional and truly believes people come first. And people need vision, values and Big Hairy Goals (BHGs) - something to motivate them and make them want to come to work. It's through his leadership and creation of a belief system in the organisation that AmicusHorizon has undergone a total transformation. He is relentless in coaching and mentoring. He insists managers role model and cascade positive values and focus on the BHGs. He branded the executive team as a "culture club", charged with putting excellent staff management and motivation at the heart of everything it does.

The result? In 2011/2012 AmicusHorizon achieved a £6.3 million surplus (reinvested in charitable activity) and is the number one performer compared to peers in 18 of 20 key performance indicators.

The shortlist in this category was developed in conjunction with workplace engagement specialist, Best Companies. Firms that feature in Best Companies' database of more than 30,0000 organisations were eligible for consideration. HR magazine asked Best Companies to crunch data from its employee surveys based around leadership criteria, such as inspiration and confidence in the person leading the organisation. The names of the top-scoring leaders were provided to HR magazine and we then asked the CEOs to provide us with further information. This was sent to the judging panel, who ranked the list to produce the winner. The award is therefore based on both employee and professional HR feedback.

Finalists

Chan Abraham, group chief executive, Luminus Group

Matt Barlow, chief executive & founder, Christians Against Poverty

Anne Hinchey, chief executive, Wales and West Housing Association

Martin Kinsella, chief executive, P3 the social inclusion charity

Ian Munro, group chief executive, New Charter Housing Trust Group

Rob Owen, chief executive, St Giles Trust

Roy Williams, chief executive officer, One Vision Housing

Nicola Youern, chief executive, YOU