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Karen Beaven: Entering HR awards sends a powerful message

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Karen Beaven, HR director of River Island and 2015 HR Director of the Year, on the importance of the HR Excellence Awards

The HR Excellence Awards are an incredibly important feature in the HR calendar. They are a celebration of real innovation and achievement in our profession. From the insights I have had I know that the judging criteria is tough and robust and that’s what makes winning one (or more) even more special.

Last year we entered a number of categories and it’s a process that very much involved our entire team. After all, it’s the recognition of their work that matters as much as anything else. We were delighted with our achievements on the night and needless to say there was a definite buzz in our office in the lead up to and following the awards night.

In the weeks and months that followed I had many conversations with people about the awards and in some cases this revealed a reluctance from some people to enter. Their concern was that by achieving public recognition for great work, their teams may be targeted by headhunters and competitors and they would lose key people. I would say: forget that and just get your entry in, because in fact the opposite is more likely to happen. Great people want to work with great people and they want to work in ‘award-winning’ teams. By entering the awards you send a message saying you are proud of the HR function in your business, you are doing great work and it is valued. Talented professionals will seek you out and will want to join your team as a result.

Then there is the motivation for your existing team. I am proud of the work my team does and am happy to celebrate this publicly. My team were incredibly motivated and enjoyed being able to come along and celebrate on the night (I think we just about managed to fit all of them on stage!) They are a competitive bunch too and I think having the target of entering the awards really made them think about how they would articulate the return on investment for the work they had done.

The thing I love most about the HR Excellence Awards are they really are a down to earth and true reflection of good practice. To win a category you need to be able to demonstrate an achievement that has a sustained impact and articulate the ROI on it. The best entries are the ones that show the true heart of the HR function and business. Think about what you have worked on over the past ‘years’ as opposed to months or weeks as you’re more likely to be able to demonstrate impact over this longer time period. Quite often, potentially good entries fail because it’s just too early to assess the impact. You know you’re ready to enter when you have a stack of evidence about what you have done and you have the support from the leadership team in the business you work for.

The awards are also a great source of inspiration. If you want to know what works and get some new ideas for HR practice, just check out the award winners, see what they did and if there is anything you can take and apply to your own work.

Drop them a note and ask them about it too. From my experience, I’m pretty confident that if they can they will be more than happy to chat about their experiences. After all, we enter because we want to help move our profession forwards, we want to change things, we want to celebrate and make an impact. By sharing experiences and supporting other HR professionals we will achieve this and the whole HR profession will improve as a result.

Karen Beaven is HR director of River Island. Last year she was named HR Director of the Year at the HR Excellence Awards, and River Island won the overall Gold Award.

The deadline for entries is Monday 21 March. For information on applying, please visit http://www.hrexcellenceawards.com/