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Kathryn Austin wins HRD of the Year award

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The winner was chosen in a poll of HR magazine readers

Kathryn Austin, chief people and marketing officer of Pizza Hut Restaurants, has won the HR Director of the Year award at the HR Excellence awards.

The winner was chosen in a poll of HR magazine readers, and was announced at the HR Excellence Awards 2016 at the Park Lane Hilton Hotel, London.

Austin said she was “amazed and very pleased” to win the award. “I would like to thank my team, as this was all about teamwork,” she said.

“We’re a consumer business, so we’re looking into some potentially difficult economic times," she added. "We’ve got to focus on providing a great guest experience, and getting people to come back to us, time and time again.”

As part of the leadership team, Austin has been involved in the private equity buyout of Pizza Hut Restaurants, during which it separated from its delivery business. To fund the next phase of its investment, Pizza Hut Restaurants is now on the market for a new owner, and Austin has involved employees in the process, using the company’s very active Yammer platform to ask staff why potential investors should consider the chain.

Austin’s achievements impressed many of her HR director peers. “It's great to see an HR person responsible for another area of the business and make a demonstrable contribution to business success,” was one comment. Another described her as “an exemplar for HR”, adding “practical business focussed and incredibly innovative at the same time.” “The way that the employee engagement and external marketing/customer service narratives have been woven together is exceptional,” another wrote.

Austin explained that often takes on shifts in the restaurant herself. “It’s really good craic [in the restaurants], and there’s a real family atmosphere,” she said. “My team have worked really hard, they love the brand, they love the business, they get out there and HR really makes a difference.”