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Rick Willmott wins people-focused CEO of the year

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The winner of 2020 HR Excellence Award for people-focused CEO of the year is Rick Willmott, group chief executive at construction company Willmott Dixon.

If you missed the awards show, you can read the full list of winners here.

Speaking to HR magazine on behalf of Willmott at the virtual ceremony Rick Lee, chief people officer at Willmott Dixon, said the CEO was honoured and humbled to win the award.

“He also said he wants to accept the award on behalf of everyone at Willmott Dixon, because it has always been the people who are at the heart of our business, culture and values,” added Lees.

Founded in 1852, the company is now led by its fifth generation of the Willmott family.

Willmott started as a management trainee before rising through the ranks of the company and become its CEO in 2008.

Under his leadership, the company has achieved several notable achievements for being one of the UK’s best, most inclusive and diverse employers, including being fifth in the Sunday Times’ Best Companies list in 2020, the highest placed UK company in the first ever FT Diversity leader’s list and being named as one of The Times’ top 50 employers for women for the past two years.

Staff at the construction company said that Willmott’s approach to his people is one of openness, approachability, empathy and humility.

This was especially evident when the pandemic resulted in the company taking swift action to safeguard the wellbeing of its people.

With a need to put its people on furlough, Willmott gave employees the opportunity to apply on a voluntary basis. This resulted in a higher proportion of women applying, the feedback being they found it beneficial to help balance competing pressures for their time, especially during lockdown.

Lee said: “It is our people that make the business strong and their fortitude and resilience has shone brightly during the hard times the pandemic caused.

“So I’d like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for their extraordinary efforts over the past year.”

Sustainability is of high importance to Willmott and he described it as an issue of personal importance. His aim for the company is to lead by example – it has been carbon neutral since 2012.

Willmott has also overseen a reduction in the company’s carbon emissions relative to turnover by 57% compared with 2010 emissions, which has saved it £3 million a year in fuel and energy costs.

It is now on track to be the first contractor powering all sites with 100% natural renewable energy.

Register your interest in the 2021 HR Excellence awards here.

Watch the 2020 HR Excellence Awards on demand here.