Tips from 2020's People Focused CEO HR Excellence Award winner

Rick Willmott, winner of 2020’s People Focused CEO of the Year award at the HR Excellence Awards, is excited about what the post-pandemic has in store for him and his people.

Willmott is group chief executive at construction company Willmott Dixon.

He told HR magazine winning last year’s accolade would not have been possible without the support, innovation and hard work of employees.

“I was proud to accept the award on behalf of everyone at Willmott Dixon, because it has always been our people who are at the heart of our business, culture and values,” he said.

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Willmott said the business has a deep-rooted philosophy that its people make the difference and that its culture is critical to providing an environment where everyone can thrive and enjoy the career. 

He explained: “Our people team help us to do this and this is independently verified by being placed fifth in the Sunday Times’ Best Companies list in 2020 and being named as one of The Times Top 50 employers for women for the past three years.

“Being recognised for our work by prestigious third parties, such as this HR Excellence Award is a fitting reward for the outstanding efforts of our people.”

While achieving awards is humbling, Willmott said there is still a long way to go to ensure everyone is catered for at work.

“We are at the forefront of promoting the benefits of a diverse business within the construction industry and are aiming to achieve gender parity across our workforce by 2030. 

“To accelerate this, we are working with Cambridge University to deliver a sector-leading Women’s Leadership Training programme.

“And already in motion, is a 12-month programme is being delivered to a number of high-potential female leaders across our business and supply chain with an objective to increase the number of women within the most senior positions in construction,” said Willmott.

Keeping an open honest dialogue with employees and showing empathy were Willmott's top two leadership tips.

He said: “We have found strong, co-ordinated communication has been essential throughout the pandemic, being sensitive to the feelings of our people and their families.” 

“I led a task team through which all communications were planned, and additional welfare support initiatives were put in place, including online workshops to support a totally new way of working for many.” 


The 2021 HR Excellence Awards at the London Hilton on 1 December, with this year’s theme celebrating the magic of HR.

Enter your CEO, HR director or team for the 2021 HR Excellence Awards here.