Health and Wellness Award

Winner: Northern Powergrid 

After disappointing occupational health performance in 2012, Northern Powergrid undertook a fundamental review of occupational health and attendance management, creating a health and wellbeing agenda in partnership with Duradiamond Healthcare. A campaign was launched, focussing on employee wellbeing and general fitness – including mini health MOTs, including BMI, blood pressure and diabetes checks and general wellbeing advice. The results confirmed that Northern Powergrid’s workforce had a higher BMI and higher blood pressure than the UK population. Campaigns are now targeted on the main areas of concern and results are monitored and recorded to track our progress. Feedback from staff confirmed support wasn’t available in the field so Duradiamond now attends sites in a mobile health unit that delivers services directly. To recognise the ageing workforce, a programme has been designed to help retain craft colleagues – including joiners, linesmen and fitters – to keep them healthy. 

Runners up: Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust and Walkers Snack Foods Ltd

Sponsored by CIPD North East of England


Learning and Development Programme Award

Winner: DB Regio Tyne and Wear Ltd

DB Regio Tyne & Wear Ltd (DBTW) operates the Tyne & Wear Metro under a Concession Agreement with Nexus. As part of this, the business has an obligation to maintain a defined driver resource. An ageing driver population meant an increasing requirement to recruit and train more new drivers than ever before. The previous recruitment and training processes meant that it could take nine months or more for an intake of new drivers to enter competently into passenger service. A new driver training course was developed using accelerated learning techniques, proven to be an engaging and effective method of learning. The course has enabled DBTW to double the number of trainee drivers it can train within a year. This year, it has a commitment and supporting plan to train 24 new drivers by the end of the year in comparison with a maximum of 12 potential trainees under the old programme. 

Runners up: Andrew James UK Ltd and Virgin Money

Sponsored by NCFE


HR&D Technology Award

Winner: Esh Group

Construction company Esh Group employs 1,100 people, 70 of them apprentices. This is expected to increase to 150 by 2017. After a staff survey showed that only 20% of employees felt they were actively engaged, and suggested ways for improved communications, it became clear that an ICT solution was required to connect everyone within the business and create a conduit for innovation and collaboration. The company procured and implemented ‘thinkchange’, a web-based application to transform engagement and support a bottom-up organisation-wide innovation culture. Using cloud-hosting, ‘thinkchange’ connects people via smartphone, tablet or PC, providing an efficient way of supporting a best-in-class approach to employee engagement. ‘thinkchange’ is easy to use and intuitive with a number of the features similar to Facebook. As an internal engagement platform it has been a big success and is developing into a vibrant platform for ideas where employees feel confident to make suggestions for the benefit of the organisation and clients. 

Runners up: LSL Property Services plc and Sage

Sponsored by The Journal

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Change Management Project of the Year Award

Winner: Northumbrian Water Group 

NWG operates as Northumbrian Water, Essex and Suffolk Water and employs 3,000 people. Some of the company’s terms and conditions of employment were legacy arrangements that changed little as various water companies merged to evolve into the Northumbrian Water Group. Over the past seven years managers increasingly found that these terms and conditions were very complex and difficult to understand; being applied inconsistently across the business; regularly leading to people either under or over claiming time or payment claims; time-consuming and confusing to claim, but the complexity of arrangements meant they couldn’t be automated. HR led a review and engagement strategy from autumn 2012 to February 2015, culminating in the simplified terms and conditions being successfully implemented. This involved thorough data analysis, facilitating workshops involving employees across the business at all levels, continuously engaging employee representatives throughout the process and working in partnership on communication planning. 

Runners up: Convergys and Northern Powergrid

Sponsored by Cintra HR & Payroll Services

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Rewards and Benefits Award

Winner: Home Group 

Home Group, a social enterprise and a charity, is one of the UK’s largest providers of housing and supported housing services and products. In 2012 engagement with Home Group’s reward package was low, as evidenced through survey results where pay and benefits were a lowlight. The pay structure was outdated and inflexible. All roles were placed in the same structure and due to the diverse nature of the business this was causing issues in being able to accurately benchmark against the market and pay competitive salaries for certain roles. Progression through the pay scales was through a series of incremental steps meaning colleagues were rewarded for length of service rather than performance. Staff said this didn’t motivate them. A new pay structure and performance-related pay approach was introduced and an initiative called ‘Reward Scene’ was created as a new online benefits platform, including eye care vouchers, gym discounts and salary sacrifice. 

Runners up: Arch, the Northumberland Development Company, and Virgin Money

Sponsored by Nigel Wright Recruitment

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People Development Award

Winner: The Newcastle Upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust 

The Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust is committed to delivering a health service where equality, diversity and human rights are embraced, and communicated in the everyday work of staff. The Trust is positive about disability and displays the “Two Tick” symbol having made a commitment to employ, keep and develop the abilities of disabled staff. Developing staff to reach their optimum performance and capability is critical to service delivery. Project Choice is an activity that supports this commitment. It is a development programme that enables young adults aged 16-24 years to gain employability skills through work experience placement. In addition to developing the students, all staff involved in mentoring are provided with specialist training to enable them to learn appropriate skills and techniques to enable a student with learning disabilities to reach their full potential. All mentors reported a sense of reward and confirmed they learned a great deal having participated. 

Runners up: Andrew James UK Ltd and Welwyn Components Ltd

Sponsored by Newcastle Business School, Northumbria University


Employee Engagement Award

Winner: Walkers Snack Foods Ltd

After the appointment of a new HR manager at the Peterlee factory, a review was carried out which found there was a lack of opportunity for direct engagement between employees and the senior team. One of the initial activities to address this was the institution of site leader round tables. Groups of frontline employees were invited to a meeting where the broader business performance was shared, alongside the site-specific performance. An opportunity for Q&A then followed. In order to ensure full coverage of employees through the year, employees were invited in their birthday month and cakes and drinks provided. Other such meetings took place around the organisational health survey and communications. Staff felt that information was only disseminated when something had gone wrong so efforts were put in place to share and celebrate both site and individual success. Last year, following a strong start to the year in plant performance, a celebration barbecue was held. 

Runners up: Esh Group and GE Oil & Gas UK

Sponsored by Sullivan Brown Resourcing Partners

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Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace Award

Winner: Muckle LLP

Muckle LLP is a commercial law firm with an annual turnover of £11.5m. One of its values is being a responsible business. This includes encouraging all staff to take on roles and responsibilities in the community outside work with everyone entitled to an additional two days paid leave per year to undertake these activities. The firm has launched programmes for apprentices and graduate recruitment. It is concerned that the considerable cost of university education, plus the difficulty of obtaining a training contract, may be discouraging many able people from considering law as a career. It gives work experience to college students and local sixth-form pupils from state schools as part of an inspiring careers programme. Muckle has also established a relationship with Momentum Skills to improve employment opportunities for people with disabilities and offered seven of their clients the opportunity of a work placement for up to 12 weeks. 

Runner up: Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust

Sponsored by Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service


SME HR&D Award

Winner: TH_NK 

In September 2013, when independent digital agency TH_NK’s contract with Blackberry ended, the business had to go through a tough restructure, affecting all teams in both Newcastle and London offices. Managers knew they needed to refocus to win new business and keep the current clients happy. Step one was to come together as a leadership team and for HR to facilitate that team in resetting goals, vision and objectives for the next financial year, particularly around talent. The three pillars heading up the business strategy were people and talent, work and fame and systems and methods. The HR manager now joins the weekly executive board meetings to discuss people and talent and this has proven invaluable in understanding the commercial side to the business. Each week the team go through commercials, client updates and forecasting. The executive board members are key stakeholders and now positive advocates of HR and the value it brings. 

Runners up: Andrew James UK Ltd and Hodgson Sayers Ltd

Sponsored by The Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA)


HR&D Team of the Year Award

Winner: NCFE 

NCFE is a national educational organisation based at Quorum Business Park whose core business is designing, developing and certificating diverse, nationally-recognised qualifications and awards. Last year alone, 340,000 learners from more than 2,000 colleges, schools and training organisations chose NCFE as their awarding organisation to help them move their careers forward. A charity, NCFE’s extensive product catalogue includes a wide range of general and vocationally related QCF qualifications in a variety of subject areas. The HR team’s focus over the past year has been on a combination of activities designed to set the organisation up to succeed in an increasingly volatile, complex and ambiguous operating environment. Market conditions in the education sector have become challenging and unpredictable as a result of funding reforms, increased competition and regulatory requirements. A combination of these factors has meant that the business has recognised the need to become more commercially focused. 

Runners up: Gateshead College and Parkdean

Sponsored by Clarke Mairs LLP

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