2006 winner of Personnel Today’s Human Resources Director of the Year recalls year of massive change

I’ve been to many awards ceremonies over the years, and have been lucky enough to have been part of the winning team within ANC Express (now FedEx UK). Nothing, however, could have prepared me for the night that I won HR Director of the Year at the Personnel Today Awards 2006.

We’d had a great year in terms of supporting the business with solid HR practices and changing our culture to embrace our mission: “Delivering Peace of Mind”.

How did I feel? On the night I was terrified as I didn’t – not even for one second – think I would win. My team had nominated me and I had some of them with me my biggest fear was letting them down. When I won the award, I was definitely shocked. But this was quickly replaced by a feeling of immense pride. It was strange to hear my name called out – my first thought was that someone had made a mistake. The next few minutes are a little blurry. That’s the thing about being a finalist in an ‘individual’ award: you’re alone whether you win or not.

My next thought was to thank my team for their support, hard work and success. They were really pleased for me, and their support simply reinforced just how valuable and important are the relationships we form in the workplace.

My team is a very stable one, and I have tried to develop people from within. They had been with me every step towards the award, which made winning all the sweeter. I wanted to thank my chief executive as he had given me the confidence to achieve things in HR that I never thought possible, though I’m not sure he appreciated my midnight telephone call.

What about after the first wash of success? My chief executive, my colleagues and numerous people within our depot network congratulated me either in person, on the phone or via e-mail.

“Could this get any better?” I wondered. One month later we were acquired by FedEx – new challenges ahead, but what a great way to start for such a prestigious company.

As Angela O’Connor, winner of HR Director of the Year 2005, said: unless you enter the awards, you won’t win.

My top tips for putting together an entry – and for winning the award:

  • You don’t have to work for a company with a household name
  • Your entry has to be truthful and precise (and tidy)
  • The style of your entry should be from the heart
  • Back up your achievements with relevant statistics
  • While it’s an individual entry, you still have to demonstrate your teambuilding ability.

Asking other people to write testimonials for you is also useful – although I would recommend buying a box of tissues and not reading them in the office.

I have had an absolutely fantastic year: I became a FedEx employee, we achieved Investors in People, I gained recognition for my team, and I’ve had a great time meeting new people and networking.

There are, however, lots of interesting challenges ahead. Winning the award automatically confers higher expectations: you want to live up to the accolade.

Winning also underlines the impact that you and your team have within your company. It helps your peers to realise that what you do in HR is seen as an achievement outside your organisation.

What’s next for me? To inspire individuals in my team to grow and develop in our new company and to give them the confidence that anything is possible. This is critical now we are part of a global company and household name.

Most of all, however, I don’t see the end of this year as ‘the end’ more like the beginning of bigger and better things for me and my team at FedEx UK.

Wendy Dean
HR director,
FedEx UK

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