Winning does not happen by accident, and the adage ‘you have to be in it to win it’ is certainly true. As a judge in this year’s Personnel Today Awards, I was surprised not to see entries from some incredible HR teams. Why didn’t they enter? Perhaps they don’t consider they need to, or do not believe that winning will bring advantages.
When I was at the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) [I have just recently moved to the National Policing Improvement Agency as executive director HR (policing)], we made a habit of winning a vast array of HR awards.
We made the awards a very deliberate strategy designed to:
codify our work
increase the confidence of the HR team and our customers
improve the reputation of the CPS.
When I originally suggested that we take this approach, the response was:
‘Won’t it look like showing off?’
‘Not everything we do is good’.
‘We’ll look foolish if we don’t succeed’.
My reply was: “Who cares what people think? And of course not everything we do is good.”
Being perfect in everything is not important. Waiting until it is all fantastic takes time. You need to package what is good now, and get some leverage out of it. No-one needs to know what you say in your entry form. People only find out when you get shortlisted.
So are there any downsides to having such a good PR profile? I have to admit that, yes, a downside does exist. A wise colleague who had won accolades told me not to expect praise immediately in my own organisation. His view, which was true, was that more insecure colleagues could feel jealous and resentful. It’s always been limited to a sad few, but worth bearing in mind.
Additionally, there will always be those who feel that an association with the glitz and glamour can appear shallow and superficial. Well, I won’t apologise for being human. My team and I loved great nights out, a bit of sparkle and a few glasses of wine. We celebrate external accreditation and loved seeing the CPS’s name up in lights. We were proud to belong to an organisation that aspires to excellence.
To maximise PR, you should concentrate on your own customers. Sometimes you need external accreditation to get credibility back on the ranch.
Just to give you a few hints from a judge’s perspective (if you’re thinking of entering the Personnel Today Awards next year):
Focus on specific outcomes that have contributed to business success, and ensure you provide evidence.
Glossy entries are not required and will not gain extra points, but scrappy ones with spelling mistakes will certainly lose a few.
Get some communications advice for the first entry. Once you have a well-articulated template, you can use it again and again.
For this year’s winners, here are a few words of advice:
Individual awards are the scariest. Having been lucky enough to have won two HR Director of the Year awards last year, those last few seconds as you wait for the name to be read out are really terrifying. And, if I am being candid, I felt like a complete fraud to have won. I was already really delighted to have been named alongside people I personally think are the real stars in the HR world.
Don’t believe the hype about yourself. We are all human and doomed to imperfection every day. Pulling back from the precipice of our next disaster is a daily chore. Big egos get in the way of our most important quality as HR leaders – self-awareness.
Last, and perhaps most importantly, winning as a team really matters. Watching your people jump up and down, and walk taller and more confidently as a result, is one of the best feelings in the world as an HR leader.
By Angela O’Connor, president, PPMA