Winning awards offers the opportunity to boost your employer brand

In the hours following our success in the Personnel Today Awards in 2004 (Overall winner and Northgate HR Award for Best HR Strategy in Line with Business), I was asked several times ‘what next?’.

It is a paradox of success that it is often at the very point of victory or excellence that you need to change. In drafting our vision for HR strategy, I had set as a benchmark the achievement of finalist status in the Personnel Today Awards to support a range of internal success measures. We achieved this – and more.

My biggest concern was that, in reaching our barrier-breaking goals, our team’s aspirational commitment would slide. After all, history teaches us that many successful teams have fallen by the wayside after hitting a pinnacle of achievement.

Following our success, I needed to ensure that our team ethos was revitalised and re-energised towards scaling a new peak. If we hadn’t won the award, I knew exactly how I would challenge the team: we would build on the success of making the finalist stages and subsequently focus on improving our HR business model internally to make us the outstanding HR team in 2005.

But winning set me a different kind of task. I challenged the team to write a new script for the next stage of our journey so that we were fully equipped to tackle the next pinnacle of success.

Our ‘away-day think-tank’ kicked off the process. This involved all team members actively participating in the development of our new vision. Innovative approaches were developed with the business, including an improved internal communi-cations programme, the restructuring of training and development with the emphasis on workplace training, a different approach to talent management, and the setting up of a ‘people board’ to ensure full engagement of our people strategy by all managers within the business. We revisited our employee brand, deploying marketing techniques internally and externally as a critical way to foster pride, increase morale and motivation, and attract quality people.

Based on this, we developed an HR strategy presentation for the corporate conference and staff roadshows. These presentations represented a change of tune in showing how individuals, with their respective skills and strengths, can make a real difference to the harmonious overall performance and power of the team. To create this, we recorded a promotional video at the Symphony Hall in Birmingham. Everyone in the people team took part. The presentation clearly struck a chord with colleagues as our key people messages echoed resoundingly across the business.

Externally, we continued to benchmark through a range of awards and standards. We became a ‘must have’ case study feature of ‘best practice’ seminars, ranging from local business chamber events to a ‘live’ broadcast to HR directors in North America – all helping to develop and consolidate our employer brand and put the West Brom on a strong footing alongside HR’s ‘heavy hitters’.

To those who question the value of taking part in schemes such as the Personnel Today Awards, I would say the benefits of feedback and learning far outweigh any time spent on the submission process. Indeed, the process of preparing the submission can, in itself, fuel continuous improvement as the HR team seeks to identify better approaches to the way it works.

As I congratulate this year’s winners, my advice would be to focus the huge PR potential towards building the employer brand to add value in terms of the attraction, motivation and retention of quality people. Maximise the benefits of the awards process through benchmarking with the ‘best of the best’ to drive continuous improvement. Most importantly, involve the business in both celebrating the success and taking forward the people vision.

Paul Turner, general manager (people), West Bromwich Building Society

Who are this year’s Personnel Today award winners? Go to

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