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“Optimism and sense of togetherness” celebrated at HR Leadership & Management Awards 2020

Leaders from both the public and the private sectors acknowledge job well done

The annual HR Leadership & Management Awards returned for the sixth year and the 2020 winners were announced to a live audience during a virtual ceremony held on Wednesday, November 18th. The event was hosted by journalist and broadcaster Richard Curran, while the judging panel was led by Edel Conway, professor in HRM and Organisational Psychology at DCU Business School, who took on the role as head judge.

Very much part of the HR calendar of events now, the Awards continues to enjoy widespread support from sponsors throughout the sector. Sinéad Joyce, marketing and sales manager for DeCare Dental Insurance Ireland, who were one of the 2020 sponsors, said, “We were delighted to continue our sponsorship of the HR Leadership & Management Awards for 2020.

“We understand how exceptionally challenging it has been this year for the workplace and the HR profession. It was great to see how the finalists came together to tell their positive stories and how the event adapted to the times and delivered a safe and engaging event. Congratulations to all involved and a special well done to the winners.”

This year’s event saw some 21 trophies awarded in the different categories, three of which were collected by MSD Ireland. Lorraine Kenny, their executive director and HR lead, said, “The awards represent best-in-class HR practices, in a year that forced our profession to think differently, be more creative and engage in new ways. MSD Ireland was honoured to be recognised in a number of categories.”


Irish Water was also a winner on the day, picking up HR Manager of the Year for Gillian O’Sullivan. Angela Costello, HR manager at Irish Water, said, “Irish Water were delighted to take part in the HR Awards, and to see first-hand the outstanding contribution that HR teams are making to companies in so many industries all across Ireland.”

The HR Team of the Year award went to WaterWipes and their chief people officer, Aidan McKee, said, “The Awards create a fantastic platform to celebrate leadership excellence in the people profession.” Goodbody were also one of this year’s winners, and Sarah Downing, their head of HR, said, “Goodbody were delighted to win Best Learning & Development Strategy in such a challenging year. We would like to thank all of our staff who zoomed in, stayed connected and continued to contribute online in 2020!”

Ervia won Most Effective Use of Internal Communication, and Debbie O’Brien, group head of Internal Communications there, said, “Winning accolades for your D&I approach is fantastic, but the real win in this space is the positive impact on people. I have seen D&I turn around a culture, inject optimism, collegiality and a sense of togetherness. And this is priceless.”

Obelisk were another of this year’s winners, and Lisa Healy, HR director at Obelisk, said, “Employee engagement is more important than ever in today's climate and winning this award is fantastic recognition for the HR team in Obelisk. We have been on quite a journey over the last 12 months and we are delighted with this achievement.”

While Tallaght University Hospital won the Excellence in Education & Training award, and Shauna Ennis, head of learning & development there, said, “As we all strive to care for people to live better lives, the Autism Awareness eLearning programme which received the HR Leadership Award enhances the knowledge and skills of healthcare professionals caring for people of all ages with autism in healthcare settings.”

There were 53 individuals and companies shortlisted for this year’s awards, one of which was Mercury Engineering. Joanne Cluxton, group HR manager there, said, “We were delighted to take part in the HR Awards for the first time, and to be the only company in our industry to be shortlisted. We look forward to continuing to build on our capabilities for next year.”

Marian Burns, director of HR at Dublin City University, which was also shortlisted, said, “This event is a great opportunity to recognise excellence in HR and from our experience of being involved it's wonderful to see the hard work and contributions of HR staff being acknowledged and rewarded in this way.”

While Rachael O’Shea, head of Employee Experience at Taxback Group, said, “While this year has had many challenges, it has also given us the opportunity to shake things up and bring about new positive changes that support collaboration and innovation, while continuing to promote our #OneTeam Culture.”

Looking ahead, the Awards is about to launch again for another important year. And with the 2021 event comes a new sponsor, with the addition of Softworks. Their CEO, Andrew Ferguson, said, “Softworks are delighted to join the HR Leadership & Management Awards 2021 as a platinum sponsor.

“As a business, we understand the ongoing challenges within HR and that is why we wanted to get involved. To show our support and to let the HR function know that we are here to work with you, now, more than ever. Well done to all who participated in 2020 and we are excited to see you all at the 2021 Awards.”

As ever, the 2020 event was only made possible thanks to the generous support of the sponsors, including DeCare Dental, Sage, Idiro and Amárach Research.

The full panel of judges this year consisted of:

  • Professor Edel Conway - professor in HRM & Organisational Psychology, DCU Business School
  • Andrew Blair - head of HR, HSBC Ireland
  • Dr. Sinéad Brennan - chief people officer, NTMA
  • Eamon Collins - head of talent, European Operations, Mylan Pharmaceuticals
  • Jennifer Grogan - organisational psychologist, Health, Safety & Environment, ESB
  • Dr. Caitriona Hughes - lecturer in HRM & Programme Director Masters in HRM, National College of Ireland
  • Anne Keegan - professor of Human Resource Management, UCD
  • Rosarii Mannion - HR leader & practitioner
  • Garry McCabe - commercial director, Kuehne + Nagel
  • Prof. Alma McCarthy- head of the Management Discipline & Professor of Public Sector Management, J.E. Cairnes School of Business and Economics, NUI Galway
  • Barry McKimm - group human resources director, Mater Private Hospital
  • Claire O'Reilly - head of the HR Strategy Unit, Department of Public Expenditure and Reform
  • Prof. Amanda Shantz - associate professor in Human Resources and Organisational Behaviour, Trinity College Dublin
  • Joyce Walsh - head of learning & development, Davy