Irish News Workplace & Employment Awards in a league of their own

A clutch of the North’s most visionary and people-focused companies were honoured last week at the eighth annual Irish News Workplace & Employment Awards in the spectacular surroundings of Titanic Belfast.

Representatives from a cross section of businesses/organisations, both in the public and private sector, were among the 500-strong audience. A record 20 awards were handed over to household business names like Eircom, Allstate NI, Lloyds Banking Group, Musgrave and O’Neill’s Sportswear. Belfast City Council and the NI Civil Service were also among the public sector recipients, as were two Derry schools in St Mary’s College and St Cecilia’s.

There was a number of new companies with their names being engraved on the iconic and much sought-after WEA trophies. These included Ballyrashane Creamery, TotalMobile and Belfast software company Automated Intelligence (which was the night’s only double award winner).

Indeed such was the interest in our newly-introduced Career Inspiration Award that it was sub-divided into four categories for small, medium, large and education, where the winners respectively were Young Enterprise NI, Automated Intelligence, Allstate NI and St Cecilia’s. This year a record number of companies entered; there was a greater number of entries from public sector, education, IT and manufacturing sectors; and in the judges’ opinions, the standard was unquestionably higher than any previous year. Guests dined out last Thursday night on a sumptuous meal which included Ewings cured and smoked salmon with toasted brioche grilled asparagus, soft quail’s egg and Glenarm caviar dressing, and Maurice Kettlye beef wellington with crispy frogs legs.

“We’ve been overwhelmed yet again by the runaway success of the Workplace & Employment Awards,” Irish News marketing manager John Brolly said. “This high-calibre winners’ list proves that, as our economy begins to pick up again, Northern Ireland possesses the visionary leadership and flexible working environment to thrive and prosper.”

Stormont Employment and Learning Minister Dr Stephen Farry, who was a top-table guest at last week’s function (and whose department has been a staunch supporter of the Workplace & Employment Awards since their inception in 2007), told the audience that the initiative reinforces the message that the North has people in its workforce capable of making “a real difference” to the economy.

“If we are to compete in a global economic arena, we must continue to do all we can to drive up skills on all fronts, and facilitating the creation of a workforce equipped with the skills needed by companies within Northern Ireland is the strategic focus,” he said. “Skills are widely accepted as the key raw material required in any modern knowledge-based economy and are one of the main drivers in how we will achieve our long term economic goals,” he added.

The awards ceremony – which clashed with England’s ill-fated World Cup defeat to Uruguay – had a pronounced footballing theme, with each of the 52 tables decorated with an impressive underlit football-boot centre-piece, while one guest at each table also won a World Cup football courtesy of O’Neill’s Sportswear. Continuing the theme, Co Armagh-born Margaret Byrne, whose stellar career trajectory has taken her to one of the leading administrative roles in the Barclays Premier League as chief executive of Sunderland AFC, was keynote after-dinner speaker, taking guests on a journey into the trials and tribulations of the North East club’s boardroom.

The awards were supported by seven key business partners in Tughans, Liberty IT, Investors in People, Tesco, H3 Health Insurance, Power NI and Titanic Belfast, and were endorsed by industry bodies the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) and the Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development (CIPD).

Winners 2014

Recruitment Innovator Of The Year

Winner: Webrecruit Ireland

Work-life, Health And Well Being

Public Sector Winner: Northern Ireland Civil Service

Private Sector Winner: GE Energy

Highly Commended: Graham Construction

Workplace Excellence

Winner: St Mary’s College, Derry

Highly Commended: Ulster GAA

Highly Commended: St Mary’s University College, Belfast

Best Place To Work

Small Organisation Winner: Automated Intelligence Limited

Medium Organisation Winner: Eircom

Large Organisation Winner: Lagan Construction Group Ltd

Disability Best Practice Employer

Winner: Belfast City Council

Highly Commended: Clanrye Group

Highly Commended: trip-ability.com

Right Place To Work

Small Organisation Winner: Aurion Learning

Medium Organisation Winner: TotalMobile Ltd

Large Organisation Winner: Lloyds Banking Group

Highly Commended: Henderson Group

Managing Talent

Small/Medium Organisation Winner: CDE Global

Highly Commended: Roe Park Resort

Large Organisation Winner: Musgrave Retail Partners NI

Highly Commended: Survitec Group

Innovative Employer

Small Organisation Winner: Manor Architects

Highly Commended: Core Systems

Large Organisation Winner: O’Neills International Sportswear Co Ltd

Green Award

Winner: Ballyrashane Creamery

Highly Commended: Newforge House

Career Inspiration Award

Education Sector Winner: St Cecilia’s College, Derry

Small Organisation Winner: Young Enterprise Northern Ireland

Medium Organisation Winner: Automated Intelligence Limited

Highly Commended: George Best Belfast City Airport

Large Organisation Winner: Allstate Northern Ireland

Highly Commended: Cookstown District Council