The glitz and glamour of the AHRI Awards dinner is the culmination of much determination, blood, sweat and tears.
The atmosphere practically bubbled with anticipation at HR’s night of nights, the annual AHRI Awards dinner. Hard-working HR practitioners flocked to the swanky Pullman Albert Park in Melbourne, dressed to the nines, ready to let their hair down and celebrate those who took home the gongs for their outstanding achievements. The MC, comedian Lawrence Mooney, was in fine form, and spirits were soaring throughout the grand ballroom. A live jazz band regaled the almost 700-strong crowd, before making way for some funkier beats later on.
All the 94 finalists were honoured, with 27 walking off with the coveted awards on a night when the achievements of HR were celebrated. Among the winners are Mari Ruiz, who won the Dave Ulrich HR leader award and Dora Peake, winner of the Dave Ulrich HR practitioner award.
Of her win, Peake, HR manager business partnering at Transurban, says, it’s a “very big acknowledgement of the work we do as HR practitioners, and a recognition of how critical the HR function is to a business as a true partner”.
There are two initiatives Peake believe contributed to her success – one being the establishment of a community practice that allows employees to connect and network based on their shared interests in order to influence their growth and development. While they bring different skill levels, each staff member is afforded the opportunity to collaborate on real business problems, says Peake.
Ruiz, chief people and culture officer at BankVic, says she was surprised, yet chuffed by her nod of approval from AHRI. She describes herself as a somewhat “unconventional” HR professional. “I’m versatile, I spend time in other parts of the business and get highly involved. I’m grateful that I have a CEO who allows me to try new and different approaches.”
Ruiz says one of the key ways she brought creativity into her initiatives was through the development of the culture program, The Beat of BankVic. The five-year road map incorporates many different elements of the business, such as marketing, member satisfaction and the digital landscape. Breaking away from HR speak is also important, says Ruiz.
When presenting the Elizabeth Broderick AO Workforce Flexibility Award to Cbus, Broderick drew from personal experience, describing how when she was promoted to a senior position in her law firm about 15 years ago, she found out three out of 10 of her new team members were pregnant. It put her in a tough spot – because she, their boss, was also pregnant. Broderick says they worked through it, flexibly. Something utterly unheard of in law firms at that time.
In light of so much attention on technology recently, the focus on people was emphasised by Peter WIlliams, CEO of Deloitte, who gave his name to an award that recognises technological achievement. Williams says technology, while vital, plays second fiddle to people. It’s not the technology that deserves the recognition, he says, but the people who wield it. The award was given to IBM Australia.
In an inspiring closing address, CEO Lyn Goodear talked about the four personality traits that sit behind the AHRI brand. They are: bold, proud, genuine and visionary. These words were chosen by AHRI members in a commissioned survey about the organisation, and Goodear says they perfectly encapsulate the breadth of talent in each award category. The finalists “brought these words to life”, she says.
“From the bold action so many have displayed, to push past barriers of bias and inequity, to the great pride that we’ve seen being expressed by individuals and teams in celebrating the positive impact that they’ve had on their workplaces. To the genuine care and understanding that sits behind all of the initiatives that we have recognised this evening, and finally, to the vision that so many have expressed – to ensure our workplaces and work, are productive, safe and rewarding.”
Until next year.