Judges pick their finalists - and one will take overall Employer of the Year gong

Workplace & Employment Awards judging panel chair Ellvena Graham, chair of ESB (centre), with (from left) Gary McDonald (Irish News business editor), Ashleen Feeney (director at KPMG), Sam Davidson (group human resources director at Henderson Group) and David Paulson (Professor of Practice at Queen’s University Belfast Management School). Photo: Hugh Russell

A SIX-strong panel has sat in judgment over the record number of entries in this year's Irish News Workplace & Employment Awards and unearthed an impressive clutch of finalists and winners.

And for the first time, they also selected an overall Employer of the Year, drawn from the near-200 entries received, and who will be crowned with the top accolade at the awards bash in Titanic Belfast on Thursday June 13.

As well as the kudos of being named as overall Employer of the Year, that winner will also receive a special workshop from well-being partner the Ulster Orchestra, which will enable further employee engagement.

The list of finalists - published on the page opposite - includes many of the north's blue chip companies like First Derivatives, Almac, CDE, Moy Park and MJM Marine, each of whom have carved out a niche in global markets.

The roll of honour also includes dozens of mid-range firms whose exploits and growth are followed on a regular basis on the business pages of the Irish News and other publications.

But more than a dozen companies with employee numbers in the single figures - as well as two sole-trader firms - are included on the short-list, many going toe-to-toe in their categories against household names.

And, of course, a number of schools and educational bodies will feature prominently in the awards, which celebrate talent at every level within an organisation.

Yesterday's judging panel was presided over by Ellvena Graham, chair of ESB and a past-president of the NI Chamber of Commerce.

She was joined by Ashleen Feeney (director at KPMG), Sam Davidson (group human resources director at Henderson Group), David Paulson (Professor of Practice at Queen's University Management School), Orlagh O'Neill (partner at Carson McDowell) and Gary McDonald (Irish News business editor).

The Irish News Workplace & Employment Awards initiative, now in its 13th year, has grown to be one of the pre-eminent awards events in Northern Ireland.

It puts the emphasis not on profits and losses, but on the talent within the organisation, which is pivot in an era when attracting, recruiting, retaining and developing teams of people who fit an organisational culture and produce results is critical for the future of Northern Ireland's economy.

Irish News marketing manager John Brolly said: "We are thrilled with another record number of entries this year, and I thank the judges for their work in producing our list of finalists.

"The Workplace & Employment Awards go from strength to strength, and thankfully it is based on the positive benefits that our winners experience from their association with these awards.

"This year the competition has been particularly intense, but we've managed to create a short list of outstanding entrants, and June 13 will be another truly exciting evening - with a few little twists and surprises thrown in."

Mr Brolly added: "We're grateful as always to our business partners, who are a key ingredient in the overall mix of these awards.

"They are Carson McDowell, Miller Hospitality, KPMG, the Public Health Agency, Henderson Group, Queen's University, Progressive Building Society and our venue partner Titanic Belfast."

The glittering Workplace & Employment Awards black-tie dinner in Titanic Belfast on June 13 will be compered by BBC journalist Karen Patterson and co-hosted by irrepressible comedian Tim McGarry.

:: For full awards details visit

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