WEA initiative introduces overall Employer of the Year award for 2019

At the launch of the Irish News Workplace and Employment Awards are (from left) John Brolly (Irish News marketing manager), Lisa James (communications manager at Devenish), Chris Morrow (NI Chamber of Commerce head of communications & policy) and Gareth McKeown (Irish News business desk). Photos: Declan Roughan
Gary McDonald Business Editor

THE 13th running of the Irish News Workplace & Employment Awards, which is now up and running for entries, will continue with its unashamed focus of recognising and rewarding talent, with its 2019 strapline being TALENT EQUALS SUCCESS.

A launch event for the awards - which take place in Titanic Belfast on Thursday June 13 - was held in Hickson's Point, presided over by BBC presenter Karen Patterson and at which the guest speaker was former investment banker Darragh McCarthy, chief executive and founder of Belfast and Derry-based financial services group FinTrU.

"These awards are unique in the market in that they focus not on profit and loss sheets, but on the positive work companies do in motivating their people and retaining their key talent," Irish News editor Noel Doran said.

"Northern Ireland is at near full employment, and the war for talent shows no sign of abating. Employee experience is becoming as big an issue for companies and organisations as the customer experience.

"In other words, if you don't have the motivated and talented employee, you won't have the customer.

"Companies need to engage with the hearts and minds of their employees, who expect workplaces to stand for more than profit alone.

"And it's simple - when people are engaged, they work better and feel motivated."

This year's WEA initiative also sees the introduction of an overall Employer of the Year award, which the judges will select from all the entries received.

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

“This should be a tremendous additional incentive for companies and organisations to continue to participate in the Workplace & Employment Awards, as they've done in their many hundreds since 2007,” Mr Doran added.

The Workplace & Employment Awards launch was attended by representatives from many of Northern Ireland's leading business organisations and trade groups, along with past winners and senior managers from the Irish News initiative's eight business partners.

Returning as sponsors for 2019 are Carson McDowell, The Public Health Agency, Henderson Group, Queen's University and venue partner Titanic Belfast, who will join three new business partners in Miller Hospitality, KPMG and Progressive Building Society.

In his address to guests, Mr McCarthy reiterated the awards theme when he said there is a “hugely competitive war for new talent” – and that attracting, retaining and developing the best people is imperative for the success and growth of any business.

He said: “This is undoubtedly one of the pre-eminent awards in Northern Ireland, and I can only encourage every company out there to make the effort to enter, because if you are fortunate enough to be present at the WEAs in the glitz of the Titanic, it is a ringing endorsement of who you are and what you want to be.

“It will help you build your brand, win more business and, in this hugely competitive war for new talent, will set you apart as being more nimble and more agile.

“From FinTrU's perspective, we'll be striving to again get to the top of the pile, because winning a WEA award last year was a massive boost for us. It gives you proud employees for life, staff with a winning mentality.

“As an entrepreneur, you can be either optimistic or pessimistic. However, there's a big difference. pessimist worries about bad things twice – before they happen and when they happen. But an optimist worries about those bad things just once – when they happen. Only worry about Brexit and all the bad things when they happen. For now let's get on with nurturing our workplace talent.”

:: Entries for the 2019 Irish News Workplace & Employment Awards will remain open until Friday May 3, with the finalists being announced on Thursday May 16. More details at Follow us on Twitter at @irishnewsWEA

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