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2021 NZ HR Awards WINNERS announced!

Last night New Zealand's leading HR professionals gathered to celebrate industry success at the NZ HR Awards Ceremony. Finalists, Sponsors, fellow HR professionals and their guests enjoyed a very special night as people celebrated in person, and joined via livestream for the first time. Postponed from March due to COVID lockdown in Auckland, attendees commented how exciting it was to be able to network in person once again.

So, without further ado, HRNZ, in association with Principal Partner LHH, are excited to announce the winners of the prestigious NZ HR Awards for 2021...

The Individual Award winners are as follows:

  • HR Student of the Year - Rebecca Ralph (VictoriaUniversity of Wellington),
  • Emerging HR Practitioner - Sona Valesyan (Tonkin + Taylor)
  • HR Generalist of the Year - Natasha Holloway (Fulton Hogan)
  • HR Specialist of the Year - Bonita McCarthy (Fonterra)
  • Leadership Awardin association with Sorted at Work - Amy Clarke (Statistics NZ)
  • HR Person of the Year - Amy Clarke (Statistics NZ)
  • Lifetime Achievement Award in association with Strategic Pay - Frances Tweedy

The Organisational Awards winners are as follows:

  • Diversity & Inclusion: SkyCity Entertainment Group
  • HR Innovation: Jade Software
  • Learning & Development Capability in association with Open Polytechnic: NZ Institute for Plant and Food Research
  • Organisational Change & Developmentin association with LHH: Whangarei District Council
  • Technology in association with Ceridian: Vodafone
  • Talent Acquisition in association with Aims Global: Summerset Holdings
  • Best Wellness Programme in association with Southern Cross: Chorus
  • HRNZ Branch of the Year: Auckland

HRNZ Chief Executive Nick McKissack summarised the special feeling on the night. “HR Professionals throughout New Zealand really rose to the occasion in 2020 as workplaces experienced massive disruptions arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.  It has been great to take some time to celebrate the truly amazing achievements of the HR community at our annual Awards Ceremony.  Our heartfelt congratulations to all the finalists and winners.”

LHH New Zealand Country Manager Sake Hitman extended congratulations to the winners and finalists “We often forget that the work our HR Professionals do directly impacts individuals, the members of our community. It’s an honour and a pleasure to join with HRNZ in recognising the positive impact of and excellence in HR initiatives that demonstrate innovation and responsibility. On behalf of LHH I’d like to, once again, congratulate all of our award winners.


About the Individual Award Winners

The Individual Awards recognised the contributions of leading HR professionals across New Zealand. Congratulations to all the deserving winners and Finalists.

It was a big night for Amy Clarke from Statistics New Zealand who was a finalist in the HR Generalist Award, won the HR Leadership Award and the prestigious HR Person of the Year Award (which is selected from the individual awards winners). The judges were impressed that Amy actively leads a generalist HR team whilst simultaneously operating as the organisation’s subject matter expert in diversity and inclusion, for which it is clear Amy has a major passion.

In announcing Amy as HR Person of the Year the Chief Judge commented… “Amy deserves this award because she operates at a very senior and effective level as a proven HR leader, an effective HR generalist manager and as a committed and passionate subject matter expert in diversity and inclusion.  Amy makes a meritorious people contribution within her organisation and in the wider community.”

The new HR Student of the Year Award attracted a lot of entries with 4 deserving finalists named. Rebecca Ralph was named Student of the Year, with the judges commending her proactive approach to networking, in particular her role as Student Ambassador in the Wellington region.

Sona Valesyan from Tonkin + Taylor was awarded the Emerging HR Practitioner Award. The judges were impressed with Sona’s willingness to take on specialist tasks such as involvement in wellbeing and diversity and inclusion teams. She also operates significantly outside of the business involving herself in many external groups relating to HR and engineering and in community groups particularly focussing on youth and employment.

The HR Generalist of the Year Award went to Natasha Holloway from Fulton Hogan. Without any formal qualification in HR, Natasha followed her passion working to build her knowledge through practical on the job training. The judges commented “Natasha has risen to a senior role providing the highest quality of people leadership whilst externally working in community initiatives relating to apprenticeships and other youth focused activities.”

The HR Specialist of the Year Award went to Bonita McCarthy who operates reward management, mobility, performance, and people analytics speciality globally for Fonterra. The judges were impressed that Bonita’s complex specialist activities span the entire company and include operating at the highest strategic levels on a regular basis making a real difference to the company and its people.

The Lifetime Achievement Award, in association with Strategic Pay, was presented to HRNZ Distinguished Fellow Frances Tweedy in recognition of her lifelong dedication to the human resources industry in New Zealand and her incredible achievements throughout her career.


About the Organisational Award Winners

The Organisational Awards recognised the contributions of HR teams and organisations across New Zealand.

The COVID-19 pandemic saw HR teams pushed to the frontline of response, having to adapt systems and processes with limited to no in-person people contact. The role these HR professionals and teams played was vital to the survival of many New Zealand organisations, and these Awards reflect that.

SkyCity Entertainment Group took out the Diversity and Inclusion Award for Project Nikau. The key objective of Project Nikau was to achieve their Character and Culture goals and deliver on their sustainability strategy, ultimately enhancing their social license to operate, whilst also building a pipeline of talent for SkyCity.

Jade Software won the HR innovation Award for their “Hybrid Way of Working” or HWoW initiative. Described as a reimagined way of working HWoW enabled Jade staff to define where they work from and have a level of flexibility on when they do their hours, to better enable them to balance their lives.

The NZ Institute for Plant and Food Research won the Learning & Development Capability Award in association with Open Polytechnic for their mentoring programme. In formalising the natural mentoring relationships that were occurring, PFR bought together a focus on career values aligned to creating a smart green future with a collaborative workforce.

Whangarei District Council won the Organisational Change & Development Awardin association with LHH for their Our Korero initiative, which lead to the formation of a group tasked with developing a strategy set by their staff. Both the tikanga and action plan were made up of the things that mattered most to their people.

Vodafone won the Technology Awardin association with Ceridian for their Vlife app. The Vlife app was enhanced to reduce disruption during the changing COVID alert levels, additional and innovative functionality was added to Vlife to support the new ways of working. This ensured their teams stayed connected when working remotely and enabled digital management of the health, safety, and wellbeing of their people.

SummersetHoldings won the Talent Acquisition Awardin association with Aims Global for the implementation of their iLearn learning management platform. The Summerset L&D team fast-tracked iLearn, and repurposed it so that new staff could begin their onboarding/ orientation programmes from home while they self-isolated to meet their clinical risk mitigation plans, ensuring the health, safety, and wellbeing of our people.

Chorus won the Best Wellness Programmein association with Southern Cross for the overhaul of their wellness programme, to develop a wellbeing support model focussed around Courageous korero, a dedicated intranet space, the development of a Mental Fitness Network (monthly support group) and participation in national awareness campaigns such as Pink shirt Day.

Auckland Branch were awarded the HRNZ Branch of the Year for 2021. The Auckland Committee worked tirelessly to continue delivering a variety of quality events online during the COVID-19 lockdown. With a focus on putting faces to names, the Auckland Branch Committee Members created profiles, sharing them to the Auckland LinkedIn group page, to increase the profile of the Committee and provide greater connection with its Members.


About the NZ HR Awards:

Brought to you by Human Resources New Zealand (HRNZ) in association with LHH, the NZ HR Awards celebrate excellence in human resources practice by individuals and organisations across New Zealand. New Zealand’s premier HR awards provide individuals and HR teams with the opportunity to take part in a process of discovery, awareness, acknowledgment, and achievement which provides an insight into the value that HR adds to organisations.


For further information or to arrange an interview with HRNZ Chief Executive Nick McKissack, please call Steve Sheppard (HRNZ Communications Manager) on 027 863 1246.