National Training Awards 2021 winners

Woodie’s scoop top prize at 2021 National Training Awards


IITD CEO Sinead Heneghan with Woodie's Training and Communications Co-Ordinator Sean Henderson



Learning and Development Organisation of the Year Winner: Woodie’s

Pearse Walsh Award, presented by Harvest Resources Winner: Vodafone

Best Coaching or Mentoring Winner: Skillnet Ireland

Best Talent Development Initiative Winner: Version 1

Best Consultancy Partnership Winner: Department of Expenditure and Reform & Roffey Park Institute

Best Digital Learning Winner: Citco

Best Leadership Development Initiative Winner: Grant Thornton

Best Not for Profit Collaboration or Partnership Winner: Irish League of Credit Unions

Best Organisation Development Initiative Winner: Dell Technology

Best Diversity & Inclusion Initiative Winner: Vodafone Ireland

Best Graduate Development Initiative: Department of Public Expenditure and Reform



Woodie’s scooped the top prize at the Irish Institute of Training and Development’s National Training Awards today.


The winner showed how effective that the L&D function had been in helping their organisation cope with the difficulties of the past year, and there was real commitment to getting behind the organisation in a time of need.


To win this award, Woodie’s had to present virtually to a panel of IITD judges, who deemed the organisation to have shown tremendous endeavor in understanding the effectiveness of Learning & Development in helping their business cope with the difficulties of the past year. 


The judges felt the clear connections between Learning & Development activities, learner engagement, and business performance, coupled with their continuous focus on employee wellbeing and welfare during the past difficult year makes it an outstanding and worthy winner of this year’s award.


The IITD National Training Awards recognise and promote excellence, best practice and innovation in training and L&D, and to highlight the importance of this area in today’s business climate.


The Awards are the premier learning & development (L&D) event for the industry and the winners were announced over a live broadcast on the afternoon of Wednesday, June 23rd.


IITD was delighted to continue its relationship with Harvest as the main sponsor of the event, and to work with Grant Thornton, Ibec Management Training, Irish Management Institute, The Learning Rooms and Skillnet Ireland as category partners.


Shortlisted companies undergo a robust process to be shortlisted. To win a National Training Award is a huge honour and it has many benefits to the recipients.


Sean Henderson, training and communications co-ordinator for Woodie's, says the pandemic could have halted L&D at the company, which opened in 1987 and has 1800 staff nationwide, but Woodie's saw the situation as an opportunity to work towards something rather than be held back by it.


“With the impact of the pandemic over the past 15 months, we could have been forgiven for putting colleague development on the back-burner but we chose not to.  [This award] is a wonderful piece of recognition for the efforts and support of all colleagues at Woodie’s for our learning and development agenda in recent months.”


The judges were impressed by the company's overall approach to learning and development, which in the past year included everything from well-being training and mental health awareness to first aid. Special mention went to the Woodie’s diversity programme, with all of the company's people managers completing "conscious inclusion" training in the past 18 months.


“As with almost every area of our business, the pandemic has changed some of our training goals and the way in which we measure them," says Henderson.


He adds that training and development have benefits that far outweigh financial outcomes: “Beyond financial benefit, the biggest impact that training has is on colleague engagement. We have managed to establish a high correlation between investment in training and colleague satisfaction scores. Furthermore, there is a high correlation between overall colleague engagement and company profitability.”


Sinéad Heneghan, CEO of Awards hosts IITD, said of this year’s submissions: “This year, there was a clear focus on learning metrics, and the importance of reporting the value to the business of L&D and to analyse how learning is impacting the organisation.”


"There is an increasing focus on the value that learning and development can offer. Linking the outcomes achieved with real organisational needs and challenges demonstrates value for money and a return on any investment," says Heneghan.


“The winners generally displayed all the hallmarks of a great learning and development solution, which addressed an organisational challenge and was evaluated robustly with demonstrable and impressive results," says Heneghan. "In addition, those winners who worked with partners worked as equals, with a challenge-and-build approach that built trust and a great experience for colleagues of this organisation.”


"However, it is essential to acknowledge the adjustments required to maintain the success of these programmes in the context of the pandemic," she adds. “It is encouraging to see evidence of innovation and progression, both in terms of long-standing programmes and in the design and implementation of new programmes.


"In addition, there is increasing evidence of recognition within organisations of the need to be agile and to amend or redesign their programmes in terms of structure, content and duration beyond the obvious impact of responding to Covid-19.”


Nicola O’Neill, managing director of Harvest, the main sponsor of the IITD National Awards says innovation within companies is essential.  Sometimes, according to O'Neill, that innovation can extend beyond traditional learning and development.


Harvest also presents the Pearse Walsh Award, named after the company’s late founder and introduced in 2007. This year, the award went to Vodafone for the introduction of a policy within its organisation that supports victims of domestic abuse.


A vast amount of research has been carried out that shows that victims of domestic abuse often feel safer at work than they do at home with Covid-19 bringing the issue of domestic violence to the fore.


O’Neill says that Vodafone, which partnered with Women's Aid on the project, demonstrated strong courage by broaching this challenging subject. 


“Vodafone is a leader on this very sensitive topic. The policy trains all the people managers on understanding how to recognise signs of domestic abuse and what to do if they find out a colleague is in a difficult situation. Vodafone saw a need to create a policy and training as part of its diversity and inclusion agenda," says O'Neill.


Vodafone is now working with other companies to help them create similar awareness and training programmes. "In time, domestic violence policies will become mainstream in company diversity and inclusion agendas," says O’Neill.


The IITD National Training awards have wide-reaching implications, with winners often expressing their delight at not only getting their work recognised but at the elevation the awards gives to the purpose of what they are doing.


“Because a professional industry body recognises their work, it helps with so many other aspects of business and in areas such as future funding and stakeholder engagement," says O'Neill.



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