People professionals play an increasingly vital role in helping their businesses and people navigate the ongoing global crisis. The pandemic, lockdowns and economic standstill have re-focused our attention on issues such as diversity and inclusion, employee wellbeing, mental health, and learning and development. Since the start of 2020, organisations have had to rapidly upskill or reskill their teams to meet the demands of our new reality.

In this context, recognising the hard work of HR and L&D professionals is more important than ever. Organised by the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development (CIPD), the Middle East People Awards recognise individuals, teams and organisations for their commitment to promoting positive work cultures and best practices.

Over 200 participants joined the virtual ceremony on 23 September 2020, which honoured the region’s most innovative and impactful employers across eleven categories.

The winners span across industries and countries in the region, with some large organisations recognised for unique initiatives such as Petroleum Development Oman or Aramco, but also lesser known organisations such as AFAQ for Leadership or Axiom Telecom, that took home the most coveted award this year. 

In the Diversity & Inclusion category, three outstanding entries were recognised. Fashion brand Splash was highly commended for their holistic approach and exceptional initiatives around gender diversity and the inclusion of people of determination. Mastercard received a commended mention for their ‘Relaunch-Your-Career’ programme, a returnship programme supporting female employees in returning to work after a career break.

The winner however of the Most Impactful Diversity & Inclusion Initiative Award was EY MENA for their progressive strategy focusing on gender diversity. “Our aim is to drive breakthrough performance in the execution of our D&I agenda – and not just to make incremental progress year on year. We’re doing that through the application of not just our programmes, initiatives and the targets that we set across the board of diversity & inclusiveness – but also in the sponsorship of leadership that trickles right down to the organisation. We’ve established gender targets across the organisation driven by the right mix. This year has been a record year for EY across the globe in gender diversity, with 35% of our promotions being female at the board level”, says Rachel Ellyard, HR Director at EY MENA upon receiving the award.

Injazat took home the ‘Best Digital Innovation in HR’ Award for their new technology solution used to support their Emiratisation strategy and deployed within their talent management team. ADNOC was highly commended in this category, for their forward-thinking employee development initiative centred around immersive and interactive learning technologies, including the use of artificial intelligence.

The Best L&D Programme Award – one of the most anticipated categories this year with over 60 nominations – was awarded to Saudi Aramco for its highly innovative, outcome-driven and people-centric learning initiative.

Competing with Jumeirah, WSP and Mastercard, Axiom Telecom took home the best HR / L&D Team of the Year for their outstanding performance in supporting their people streams through the organisation’s business transformation from a traditional retailer, wholesaler and distributor to a predominantly platform distributor – all the while supporting the downsizing and restructure of the existing business. “This was a real example of true business partnering during a period of exceptional change, and I would like to thank them for their dedication, creativity, innovation, tenacity and resilience”, concludes Dominic Keogh Peters, Group Director – People Operations at Axiom Telecom. 

Lastly, the Employer of Choice Award was presented to PwC for designing, developing and implementing a comprehensive digital upskilling programme, engaging their teams through gamification and inter-office collaboration, to close the skill gap and provide robust future-focused career support. Bahri, the national shipping carrier of Saudi Arabia, was highly commended in this category for their commitment to building a culture of learning and continuous improvement of local and international talent, along with consistent initiatives around gender diversity.

Catch up on the virtual ceremony and hear from the Winners and Highly Commended Entries

Clarification: The 2020 nominations were judged and shortlisted in March 2020 prior to the global pandemic and consequent economic conditions.

Nominations for the CIPD Middle East People Awards 2021 are now open. Download the Entry Kit here to view the awards questions, timelines and nomination links.

Media Centre

If you’re a journalist or member of the press looking for more information or to speak to one of our experts, please contact our press team. 

Callout Image

Championing better work and working lives

About the CIPD

At the CIPD, we champion better work and working lives. We help organisations to thrive by focusing on their people, supporting economies and society for the future. We lead debate as the voice for everyone wanting a better world of work.