IOE and IT highly commended at HR awards following rapid transformation during the pandemic

Fri 22 Apr 2022
Posted by: William Barns-Graham
IOE News


The IOE&IT HR team (left to right): Andrea Jarvis (Senior HR and admin team lead), Kelly Rawles (chief operating officer) and Hollie Ward (HR apprentice)

The Institute of Export & International Trade (IOE&IT) was highly commended in the SME category of the British HR Awards yesterday (21 April) at a ceremony event in London.

Tasked with delivering advice and training to British businesses planning for Brexit, the IOE&IT was praised for more than tripling its staff numbers to cope with increased demand at the same time as managing the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.


IOE&IT chief operating officer Kelly Rawles told the IOE&IT Daily Update that it was an “honour” to be recognised.

“The team has worked so hard over the last year as we have grown from an organisation of under 20 people to one of over 130,” she said.

She added: “On-boarding that many new colleagues during a pandemic has been a real challenge, but everyone at the IOE&IT has worked together to make the transformation a success. I’m particularly proud of how we have recruited from a range of backgrounds, ages and nationalities – it really reflects how diverse the international trade profession is.”

Leading from the front

The challenge was exacerbated by the demand that customs and trade professionals were in, as businesses prepared for Brexit.

The Institute’s director general Marco Forgione told HR Magazine last year: “For the first time since 1973, the UK government would be in control of international trade, but it would require a huge shift in how businesses needed to operate, with the IOE&IT needing to lead the way on how to interpret the ever-changing advice.”

Dedicated team

The IOE&IT worked with recruitment specialists and scoured its own membership base for retired trade experts to tempt back into the sector. It then used an online onboarding programme to get them up to speed.

Rawles, who was the IOE&IT’s head of HR and administration at the time, said the process attracted applicants from around the world and created a sense that they were involved in a major, once-in-a-lifetime mission.

“The best part of this project is that this group chose to be with us when, with their skills in huge demand, they could have gone elsewhere. We know a key reason they opted for us was to be part of a large group of like-minded trade experts, educating the industry rather than working for just one company,” she said.

kelly rawles on panel

Sharing insight: Rawles (centre right) speaks on a panel chaired by Perry Timms (right) of People & Transformational HR 

HR winners

The commendation came at last night’s British HR Awards ceremony in central London, where the winners were announced from more than 100 entries.

Run by next generation employee insight platform New Possible, the awards celebrate the organisations and individuals that are truly passionate about delivering a world-class people experience.

Winners and finalists shared how their initiatives are transforming their employees’ experience and delivering tangible value for their organisations.

The entries were judged by a senior panel of HR professionals - including representatives of Apple, Aldi, Talk Talk and KFC.

High quality

Nate Harwood, founder of New Possible said: “The quality and diversity of entries has made judging a real challenge, but also a great privilege. We’re immensely proud to recognise the organisations and individuals that are working hard to create exceptional people experiences.

“These leaders are fundamentally reimagining the future of work and helping to showcase British HR leadership on a truly global scale. Congratulations to all the Finalists.”