Meet Laura, NRL’s Unsung Hero of the Year 2023
Every December, colleagues from across the NRL Group gather for the NRL Christmas Conference, featuring the highly anticipated NRL Group Awards.
In the lead up, colleagues are encouraged to submit award nominations. Following this, the Group Executive Board has the daunting responsibility of compiling the finalists and drawing up the list of winners.
Laura Smith, Senior Recruitment Consultant in NRL’s Sunderland branch, was the winner of the 2023 Unsung Hero of the Year award, and we caught up with her to chat more about the award and her role within the Recruitment business.
Well done, Laura – being recognised as the Unsung Hero of the Year is a remarkable achievement, how does it feel?
Amazing, I really enjoy my job so to be recognised for the work that I do means the world to me. It was such a great feeling to know that others value the work I do. NRL is a brilliant place to develop a career, I’m proud to play a part in the company.
Can you share your initial thoughts and emotions upon learning about this recognition?
I was actually with some of our clients when the nominations came through. They were so happy for me. I wasn’t expecting it at all. When I came out of the meeting, I had also received a few messages of congratulations from the team in Sunderland and Teesside. We have an amazing and supportive team, and always celebrate each other’s successes. It was quite a surprise to be nominated but such a great feeling.
You’ve been commended for your ongoing support and mentoring of junior colleagues – why is this important to you?
One of the most rewarding parts of my job is supporting and mentoring the team. We’ve been very lucky to attract some incredibly talented graduates and trainees to the branch over the last few years. It’s been great to be part of their journey, watching them grow in confidence and being able to take on new challenges and responsibilities.
Over the years you’ve spearheaded a great deal of CSR and charity activities – do you enjoy this side of your work?
Yes, very much so. It’s great to be able to give something back as well as looking at initiatives to be involved in, and seeing the impact we, as a business, can have. It’s all about doing the right thing and the CSR activities give us a chance to make sure that is what we are doing.
As a branch, we have had involvement in a number of charities over the years including the Royal Voluntary Service, Grace House and the Lighthouse Construction Industry Charity. Each charity plays a vital role in the communities and industries we work in. The opportunity to not just fundraise but to volunteer using our paid charity day means we can really see the difference these charities are making.
2023 was a busy year for you and the Sunderland team, how impact it is to still make time for personal development despite the large to do list?
One of the highlights of 2023 for me, was completing the CMI Level 3 Principals of Leadership. The course was intense, but it gave me the opportunity to develop my skills and apply them in my current role. It can be a struggle to fit in the time for personal development however I always think the benefit in the long run far outweighs this.
You’ve worked in recruitment for over a decade, what keeps the sector interesting?
My work is constantly evolving. There is always a new client, a new project, a new technology to get involved with. I’ve had the opportunity to work with some amazing clients and build up great relationships with them. It’s so interesting to see projects go from initial design to completion. I’ve also recruited for a variety of roles, working trades, technical, contract and permanent roles. There is always something new to learn.
What do you find most rewarding about your work?
I’m lucky to be involved in a lot of the strategic development in the North East branches. This has seen me become more involved with the team in both Sunderland and Teesside.
I really enjoy taking a prospect and attending initial meetings to getting vacancies, setting up processes and seeing the accounts grow. On some accounts, I also get to work closely with other departments such as Marketing and IT. I find it very rewarding to work collaboratively across the Group and fantastic to see the end result.
Upon winning, a £500 donation was given to a charity of your choice, The Foundation of Light – what made you choose them?
Every year we attend a networking event called Offshore Wind North East, this is held at the Beacon of Light in Sunderland. The first year, I was introduced to a member of the team at the Foundation of Light and he gave me a tour of the facility and told me about the services they provide. Their vision is to “create better opportunities and better lives for our communities.” You can see this from the moment you step through the door, whether it’s seeing people playing walking football, the disability programmes they run, or the young people arriving to attend a study programme. The impact they have on the local community is huge and something I am proud to support, even though I am a Newcastle United fan!
A valuable member of our Sunderland recruitment team
In the run up to the NRL Group Awards, our Group Executive Board explained to colleagues why Laura was shortlisted for the award: