Every year, the Railstaff Awards attracts more entries, more interest and more companies than ever before, even though it’s not a corporate event. Why?
The rail industry, like almost all other industries, has its fair share of awards evenings. Organised by trade associations, publications, interested parties and even individual companies, they are all pretty much the same. Only the RailStaff Awards stands out as being completely different from all the others.
Since its inception in 2007, the annual RailStaff Awards has been quite different from all the other rail industry events that take place throughout the year.
The first major difference is that no company ever wins anything. The RailStaff Awards are for rail staff – the people that make the industry great. There are 22 categories, some for teams, some for individuals and some for both, but they are all for people.
Of course, all of those people work for a company, and their employer will get the kudos of them winning an award. Indeed, many companies encourage employees to enter, and even help them do so. Posters appear on company noticeboards, and it is possible that some nominations are even written by company PR departments, but, at the end of the day, it is the person that is in the frame, not the company.
Very often, the entrant isn’t even nominated for being a good employee, or a good representative of the company. The Rail Engineer of the Year doesn’t win because she is great at engineering, and the Rail Manager of the Year isn’t a winner because he is a conscientious manager. No, they win because of what else they do, in their spare time and between shifts. They work to support colleagues, the public and the industry, to make the railway safer or to help the needy and infirm, to help schoolchildren be safe around the railway and to develop new ways to make the railway more efficient and perform better – often not in the area in which they normally work.
In short, they win for ‘going the extra mile’ – a rather hackneyed phrase but one which, in this case, describes exactly what the judges are looking for.
Do you work with an extraordinary train driver, station manager or engineer? Nominate them in one of 22 categories today:
The categories in full:
- Apprentice of the Year
- Award for Charity
- Covid Hero – Outstanding Individual Award
- Covid Heroes – Outstanding Team Award
- Customer Service Award
- Depot Staff Award
- Digital Railway Person (S&T) or Team Award
- Graduate or Newcomer Award
- Health & Wellbeing Award
- HR, Diversity & Inclusion Person or Team Award
- Learning & Development Award
- Lifetime Achievement Award
- Marketing & Communications Team Award
- Rail Civils / Infrastructure Team Award
- Rail Engineer of the Year
- Rail Manager of the Year
- Rail Person of the Year
- Rail Project Manager Award
- Rail Team of the Year
- Safety Person or Team Award
- Samaritans Lifesaver Award
- Station Staff Award
Nominations and public voting
The second difference from other awards is that nobody enters. Everyone is nominated by somebody else. So, individuals and teams are nominated by colleagues and co-workers, by management, by friends, by union reps and even by the public. Anyone can nominate and there are only two rules – you can’t nominate yourself, and you can’t work for RailStaff (which would be a bit unfair).
It’s also preferable if the nominee doesn’t work for the category’s sponsor, as that can affect the judging. So, for example, a train manufacturer could choose to sponsor the Depot Staff award, as many of those depot staff will be working in that company’s depots, and then encourage its own staff to be nominated for other awards.
Once the nominations are in, details are posted on the Awards’ website and then the public voting commences. Yes – public voting! Anyone and everyone can go onto the website and vote for their favourite, whether it be for an entry that has really impressed them or just for their mate. This is when the nominees need to mobilise their fan clubs to get the votes in.
Once the public voting is complete, details of the top fifteen in each of the 22 categories go off to the judges – a mix of independent people, RailStaff personnel and category sponsors. The judging teams then choose a winner and up to two ‘highly commended’ entries for each category.
To give some idea of the volumes involved, in 2019, the 20 categories attracted 1,359 nominations for 765 nominees (some had multiple nominations) proposed by 1,221 nominators. Those nominees then received 100,776 public votes, or an average of 131 votes each.
Everyone has a great time
On the night, after a good dinner and some spectacular entertainment – usually consisting of fire breathers hanging from the ceiling by ribbons (watch the video on the website if you don’t believe it!) – the compere runs through the various categories, every short-listed finalist is named, the highly commended entries are announced, then the category winners go up on stage to receive their awards to thunderous applause (and sometimes a lot of screaming from colleagues at the table!).
After the presentations are over, and photographs taken, the RailStaff Awards shows the third way in which it differs from other industry affairs. Rather than the largely male audience leaving their tables and aiming for the bar, which is what happens at many other events, in this case, as the Awards are for people, many have spouses, partners and/or colleagues with them. Let the party begin!
Dancing continues until one, and there are various other activities to indulge in as well.
In summary, the annual RailStaff Awards is an EVENT. It’s a celebration of what makes our industry great – its people. Winners and finalists come from all levels of the industry. And you know what? They all mix and mingle and have a great time.
If you’ve not been to the RailStaff Awards, then you should. No, you must! It’s not a ball (but there are some great party frocks), it’s not a networking event (though it is), and it’s not a corporate event (though corporate pays for most of it). It is all of those things and more. It’s the RailStaff Awards!