acacia logo

Ryan Hollingshead wins the CIPD People Management Award 2021

acacia learning logo

Ryan not only had to balance studying for his level 7 qualification during a global pandemic, but he also won an industry award for his achievements during an extremely challenging time for everyone.

Ryan says: “I would definitely recommend Acacia learning. The delivery methods and resources are outstanding and focussed on students optimising their performance within assignments.”


How did you get into HR?

I realise now I had quite an unusual entry into the HR Profession. Whilst serving in the Royal Marine Commandos in the noughties, during a period when many of us were conducting repeated operational deployments overseas, I observed that many faced administration challenges that added to the immense stress during deployments and upon the return from overseas.

I completed an entry level MOD payroll qualification in 2008 and was promoted to personnel manager in 2011. Following over 12 years’ service I decided to leave the Royal Marines in 2018. The MOD had supported me through both my level 3 and level 5 CIPD qualifications, during which I realised a move into the wonderful world of HR was what I wanted to do.

I was recruited by a food producer within the FMCG sector in September 2019 to set up a newly formed HR function for the organisation.

As was originally the case during my service life, what I enjoy most is supporting and guiding individuals and teams to enable people to enhance their performance and facilitate better working lives.


Why Acacia?

I had read several extremely positive testimonials and Acacia is also an approved MOD ELC provider which made the decision an easy one. Additionally, my hope was to attend London classroom workshops, however COVID-19 would mean this was impossible.

I had always intended to complete all levels of the CIPD qualification. However, following the onset of COVID-19 and the implications it had on my own organisation, I wanted to enhance my professional knowledge and network immediately. I ended up doing the CIPD Level 7 Diploma in HRM via live online sessions.

The knowledge, skill and academic understanding of the tutors was the most enjoyable aspect of completing the Live Online course. The 7ELW Module with Stephen Taylor was my favourite module. His understanding and experience made the module really engaging and enhanced my confidence in completing that module’s assignment.

All the Acacia Tutors have been outstanding. Without their input and post-learning weekend feedback, I would not have been able to complete the course.


Challenges along the way

As many HR professionals will confirm, the COVID-19 pandemic presented several challenges that the function, in my case, just myself, was responsible for overcoming.

Implementing a COVID-19 secure workplace, supporting the furlough scheme, enhancing the organisation’s health and wellbeing package to include mental health support, and completing a business acquisition during the pandemic formed the bulk of my workplace challenges.

Time management became key to successfully supporting my personal and family life, although the lockdowns meant a few of the usual distractions were removed.


How has gaining your CIPD qualification benefited you the most?

I have gained a huge amount of confidence from the qualification so far. This confidence has led to a strong belief that I add real value to employees and the organisation itself.

Gaining the CIPD qualification has broadened my knowledge and understanding of how the HR function is successfully delivered within a multitude of differing organisations.

Additionally, the course has facilitated my move to the senior leadership team and even supported the development of key workplace relationships. The building of this network has formed a key role in my development and subsequent performance at work.


Winning the CIPD People Management Award 2021!

Congratulations Ryan for also winning the CIPD People Management Outstanding Student Award, Advanced level! The judges said that Ryan’s submission was:

“An inspiring story of the impact that evidenced-based, ethical HR practice can have on an SME in a sector massively impacted by Covid”. They added it was an “impressive account of Ryan’s passion for HR” and that he was a “worthy winner of this award category”.

Read more about Ryan:


Interested in following in Ryan’s footsteps and joining the Acacia Family? Learn more about studying CIPD with us.