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Young Achiever of the Year - Baljinder (Bal) Rai, Unum

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What the judges loved about Bal was not only her long list of personal achievements, consistent and ...

What the judges loved about Bal was not only her long list of personal achievements, consistent and rapid professional development and excellent return-to-work results as a vocational rehabilitation consultant, but also the fact her infectious 'can-do' attitude shone through in her entry.

Described by her employer as "bubbly, approachable and highly determined" it quickly became evident that this is all backed up by hard fact.

Having made a successful transition from Unum's claims department to the role of vocational rehab consultant in September 2006 - when she became only the second person to win a place on Unum's specialised trainee programme - Bal has capitalised on every opportunity to put her occupational psychology skills from her Masters into practice, developing an open and honest style that builds mutual trust and frank communication between all parties.

This has enabled her to build a particularly strong relationship with one of Unum's largest clients, receiving 30 referrals between September 2006 and February 2008 with 21 of these individuals already returned to work on a full-time basis, and a further seven progressing well and likely to return in the near future. This gives Bal an impressive 90% success rate with this particular organisation - a rate reflected in her work with other clients. On average, 50% of her cases return to work within 100 days; 50% of those with mental health diagnoses return; while that figure exceeds 80% for those suffering musculoskeletal conditions.

On the personal development side, Bal sat and passed the Certified Disability Management Professional exam in May 2007; is studying to become a chartered occupational psychologist; is working on a joint project with her former claims colleagues to improve rehab involvement in limited-term contracts; and was heavily involved in developing a new suite of training and induction materials.

Furthermore, Bal has proved a regular recipient of internal awards in recognition of her superior customer service skills and, most notably, was named Unum's 'Service Excellence Employee of the Year' at the end of 2007. As one judge commented: "To stand out in an organisation of Unum's size is no mean feat."

Sponsored by Knight

Finalists 2008
- Stephanie McCahon, HCML
- Michael McKenna, Corpore
- Baljinder (Bal) Rai, Unum.

Winning words

"I was absolutely overwhelmed to win this much coveted award. It was completely unexpected and I'm thrilled and very flattered," said Baljinder.

"I don't aspire to winning awards; I aspire to helping people get back to work, so to be recognised for this work is very special as it must mean that I'm doing my job well. Without doubt, I owe much of this to the fantastic support and mentoring I have received from my colleagues. Being new to the world of rehabilitation, I had a lot to learn and it's a real credit to my team for helping me make the transition from claims. I feel that I'm very lucky to work with some really incredible people every day - I don't think there are many people that can honestly say that they love their job as much as I do."

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