What I’ve learned from mentoring

“A mentor is someone who sees more talent and ability within you, than you see in yourself, and helps bring it out of you.”    Bob Proctor

It’s no secret that I have mentored for a number of years as a CIPD Steps Ahead Ambassador and mentor; I am incredibly lucky to have met some wonderful people through helping over these years from different industries, career levels and backgrounds.

Recently, I have undertaken the responsibility of supporting my CIPD branch by coordinating a mentoring scheme which aims to encourage HR professionals to share their experiences with a view to helping them to progress their membership or careers.

The long and short of it is that some perceive mentoring as a time consuming and long drawn out process, with many struggling to commit the time to mentor. In reality, it only takes up two hours a month and sometimes it’s a simple case of assisting with a CV.

Being a mentor isn’t just about feeling good, it’s about experiencing different perspectives.

It’s certainly not a one sided relationship, there are so many benefits and I have learnt so much, not just about people, but about the differences in generations, how to expand on existing skills, recruitment challenges and of course about different industries. This exposure has also helped me within my career especially with benchmarking and best practice exercises.

As a mentor I am there to listen, to offer practical advice, offer constructive criticism (which in the right way, is a good thing), and to help in any way that I can. However, it’s equally important that your mentee offers a different perspective or insight into their career, industry and aspirations. Believe it or not, mentees can help mentors as much as they help you!

In respect of the branch mentoring, this is distinctly different to the work I have done with Steps Ahead; I find that peer mentoring, can sometimes be more impactful than a traditional mentoring relationship. It can strengthen your network, enhances leadership capabilities and most of all supports your peers; as a branch, we are growing and progressing together, and one day we’ll be leading together, so it’s important to help one another along the way; I consider it future proofing our profession by inspiring future HR professionals.


World Mental Health Day 2017

“Just because you are struggling doesn’t mean you’re failing.”

At least one in six workers experiences common mental health problems, including anxiety and depression. Research conducted by leading charity Mind, shows that 55% of employees surveyed said that work is the biggest cause of stress in their lives, more so than debt or financial problems.

Mental ill-health costs the UK economy £26 billion each year, this is through 91 million lost working days, staff turnover and lower productivity. With such staggering figures, it is within every organisations interest to establish ways to tackle the problem. What is really concerning is not just the prevalence of stress and mental health problems at work, but that employees don’t feel supported to be able to deal with these pressures.

The main causes of mental ill health at work are excessive workload, frustration with poor management, lack of support and unrealistic targets. Stress at work is also effecting people’s personal lives. One in five employees said that it puts a strain on their relationships, while 11% have missed important events such as birthdays due to work related stress.

Prince Harry has spoken publicly about the importance of mental health awareness amongst the armed forces; not just post career but has actively campaigned for mental health to become an active part throughout their career. This has lead to a review and implementation of new training methods and support mechanisms will also be rolled out to reservists, veterans and civil servants.

The starting point can be seen as difficult, but it does not need to be. Simply taking the time to speak to a colleague or manager to tell them how you are feeling and what your concerns are can help take that first step to improving mental health. It’s the little things that make the big difference, so if you are an employee reading this, your manager needs to know that you are struggling, if it is pressures with workload, they may be able to offer a solution. Likewise, if you are a manager yourself reading this, then you need to do the same, just because you have a more senior title it does not mean that you shouldn’t be able to address your concerns.

We must always keep in mind that mental ill health does not discriminate and affects nearly everyone at some point in their lives, this is why it is so important that we start these conversations to try and remove the stigma that is associated with mental ill health.

Mental health may be a hot topic but it is a very fluid subject, one critical point is to ensure that individual cases are treated as exactly that, as an individual. Just because one person has a condition, it does not mean that the remedies and supporting tools are the same. There is no one size fits all approach and therefore businesses cannot just roll out a wellbeing initiative hoping that it will work, the subject of mental health is ongoing and will be evolving at a fast pace for many years to come.

Mind has a fantastic guide to help support employers who want to promote positive mental health within their organisations; to access the guide, please click here.


The future workforce (it’s not robots, it’s humans!) #CIPDMAP17

“The future of work is brighter than conventional wisdom suggestions it is not going to be humans v machines”

There is a spotlight on the future of the world of work and a large part of this relates to the world of education and it is anything but child’s play!

This truly inspiring session was delivered by Matthew Crawford and Sarah Armitage from the Federation of Schools.

Take yourself back to your 6 year old self; what did you want to be when you grew up? We watched a fantastic interview with children telling us what skills they thought they needed for the profession they desired; traditional answers were there, police officer and doctor were mentioned and team work was something they thought was particularly important to those roles.

The future workforce and what we know about it is purely guesswork, we have no idea what it looks like so it places even more importance upon how we act now which will in turn shape the future workforce and our organisations.

The challenge is shaping this to be able to work for us, technology is playing a pivotal role in the direction it takes which is already visible within the automotive industry. Expectations, accountability, innovation, flexibility and lifelong learning were words frequently heard around the room as we discussed which parts employers and future employees both have a part to play on.

Key skills that are foreseen as a requirement were discussed at length again with technology having a significant part to play; communication away from a screen was a popular point alongside programming, cyber security, analytics and emotional intelligence were also seen as desirable requirements in the future world of work. The emphasis upon ownership of our own development and teaching people how to learn independently.

The links of vision and values are equally important in the education sector as they are in a traditional corporate environment despite preconceptions. The changing environment means that our schools are having to react faster to maintain pace in order to remain relevant, whilst many would see this as a never-ending story; Matthew and Sarah positively presented it as an opportunity, simply keeping the vision and values at the heart as opposed to them being a tick box.

By living their core beliefs and values, they are able to provide children the opportunity to not only learn but also to aspire and to fully experience life outside of the classroom which enables them to succeed.

When it comes to the team and motivating employees; it is all about collaboration. Supplying  a 10 year career plan, continuing CPD and wellbeing are focus points to ensure they get the best from their people thus providing the best possible education to their pupils.

There is the need for businesses and education to work hand in hand, as Sarah rightly points out, we are all in this together. There are transferrable skills that we can all use that will help support bridging the gap between education and the world of work, with different generations comes different expectations. Self belief and confidence have a huge impact across all of those so forming good relationships and setting expectations are critical.

I will leave you with the highlight of my day so far, during the video interview with the children, the question “Will robots ever replace teachers?” was asked to two young pupils, a young girl speaks directly to the camera and wisely says “no, robots don’t have the way to inspire people like humans can” demonstrating that even little people understand the importance of the need to remain human.

So what could you do? Get in touch with your local schools and see where you can add value, we all have relevant skills to share, we can all help shape the future.


Back from the future: Is L&D ready? #CIPDMAP17

The session was hosted by Teresa Rose from E.ON. The purpose of the session is to establish what the future looks like and how this is impacted by the use of data and how we learn from each other.

Let’s go five years into the future; what does your business look like, what technology are you using, what capabilities do you have and what are your expectations and more importantly that of our customers?

Capability and culture play a key role in the transition to maintain pace with changing environments, expectations and technology with the introduction of AI. It depends on your business environment and the style of your employee and client base, for example we are now working with five different generations; how can you appeal and successfully deliver training that transcends the multi-generations. Will we deliver training differently? The answer is simply most certainly, are organisations adequately prepared? The general feeling around the room insinuated that they were aware of the changes. but were not adequately prepared, there is no one size fits all approach but all of these factors should be taken into account when designing and developing training for the future.

The CIPD are continuously advising on the importance of CPD, what are you doing to ensure your journey continues? There is a strong emphasis on personal responsibility to be accountable for your career development so individuals cannot rely upon organisations delivering what they need when they are unaware of the requirement, so the next time you’re having your annual appraisal with your manager, make sure you tell them your expectations and really pinpoint your development needs.



Building the employee experience #CIPDMAP17

After a quick cup of tea and pile of biscuits devoured, it was time to swing straight into the next session on building the employee experience by Rob Robson from Tata Technologies.

Tata are a global business employing 900 people in the UK and in April 2017, they moved to a new £20m European HQ in Leamington Spa. Over this period, there has been substantial drive from the HR to deliver projects in close partnership with all areas of the business.

The move came at a time when the business grew and available space had decreased so when seeking a new head office, one of the key points was to ensure they had a space and environment which reflected the vision of the business.

The key to selecting the new space was a joint decision between the business leaders and employees. It was essential that employees were included as part of the changes as to allow them to create a space that was fit for purpose and move forward together.

With any major change there are always challenges and limitations. Funding and getting things started were the initial challenge as the operating environment contrary to belief is frugal. There are impacting external factors such as the volatility within the economy which makes it difficult to predict which direction things are going. This meant that they needed to heavily factor in flexibility in addition for the space to grow. Influencing and changing the culture, technology and physical environment all needed to be considered, you need to understand the capability of your resources, understanding the business context; these together can help understand the culture will allow you to focus on engaging the employees and generating employee involvement.

When they created their promotional video to introduce the new building, it was delivered by employees, not management which helped to support the values and culture that the business wanted to achieve in order to drive engagement. There was a review of the on boarding process, to enable recruitment of a high standard and a focus on safety with initiative “don’t walk by”.

Tata demonstrated a human approach by giving a commitment to generating a positive culture, caring for the environment, high standards, driving innovation and supporting the right behaviours to ensure the success of the project.

Helping to create a more vibrant and creative space has played a key role in underpinning the vision and values which in turn enhanced the levels of employee engagement. Employees do not have their own desks, they have a neighbourhood so everyone gets to work with people around the business, this helps to increase innovation.

The vision and values are visible throughout the building, so regardless if you are a visitor or employee, what the business has committed to and stands for has a strong presence and forms a part of the day to day business activities.

The reaction to the changes has been well received and at all stages of the project, regular employee reviews were conducted to effectively map the journey. Once the move was completed, it was clear what impact the move had upon the culture and it’s connection to the business values.

To take a peek inside their new head office, please click here