#HRActsofKindness pushing the boundaries and what it means to me

At the recent CIPD ACE event, Peter Cheese highlighted that HR needs to think outside of the box by being adaptable to the ever changing environment and look beyond our organisations.

The conference was not just made up of HR professionals, there were teachers, coaches, volunteers and recruiters to name but a few and the same can be said for the Midland Area Partnership event in October. HR has become a focus point and whether we like it or not, the expectations upon us are far greater than we are possibly used to so it is up to us to raise the bar and get involved in areas that sit outside of our comfort zones.

HR Acts of Kindness is designed for us to push those boundaries and look at the bigger picture by taking smaller steps into the areas away from the security blankets known as our offices; the everyday activities and endless distractions. By taking ourselves back to our child-like ways and doing things we may not necessarily practice on a daily basis.

I don’t know about you, but for those who attended CIPD ACE 16, did you grab a selfie at the CIPD stand? As my selfie was being taken, the gentleman asked me who admire the most in business and what my superpower would be and as you can imagine I gave a typical HR answer of “I’d make change management in organisations instantaneous!”. Fantastic and definitely a vision from the dream world I’m sure you’ll agree, but upon reflection, I wouldn’t change the profession, not one part of it right now and the simple reason is that I am enjoying the journey. All of those people at the annual CIPD event and those sat reading this at your desks right now; we’re all on a journey and busy shaping not only the future of HR but shaping the future of work as a whole. The journey is where we learn, develop and grow but it’s also where we gain a sense of achievement and appreciation for the work that we do.

On a personal level; my great grandmother, gave me a strong piece of advice at a young age which carries me through every area of my life. She told me to “always do something you are good at” at the time I don’t think I really understood in all honesty but now it makes perfect sense. HR Acts of Kindness is a product of exactly that; I am kind to people, even when they are not to me, I always believe in second chances and I believe in supporting others not treading on them in order to be successful. All I wanted when I originally signed up for my HR career was to make my family proud and the profession proud, that’s the simple and only reason I do what I do when I get up at 5:30am every morning.

Over the coming days I will be bringing snippets from different people and what kindness means to them and the difference they think it brings. There are people from the HR profession, small business owners, teachers, and students alike so watch this space!

I consider myself incredibly fortunate that I can share HR Acts of Kindness, it’s amazing how many of you around the world are involved and promoting kindness in your organisations. Thank you for all of your messages telling me your stories, keep them coming and I’m really looking forward to crowning some kindness champions.

Forterra HR Team at DMU Graduate Fair

If you’re heading to the graduate recruitment fair at De Montford University, please pop over and visit the Forterra stand! The fair is running on 25th and 26th October and looks set to be a busy couple of days for the team.

My colleagues Sarah and Timi will be waiting with prizes, goodies, games and lots of information on why a career in manufacturing with Forterra is a great choice to make.

Sadly I cannot be there as I am covering the office but do pop over and say hello to them as they’re looking forward to meeting everyone, plus they have worked really hard to make the event a success so thank you ladies for doing a great job and remember have fun!

There will be updates on the company Twitter feed – follow their day @ForterraUK and feel free to tweet along.

I hope you all enjoy the event.

 

What is HR’s role when a company goes into administration?

 

Woolies

In 2012 I gave a short interview to People Management to provide a perspective of HR when a company sadly goes into administration after the collapse of HMV.

Following the news that BHS has gone into administration; putting 11,000 jobs at risk, I thought it would be appropriate to share my experiences from when I worked at Entertainment UK, part of the Woolworths group which collapsed in 2008.

When the announcement was made on 26th November 2008, it’ll be a moment in my early career that I will never forget and I quickly learned that business can be unbelievably harsh therefore I must toughen up to support the needs of the employees and secondly, I have never seen such a variation of reactions in one room before, it’ll be an image that will stay with me. Poor business decisions alongside difficult trading and an ever increasing pension deficit all contributed to Woolworths demise and now it seems history is repeating itself with the employees suffering the most.

So what can HR do when a company has hit the buffers? Unexpectedly, employee reactions are amazingly mixed; some are not surprised, others are shocked, some are relieved, others want to do everything they can to save the company, but the majority are distressed and concerned for the future.

When you work in a business where it has a substantial heritage, you often have an incredibly loyal workforce which has a community feel to it so it is vital that HR provide support as much as possible and handles the situation with great sensitivity. Support each employee as an individual case and listen to their concerns.

HR is almost completely helpless once the administrators arrive on site, yet it is a very busy time for them. Simple requests such as holiday entitlements and resignations have to be run past the administrators first which can take a long time to obtain a response. Most company contracts and assets are frozen which can include employee assistance programmes (unless the full fees are paid for upfront) so HR has to take on the role of handling the situation to the best of their ability and trust me, it is incredibly difficult.

Speaking to the employees is vital, as a HR administrator I went to pick and pack in the warehouse to get orders out just in time for Christmas. Surprisingly it was a jovial time as it looked like Woolworths might actually survive. It was great to see the stock moving again but it had been an incredibly slow two weeks to get to that point and I just couldn’t sit in the office anymore!

We were advised on 12th December 2008 that the iconic doors were closing with final trading taking place on 6th January 2009. From 12th December the HR team had 5000 employees queuing up for advice on their redundancy pay, shares and pensions. I remember going home that evening and feeling completely numb and being able to memorise RP1 forms in my head!

The amount of tearful thank you’s we received as a team in such difficult conditions made us really appreciate that we had the opportunity to work with some wonderful people and that by actively listening and being supportive has impact on employees.

I decided to contact as many recruitment agencies as possible in the hope that we could find suitable employment for as many employees as possible. We held CV workshops, interview skills training (some had been with the company for 40 plus years so this was their primary area of concern) and invited the recruitment agencies in to register candidates. Obviously this shouldn’t be done until further information from the administrators are announced and confirmation of the future of the business is received.

For now BHS continues to trade as normal until a suitable buyer is found or a decision to cease trading is made. As my former colleagues and I often say – there’s life after Woolworths, it’s just hard to imagine life without it.