Living and working with Autism

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“Think of it: a disability is usually defined in terms of what is missing. … But autism … is as much about what is abundant as what is missing, an over-expression of the very traits that make our species unique,”

Paul Collins, Not Even Wrong: Adventures in Autism

A few weeks ago, I received a text message from my husband Mark, who insisted that we watch a programme on the telly that evening. He rarely does this so when I asked him about the programme and why he wanted to watch it, all he had to tell me was the title and I instantly understood why; the programme was Chris Packham: Asperger’s and me.

Continue reading “Living and working with Autism”

Hip Hip Hurray – My Blog Turns Two Today!

Birthday Cake

Wow, where did those two years go?

This post is short and sweet but filled with nothing but gratitude.

I could never have imagined the opportunities I’ve been offered, connections I have made and support that I have received as a result of creating this little blog.

Don’t get me wrong, it hasn’t all been plain sailing, there has been a fair share of clouds, but there has always been that silver lining and for that I am truly grateful.

On reflection, the highlights for me have been my appearance in People Management magazine, being part of the Blog Squad at the CIPD Annual Conference and Exhibition in 2016, a feature in the CIPD’s “The Power of One” campaign and my ultimate achievement to date; HR Acts of Kindness. It would not have been possible without this blog.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank my followers, colleagues, friends and family who have supported me over the past couple of years; I wouldn’t be at this stage of my journey without you.

Here’s to the next two years, now let’s cut the cake!

 

Mentoring – it’s something HR are born to do

“Focus on what you have to offer rather than what you don’t have to offer”

When you went for your very first HR interview, how did you feel? Apprehensive? Nervous?

Looking back at that experience now, a few years later; a little bit older, much wiser; what do you think about it? Do you look back and laugh and think it’s crazy you were so nervous and unsure? I know I do!

Continue reading “Mentoring – it’s something HR are born to do”

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.

 

It’s A Level results day! Your career journey starts here…

When we were little, we knew what we wanted to do for a career as we’d proudly stand in front of our classmates at a tender age of 5 and exclaim “I want to be a Policeman” “a vet” “I want to be a nurse” one beamed with pride.

I remember sitting there, I politely passed my turn to another child and went last. The teacher then asked me again “Natalie what do you want to do when you grow up?” I stood at the front and told her that I’d really thought about this question because when you have a job, you’re doing it for a long time. I then said to her that I knew wanted to work at Heathrow Airport for British Airways, just like my dad. She asked, “why British Airways?” I simply said “their people are always smart, they wear buttons on their uniforms when they’re good at work, they’re friendly and they always smile but most of all, I want my mum and dad to be proud of me”.

I sadly never made it in to British Airways in my dream role as cabin crew, but ironically my sister did and whilst my mum and dad are proud of me. I’m equally proud and grateful to them, my passion to perform well in my role is a driver I inherited from my dad.

To cut a long story short, my  point is that not everything in life goes to plan so prepare for the curveballs that now fire your way! whether that is choosing the university for you, getting into the world of work or simply figuring out your next steps, they may not be as you planned or first thought!

You’ve read the books, completed your coursework and faced the exams head on; today is the results day you have been waiting for and I wish you all the very best of luck and no matter what, you’re already a success story waiting to happen.

If your results are not what you hoped for there are a number of things you can do and you may need to adapt your plans slightly but you never know, you might prefer the new plan better!

Regardless of your result, now is an incredible time of opportunity, with an increase in demand for apprenticeships, universities opening their doors to welcome new students and a buoyant employment market, now is the time to get that first foot onto the career ladder.

Good luck and all the very best wishes from me.

 

 

 

HR & Marketing go together like tea and biscuits! Featuring Rebecca Jeffrey

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Have you ever taken a step back from your usual day to day and looked at how your work has a much wider impact than you realise?

I recently did just that after becoming involved in a number of projects that I’ve not experienced before in my career. In the past 18 months, my company has been through a name change and an entire rebrand. Of course, our Marketing team pulled out all the stops to ensure the launch of the brand was a huge success and the achievement is astounding. But if you look at it on a wider scale, it is so much more than a branding exercise alone, it’s working in collaboration that enables the building of a brand.

There are so many findings from projects like this, but who is responsible for the company image overall? The answer is simple – we all are.

For example, my team and I have recently attended a couple of recruitment events which received significant support from our trusted Marketing team. Whilst they did not attend the event themselves, they provided well thought out giveaways, such as branded earphones for our graduate fair, product brochures as well as providing a promotional campaign surrounding the events on our social media channels.

It’s not an isolated situation; there have been so many occasions where I have worked in collaboration with the Marketing team and they, like HR, are often the unsung heroes of the business, but are always willing to support with major business changes.

I undertook a project to design and implement our careers page on the company website, recruitment adverts, corporate social responsibility processes and communications to employees ranging from the company newsletter through to important announcements, again this was all alongside Marketing.

When a business is running smoothly, it’s not just that processes are operating like clockwork; it’s often due to the collaboration between departments who are all aligned to the same common goal. When you read that back, it sounds like a basic concept, but it’s often these foundations that so many businesses fail to put in place.

Recently, I have been fortunate to have connected with some lovely people, so I sought advice from fellow tea lover Rebecca Jeffrey, co-founder of Fi and Becs Design and Marketing. I was so excited by our conversation that I invited her to feature on my blog. I wanted to share her thoughts on why she believes HR and Marketing have such a strong connection and how both can work collaboratively.

Q: You have such a passion for what you do, what made you choose Marketing as a profession?

A: I randomly fell into HR after working for events company Michael Whisher who supplied temporary staff for events such as Wimbledon. I used to go along to events to recruit temporary staff such as students who were looking for work. I worked as a HR admin for about a year and then moved into internal recruitment, I liked it but didn’t like it loads so I thought maybe I should do marketing. I enjoyed writing job descriptions and adverts so much I took a secondment into a marketing role before moving into a Graduate Marketing role.

Q: There are so many crossover areas between HR and Marketing; how do you think both departments can work together to increase brand awareness?

A: Marketing crosses over into HR in so many ways; like with internal communications “where should internal communications sit?” my answer is that it should be in both, they should both be included in each other’s team meetings. I believe there’s a massive crossover between the two; especially in content Marketing. There needs to be consistency with all communications, job descriptions especially need to be written really well, for example with graduate recruitment, it’s so competitive and you have to stand out for the right reasons.

Q: What’s the key to attracting the best talent through a recruitment advert?

A: I recently worked on a project for a major retailer who didn’t have the best recruitment advertising and were set upon using boring job descriptions, so we made it sound more like a catchy advert to attract candidates, as recruiting is so incredibly competitive.

Q: There will be many HR professionals reading this asking how they can get involved with their Marketing department. What advice would you give them?

A: Go to each other’s meetings, work together by being collaborative you’ll be surprised at how much you can achieve by working together

Q: We loved watching you on The Apprentice, congratulations on how far you got, the challenges did not look easy! What was your favourite part of the experience?

A: They had to film me leaving the boardroom a few times because I was grinning so much, the whole boardroom thing takes about five hours to film but I really enjoyed it.