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.

 

 

 

Time to write my own chapter; my first HR book is in progress!

Books

Hello everyone,

I’m back in my writing chair with my tea companion (yes finally!)

I’m looking forward to sharing all of my new blog posts with you (and there’s quite a few!) that I have been working on behind the scenes. I’ve been exposed to varying situations over the past couple of months that has required a high degree of reflection to allow me to bring the situations to life on the blog; so thank you for being patient with me.

As many of you know, I adore books and always have since I was a child; naturally, it has always been an ambition of mine to write my own book but I never thought I would have anything to write about! Then I started my career in HR and my life changed, so what better subject to write about?

Therefore, I thought it would be an appropriate time to share the exciting news that I am in process of writing my first HR book, which really is a dream come true and I cannot wait to share it with you.

This book has taken various experiences that I’ve had to inspire those new to HR, the seasoned professionals, people considering HR as a career or those who have simply hit a career slump and want to bounce back. This book is about the practical realities of the profession to truly bring it to life; the practical pieces that cannot be taught in a classroom.

I started writing the book in March and it has come on a long way since then; I’m hoping it’ll be ready for release at the end of this year/beginning of 2018.

Watch this space and I look forward to releasing my next blog post tomorrow morning!

Best wishes,

Natalie

 

Taking care of your mental health wellbeing #MHAW17

Whilst it is important to promote the wellbeing of others, you cannot adequately support other people without having your own mental health as a priority. This week is Mental Health Awareness Week and on the blog I am releasing some quick references to generate awareness of the subject but also to present practical advice for you to use, regardless of your profession.

Mental health awareness is something we can all promote and actively be a part of, whether it is for you or to support someone close to you.

How we are feeling can vary in our day to day lives, it often depends on circumstance in that present moment, or it can be impacted by significant events such as the anniversary of a bereavement. According to the Mental Health Foundation statistics; one in three of us will experience a traumatic event at some point in our lives, this is not just an incident, it is something that stays with us for the rest of our lives.

When we are in good mental wellbeing, we are able to cope with the stresses of everyday life, are able to adapt to the environment and situations around us and feel engaged with the environment around us. If we are not in a good mental state, it is easy to feel detached from people and the environment, lack confidence in our abilities to cope with daily life and most of all, unable to freely express emotions and maintain relationships.

Keeping this in mind, it only underpins the importance on supporting your own mental health, here are some quick and easy tips to help you support your mental health wellbeing:

  • Talk about your feelings; if you are experiencing a difficult time, having an open conversation with your friends and family can halve the problem and they may be able to offer help and guidance to support you. Just by having a conversation can make you feel a lot better
  • Learn to accept yourself; this is such an important part of our mental health wellbeing. Don’t compare yourself to others, this only damages self-esteem. This is so difficult with the influence of social media and this “perception of perfection” is not realistic, be yourself and acknowledge your positive qualities
  • Exercise; I run three times a week now and have done since January. I’ve never felt better, I’ve never been a gym bunny but getting out in the fresh air can really change your perspective on things and has a positive impact on my mental health, I find I worry less, sleep better and most of all, it’s an activity I enjoy
  • Diet; having a well-balanced diet has really complimented my new exercise routine and it makes me feel healthier and happier
  • Relax; as with everything these days there is an app for that! You don’t need expensive yoga classes or massages (although these are great too!) try Buddhify which can really help you to switch off and relax. This app has really helped me especially on those days when it’s difficult to clear the mind of the working day

It’s time to talk about mental health

The promotion of mental health awareness has sprung into the spotlight recently, with the support of celebrities such as Lady Gaga and Heads Together campaign from the Royal Family; it is a difficult topic to ignore and is a startlingly bigger issue than we initially realise.

It is a significant but positive step that people are starting to openly discuss mental health issues, but what can we do to underpin this in the workplace?

Next week, 8th – 14th May 2017 is Mental Health Awareness Week and now is a good a time as any to start thinking differently about this issue and addressing the stigma attached to it.

Mental Health is not a new topic and with ever increasing pressure of daily life; whether that is home life, working life, relationships, studying; as well as a perception of perfection from social media. I believe it is a positive step of highlighting a prominent issue which is an underlying theme to everyone’s wellbeing.

A CIPD study has highlighted the impact on business of poor mental health in employees. The study found that:

  • 37% of sufferers are more likely to get into conflict with colleagues
  • 57% find it harder to juggle multiple tasks
  • 80% find it difficult to concentrate
  • 62% take longer to do tasks
  • 50% are potentially less patient with customers/clients.

The study also found that, for the first time, stress is now the major cause of long-term absence in manual and non-manual workers.

I don’t believe that there is a one size fits all approach when it comes to mental health, over the years as a HR professional, I pride myself upon my ability to build strong working relationships in the hope that if anyone ever needed someone to talk to, then I would be a person they felt comfortable enough to approach should they need support. I’ve have faced some difficult situations with employees ranging from gambling addiction, alcoholism, post-natal depression, PTSD, financial difficulties and severe depression. Whilst these circumstances cannot be foreseen, I believe that if there had been adequate support mechanisms available in the first instance then the circumstances could have been handled differently.

This is not a subject that we have to tackle together; it has to be a joined up approach. As I mentioned some of the difficult cases I have worked on over the years, they weren’t just “people at work” to me. I took the job home with me, it had a big impact on my emotional wellbeing. I wasn’t sleeping or eating very much and at the time, I didn’t feel comfortable talking to my family and friends, now I am pleased to say that I have a very close and supportive network around me, and by having that conversation you feel much better than you did before you had it. It’s like a form of therapy. It’s important for everyone to have someone to talk to when they need to; bottling emotions up it will only cause further damage to your wellbeing and often with lasting effects.

Starting these conversations in the first place is essential; as an employer, this can be a difficult situation which has the “leave your personal life outside of work” label attached to it. In an era where authenticity is actively supported when things are positive, I don’t see why it should be this way when emotional support is required. By employees bottling situations up, are we not encouraging them to do it by using this label? By employers being equipped to handle mental health in the workplace, they are able to eliminate a culture of silence attached to mental health and are able to demonstrate that they are a caring and forward thinking organisation.

The number one reason for absence in the UK is stress which cost the UK economy £4billion in 2016 alone and on average 5.6 days absence per employee so this to me is a good enough reason as to why employers should be doing more to raise awareness of mental health issues. mental health charity, Mind recently reported some startling figures:

  • More than one in five (21 per cent) agreed that they had called in sick to avoid work when asked how workplace stress had affected them
  • 14 per cent agreed that they had resigned and 42 per cent had considered resigning when asked how workplace stress had affected them
  • 30 per cent of staff disagreed with the statement ‘I would feel able to talk openly with my line manager if I was feeling stressed’
  • 56 per cent of employers said they would like to do more to improve staff wellbeing but don’t feel they have the right training or guidanceWhilst I was researching the topic for this blog post, I uncovered so much information that is readily available for everyone, not just employers to use and there were three prominent themes that appeared; taking care of you, taking care of others and that two heads are better than one.

I’m not stating that we should go from one extreme to the other by writing extensive policies, being in employees faces every time they appear under the weather etc. It’s just a case of having the right support mechanisms should they ever be needed; simple things such as equipping line managers with the right tools to have these conversations, having a robust employee assistance service available and having access to tools which can be utilised by employees.

Here are some simple steps that HR professionals can do to enhance the awareness of mental health in their workplace:

  • Promote an Employee Assistance Programme – these are not particularly expensive and provide an impartial and specialist resource that all employees can use anonymously. Whilst you will not be aware of how it is used, you should be able to obtain report indicating the type of calls that are being made to allow a more proactive approach
  • Download some management support guides and place them on your company intranet, these are free and available on the Mind charity website
  • Host a webinar on the subject of mental health, you can host one yourself or you can sign up for one via Mind, Acas or CIPD. Invite your managers to join you to encourage a joined up approach
  • Be proactive with return to work interviews, if an employee has been absent due to personal issues, stress or depression, ask them if there is anything you can do to help support them and if you are unsure, seek support from your Occupational Health provider

For more information on how you can implement a mental health awareness campaign in your workplace there are plenty of resources available on the Mind charity website, Acas, CIPD and of course Heads Together. Let’s make a small change to make a big impact.

Goodbye April, hello May! It’s time to set shiny new goals, and why it’s important

Goodbye April, hello May! It’s time to set shiny new goals, and why it’s important

Goodbye April, Hello May

“Plan your work for today and every day, then work your plan.” Margaret Thatcher

It’s a fresh month and I have a new outlook on my work life as I approach my final CIPD Level 7 module. I have to say that it has been a long, yet worthwhile journey and I cannot wait to see that certificate of completion.

I am a big advocate of setting new goals each month, it helps me to focus on things that are important; this is so I do not lose sight of where I am going as it can have a negative effect and in turn that can have lasting impacts, it helps me to avoid those “I wish I’d done that sooner!” or “I’ve done all of this work but nothing to show for it” moments. It helps me align my time in the right areas so I feel I am continually aiming for the next step.

Anyone can set themselves goals; you don’t need to be told what your goals are, you just need to have the ambition and drive to aim for them. Goals are applicable to all levels from students, those starting out in their careers, new mothers, directors; anyone can set themselves goals, it’s prevents stagnation in life and keeps things exciting!

So here are my goals for May, nothing fancy, but incredibly important:

  1. Start each day with a fresh mind set: There’s nothing worse than having a bad day at the office and carrying that emotional baggage with you for the remainder of the week, just let it go!
  2. Make 3 Northamptonshire CIPD Mentoring matches this month
  3. Invest more in my health: not just physically but mentally; stop mentally pacing and combat the thought process with a walk in fresh air, it’ll make me more productive
  4. Work smarter, not harder: this is a really simple task such as preparing my blog posts in advance and enabling a more proactive approach
  5. Don’t waste time! If recent events have taught me anything it is, live for the moment, do more things that are spontaneous!
  6. Steps Ahead awareness: I have two visits planned this month in Northamptonshire, let’s hope it helps generate further awareness of the programme

I look forward to sharing my results with you at the end of the month.

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

fiandbecs(157of281)

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.

#HRActsofKindness is back!

kindness

In June this year I launched a small idea called “HR Acts of Kindness” after witnessing the impact of the brexit result. The result not only divided opinion but also divided relationships and had a big impact on the way organisations conducted business.

I remember driving home after seeing the impact it had on my work environment and thinking that there must be a way to turn this divide into a positive and to unite people again and that’s when HR Acts of Kindness was born; in the driving seat of my Mini Cooper!

Little did I know the overwhelming response I would receive to those 5 challenges!

Due to the support and people asking me to bring it back; I wanted to re-launch HR Acts of Kindness with a festive twist in hope to keep the kindness going. You don’t have to be in HR, you just need to have a desire to make a difference. Thank you to all of you who have messaged me, told me your stories and encouraged the success of this small idea that escalated rather quickly!

Christmas can be a difficult time of the year for so many people and I’m asking the HR community to help me kick start a kindness movement which will help those who need it most at this time of year.

At the Annual Conference and Exhibition, Peter Cheese spoke of how HR needs to adapt and be relevant to the needs of not only businesses but our communities and by us working collaboratively we can inspire the future of our profession. By launching HR Acts of Kindness, I believe this provides the perfect opportunity for us to make that impact and not to let what we learnt at ACE become a distant memory as we return to our day jobs.

I gave an interview to Ady Howes at DPG during the CIPD ACE 16 event and if you’d like to see it, I have put the You Tube link here: https://youtu.be/cmeotrPzTS8

Unlike the original HR Acts of Kindness, this time around, I am providing a full list of challenges tomorrow morning which will run from now until Christmas and it covers a whole list of different ways we can utilise our skills to support our work environment, employees, families and communities.

What I’d like to do is to get as many people involved and I want to hear your stories, pictures and anything else you’d like to share with me as you undertake one or more of these challenges.

Most of the challenges are free and there’s bound to be something for everyone to get involved with. Get your teams, departments and anyone else you can think of involved, we need as may people as possible to spread the kindness and reach as many people as we can.

As a thank you; when I receive your stories and pictures I have a special gift to send you so make sure you get those success stories in. After all, it’s nice to say thank you for taking part.

Together we can make our communities a better place; one small act of kindness at a time.