It’s 2015 – but my interviewer wanted to know how I’d juggle work and motherhood. An alternative response…

Many of you will know that I used to reply to the Dear Jeremy readers problems a lot as ExBrightonBelle and then started doing it formally for Moneywise magazine after Mark King left the Guardian.

I don’t deny I’d love to return and become ‘Dear Ruth’ (when Jeremy retires) but I don’t think he has any plans to as is his legal right and correctly so.

The thing is I think (despite my personal interest) that many of his responses are very off message for a paper like The Guardian and in fact this one today is just plain sexist.

Have a read – of the problem – Jeremy’s response and mine and tell me what you think.
It’s 2015 – but my interviewer wanted to know how I’d juggle work and motherhood

I recently had an interview at a well-respected commercial organisation. I have ample relevant experience for the position and felt that the interview was going well during the section where I was asked technical questions, gave a presentation and had to answer questions related to my field of work.
I was interviewed by two men (I am female). I was asked by one of them how I would cope with the work bearing in mind I have two children – I had disclosed this in my application form only to explain a short gap in my career.

I was stunned to be asked this in 2015, and while I wanted to challenge them by asking whether they were putting the same question to male candidates I answered along the lines of “Fine, obviously, or I would not have applied for this position as I am not stupid and have worked since my children were small”.

The interview continued and it was made clear that successful candidates would be chosen largely on whether they would “fit in” with the organisation and other staff. I have yet to hear whether or not I have been successful.

Leaving aside the issue of whether I want to work for an organisation that asks such questions in interviews, I am not sure whether and how to raise the issue with the company. If I am unsuccessful I do not want to appear that I am acting out of “sour grapes”, but I feel very angry that I was asked such a question when I suspect male candidates would not have been. I feel that future female candidates should not be put in such a position and this large organisation should know better than to interview in such a way.

How do I, and should I, raise this issue with the organisation in question?

Jeremy (says….)
 
I have every sympathy for your feelings and understand your reaction, but I’m afraid I am not going to agree with the intensity of your response. You may think that this is because I, too, am a man, and you may be right. But I hope you’ll at least give some open-minded thought to my reply.
 
At a cool, factual level, it is indisputably the case that when women are carrying the majority duties of bringing up young children they need to be more inventive than their male partners in programming their various work and home responsibilities.
 
And when a child’s illness or demands from school intervene, it is often the mother rather than the father who chooses (or is chosen) to do the necessary juggling – which may well have a brief impact on her timekeeping. Most are skilled at covering or working late, and take pride in ensuring that the impact on work is minimal. This allocation of responsibilities between parents may be unfair and may well be unnecessary – but it’s certainly not uncommon.
 
The male interviewer who asked you how you would cope bearing in mind that you had two children was certainly guilty of clumsiness and insensitivity – but to his not very empathetic mind, he was simply acknowledging an understood reality and wanting to know how you managed it. In that respect I honestly don’t see that there was anything inherently offensive about his question. I think your immediate reaction was a bit extreme, and I fear this reaction may have disproportionately coloured your view of the entire company.
 
Whether or not you’re offered this job – and let’s hope you are – I suggest you write a measured letter to your main contact there. Explain the reasons for your writing though more temperately than in your letter to me. Simply and helpfully suggest that such a question, however tactfully phrased, could well deter excellent female candidates from wanting to join. Even if you don’t get the job, that won’t sound like sour grapes.

Ruth says:

I’m sorry to hear about this and can well understand your anger. Sexism like this that is sadly experienced everyday in the workplace reinforcing the past when men were in charge and women could at best do small unskilled part-time jobs.

I had my first child when I was 19. I didn’t go to university as a result and instead began working for American Express who even then (1988) had a Non Graduate Development programme as well as one for Graduates. This meant my career progressed rapidly and I relocated to the City doing a number of senior HR roles. I never told my employers in investment banking that I was a mother as I knew they wouldn’t have hired me and even if they had, they would have treated me differently and expected less. So I’ve been a working mother for my entire career.

Jeremy Bullmore will never have experienced sexism like this. Ever. Though he almost certainly will have been part of it. Sexism that means whatever you do, how ever hard you work, you are still just a single mother. Or a woman. It is a very distressing experience and makes women very angry. And some men I am pleased to say (view twitter today). Now I have my own business where it is my husband who works part-time as he is the main carer to our two young children. All our employees have children and work flexibly and I actually prefer it as they give me 110%.

But there are still men in the corporate workplace that think that if women have children they are worth less, can do less, should be paid less but luckily we work in the UK and it is 2015. Such attitudes are against the law. The Equality Act to be precise. The clue being in the title.

You say the organisation you wanted to work for was large and commercial. Well I’d say they weren’t commercial on two counts.

Firstly to remain commercial they need to hire talented driven people. That has to include female as well as male employees. Clearly, they treat women differently from men and the fact they were so happy to share their attitudes with you, during an interview, with no fear of recourse gave you a much needed flavor of the environment you nearly worked in. A bit like an attractive man making a small racist comment on a first date. It’s called ‘unconscious bias’ and that organisation will probably have a big problem with it.

Secondly, it’s a bit of a waste of money to risk having to pay financial compensation to people like you who will have an excellent case, whether they offer you the job or not, for discrimination on the grounds of your sex. There is no way they have asked men the same questions and are therefore treating you less favourably in the interview process. The comments about hiring you if they felt you fitting in sounded very much like the old “does your face fit culture” (well it probably won’t if you are female and have children).

All of that said I do think a letter, carefully worded, unemotional, cool and factual, to the CEO is in order. He (I’m taking a wild guess here) needs to know that he has a problem. He may want to do an independent investigation and possible actions may include all his managers being training on how to conduct a proper interview. It may be they don’t know what is or isn’t acceptable but the HR team should be aware and managing and monitoring the situation. It’s just not competitive to turn off talent in this way and I would hope he would understand that.

Whether you go a step further and make a claim to an Employment Tribunal is up to you. I think any action should be about trying to influence and change behavior. It would be public, so terrible PR for them but you need to find a job. So think it over and take advice. They would probably offer to settle the claim. I certainly would if I was their HR Director.

You sound very articulate and highly employable but not someone to thrive in a stifling male dominated environment. Find an employer that is more progressive and be glad you had this experience to help you avoid working for a company you may have been pretty unhappy in.

Good luck!

New Job? Follow these 7 key points to make it a runaway success!

firstdayCongratulations! You may be reading this because you have recently accepted a new role or started one. Perhaps you are talking to a potential new employer or maybe thinking about that next role.

Whatever stage you are, read our top tips to make your first 100 days a firm foundation for another significant and exciting stage of your career journey.

  1. Work out what you are there to do

Might sound like crazy advice but it’s not. When employers start writing job descriptions or talking to headhunters they start to believe that there is a person out there that can do everything that is written down, much of which will be aspirational or someone else’s job or just plain impossible. Your task in week 1 is to work out what they are actually realistically expecting so you can deliver. Quickly.

  1. Identify the key people to know

This won’t be the obvious, that is for sure. Hopefully your boss is seen as a key mover and shaker but you need to know. You may have been hired to replace your boss and everyone knows it but you. It’s reasonably common. Who are the people that influence corporate thinking? Ask people. Get in their diary. Who is constantly mentioned, who knows everyone and can help you with the stuff not written down but critical? Might be the long-serving PA of the MD or someone on reception or without a glamorous job title. Or even someone external or that has left.

  1. Get to know your team – properly

This is an area that people can really get very right or very wrong. If you are being paid to manage people make it your business to get close to them quickly. Find out what makes them tick, what motivates them, what frustrates them and what they can and can’t do. Dive in deep to understand how they are doing things. If they are good they will appreciate it and if they aren’t on top of things, you need to know. Fast! If your team is happy, it’s good PR for you in the same way that if they aren’t and morale dips, it will almost certainly be terminal for you.

  1. Brand is important. Very important.

Lots of talk at the moment about ‘brands’. You need to quickly get into the DNA of your new company and properly understand it. If there are still founders this is all the more critical as not being 100% on brand will be a barb in their side. But also think about your Personal Brand as it’s how people get to know you – the individual they have hired or are working for. What are you going to wear? (Sometimes people take the opportunity of a new job to have an image makeover. It’s a great time to do it. Men and women!) What hours are you going to work? How contactable are you going to be outside the office? How will you treat people? What practices or customs are you going to introduce? What are your values and how will people see them?

  1. Communication strategy

Seriously you need one. It’s a big area. What is your tone of voice on email? Are you going to bash out sloppy ones with typos or be more considered? How quickly are you going to reply? Or will someone else? Whatever your speed of response you will set expectations. Are you clear about what you will talk about face to face or on the phone and what you email? Who will you copy in? How will you store or file emails. It needs some serious consideration especially if your new role is more senior or more demanding. The volume will increase and having a PA may actually make it harder initially as you need to lead and establish a system from Day 1. Ask yourself whether you are going to become another slave to corporate emails or recognize they are other people’s priorities and keep them in their place?

  1. Be clear on the governance and your responsibilities

This is something that can derail people. Not knowing what they are signing or the ethos or corporate structure behind a document. When you are new you can make it your job to properly understand things and challenge if necessary. Don’t sign something to be helpful if you don’t understand why you are doing it. It could end badly for you.

  1. Consider enlisting some external support

Depending on how you were hired, you may have been in contact with external professionals (psychologists, coaches, external HR consultants, head-hunters) who got to understand you and the company you were going to work for. It may be something to consider so you have an external sounding board that can support you. Pretty much everyone at every level benefits from this especially if you engage someone before you join so they can help negotiate favourable terms for you. Well worth considering.

Good luck in your new role. Enjoy it and make those first 100 days really count!

A year in Ressources Humaine (not Provence!).

Introducing our fascinating new blog series from our guest contributor, Karen. After 20 years as a HR professional in both public and private sectors (including working for Ruth) for a diverse range of employers and looking after 85 to 12000 employees, Karen is very much an HR expert. Indeed if she was not embarking on her new life we would be welcoming her into the Amelore fold.

Having initially started her HR career in the travel industry, Karen has decided to take a career break and relocate to France. As well as aiming to perfect her French language skills, Karen is returning to where it all began and will be working for a travel company in France.

Karen has offered to share her new experiences from an HR professional’s viewpoint with us and with you.

Karen’s driver for the blog…

“People have some interesting views on what Human Resources actually is and does (from both within and without the HR sector). Quite often they see it as not being part of ‘real life’ but a hoop to jump through or someone to seek permission from before you can interact with your employees. Personally, I see HR as being about people, with all of their quirks and needs, and not about processes and procedures that can often hold an organisation back. Successful HR should be about real life and real situations; be grounded in what really makes people tick and what makes organisations thrive.

That being the case, what are the lessons to be learnt from ‘good HR’ in a non-HR situation? Over the next few months I hope to explore some of them..”

 

Karen toasting a new life
Karen toasting her new life leaving these shores.

Dog tired… It’s Friday afternoon

jasper
Jasper with that Monday morning feeling.

The truth about office dogs… At Amelore we have an office dog.

Jasper is a black Labrador/Spaniel cross and comes to work with my husband who is our part-time and very flexible Financial Controller, Head of IT Support and creative lead amongst other things.

Jasper loves his routine. He walks across the fields each morning with my husband to take the children to our local village school. Then they head into the office and he positively runs in the door. Having burst in he drinks a large amount of water and then wipes his wet chops on our Operations Manager Sam. He rushes around to greet everyone and then he crashes out on his bed.

He barks at all the deliverymen and occasionally at clients if they arrive early for a meeting (if we don’t know they are dog friendly he has his own dog sitters in the office next door or failing that he sulks in the family bus).

Now over the years I have come across dogs at work and it can work very well and it can work very badly.

When I worked in the public sector it was quite common in the rural offices for people to take dogs to work but keep them in their cars, walking them regularly and sitting with them at lunchtime.

One of my clients introduced a rescue dog into a crowded workspace and it bit an employee. She was very understanding but that was not sensible on many levels and clearly the employer always has a duty to provide a safe environment for its employees. A bite is a personal injury and can be serious.

Recently we hired someone that wanted to take her dog to a central London office everyday on the tube but we said no to that. The office was busy and there was nowhere for the dog to be exercised.

The thing about any animals in the office is that not everyone likes them. It can really add a friendly, healthy dynamic to your company as we feel Jasper does, but if we wanted to hire someone that didn’t like dogs (they would have to be exceptional!), Jasper would sadly no longer be coming to work.

If you are thinking about having an office dog, make sure everyone is happy about it and set out the rules. Certain environments (warehouses, factories etc) are not dog friendly and the temperament of the dog is a key and major factor.

How to progress your Career

 

fireman

Last week I attended a CIPD focus group.

The topic was the HR professional map (not the fire service…more later) which you are probably only familiar with if you have recently studied your professional exams. Sadly for the CIPD our focus group didn’t use or value it. Thought it wasn’t all bad news as everyone agreed that the CIPD Code of Conduct was a very good document. We share that at Amelore… we send it out with our proposals.

I always think focus groups are a great way to get a quick bit of professional development as they are almost always attended by people that care enough to turn up and say what they think.

The mixture was interesting. There was an L&D bias along with someone from a Reward background and me, a generalist with a twist.

One of the questions was about how our careers had developed. Mine had begun in training administration and progressed, once I had qualified, to HR manager/head of department/HR Director. This was in the days before the dreaded Ulrich model and Shared Service centres which have cut many career development opportunities away.

One guy that attended stood out.

He had a Retail banking background and came across as extremely driven, self-motivated and ambitious. He was an L&D professional and would be an asset to any organisation I have no doubt. He had recognized early on in his career the power of mirroring desirable organsiational behaviour and had used this technique to get himself from a trainer right up to an L&D Director.

Every organisation has its own set of unique and valued behaviours and values. These are often completely different to anything written down or spoken about by HR or the official corporate line.

When you join you need to quickly identify who the people are that are respected and looked up to and mirror what they do and how they behave.

This might include how they dress (very formally or smart casual or with a bit of style and panache), the hours they work (long or flexible or very smart and output driven), the personal values they exhibit (eg winning at any price v humility and respect for individuals), whether they look after themselves (gym, good diet, holidays space v no exercise, bad diet, booze) and how they treat each other.

Sometimes successful powerful people form a club within an organisation which they use to trade favours and keep out competition. If such a thing exists in your company you will need to work out how you can infiltrate it.
Of course analyzing your organisation in this way sometimes helps you identify that you have made a mistake because the person you are, will never match with your organisation.

In which case take a tip from the Fire Brigade…. Get out… Stay out!

But don’t call Fire Brigade, just get another job.

Choosing the right job but the wrong organisation or the right organisation but the wrong job can often shape your career as much as finding somewhere that perfectly suits you.

Successful people are clear about what they want to achieve and achieve it. Like my L&D focus group colleague. He drove his career, from job to job, organisation because he had a plan.

Do you?

Does getting legal benefit anyone?

scales of justice

Well yes it does actually… Lawyers!

If you are an individual or if you are a company, a lawyer may well encourage you to go to Tribunal. Whatever the outcome, for your business or your reputation or employability (employers don’t queue up to hire people that have taken their employers to tribunal) Lawyers will get paid.

If you are an employer, whatever the outcome of the Tribunal, whether you win or lose, they will get paid.

If you are an Individual and have a dispute, getting legal will only end in one place. You getting fired or damaging your career prognosis. Whatever any lawyer says, I just don’t know anyone in any business that has enhanced their relationship with their employer by taking or even threatening legal action. And there is no employer alive that would willingly hire someone that had taken their previous employer to tribunal.

Whatever the outcome.

It damages any relationship. You may win some money. But most likely some of that will go towards paying legal fees. So the lawyers still get paid,you get some money but then you haven’t got a job. The lawyers won’t help you finding a new career, because that is not what they do.

The good news for employers is that with the introduction of fees for Employment Tribunals claims have dropped significantly. The qualifying service for unfair dismissal claims is now two years which has also had an impact.

Thing is most employers don’t realise the average claim is around £4,500. And that claims have actually dropped by 85% in the last year. Let’s hope this isn’t reversed if we have a change of government.

Of course no-one takes good employers to tribunals and you can’t if you don’t have a case. So it pays to make sure your house is in order and get good advice but above all to value and look after your employees. Develop them. Give them feedback. Listen to them.

And if you are an individual and have an issue take advice about how to approach it. Externally is best. Not a lawyer as the workplace is about so much more than employment law. Identify what you want to achieve and if it is just a good moan, think again. Consider signing up to a Career Booster programme. Amelore are offering this soon to help people that don’t belong to a union or aren’t related to a HR advisor but want the equivalent of a HR Manager in their pocket. For more information on our Career Booster programme please email us at office@amelore.com

Labels – choose your identity before someone labels you

We can’t get away from them in society. I’ve had many in my career and indeed in my lifetime.

Teenage mother
Senior female executiveIMG_3317
Immune suppressed
Working mother
Older woman
Cancer survivor
Single mother
Female business owner
Older mother
Non-graduate
Mumpreneur
Older bride
HR person
Entrepreneur
New romantic (one of my favorites)
Main breadwinner
Support staff

Oh so many.

But I really don’t want to be defined by my health, my sense of style, the fact I have had children or got married or employ my husband or work.

The office of one of our local candidates has done a mail shot to potential female voters. His main assumption is that because I am female, I am in a low paid job with childcare issues. Now I accept that many people are in this position. Not just female but many will be.

But I have not got to the position I am in today (owner of a successful growing business) because I have ever had any self-limiting beliefs about what I can achieve.

In fact I have been positively driven by adversity.

When I had my daughter in 2006, I was back in hospital when she was 2 months old with septicemia. I was told I might not walk again. And that no one tended to breast feed in Intensive care. I did of course (managed 2 feeds a day to keep things going) and left hospital on crutches but these days I am a regular at combat training. That experience made me decide to apply for a promotion and move my family to the South West.

A few years later, when I had an unexpected spot of cancer a year after I had gone freelance I worked through it. I didn’t sign on and I didn’t let it do anything other than make me more determined. To get well. To work. To keep smiling.

I worked part-time predominantly for one of our favorite clients notonthehighstreet.com. Holly Tucker the CEO was very supportive and I used to go into the offices, wearing a turban and with a stick to help me walk.

That experience, helped me decide that if I was ill again I’d want a thriving business to be behind me. I’m not sure everyone has that reaction but I’d highly recommend it.

Don’t let other peoples labels define what you do. Drive your own identity and identify the choices you need to make and the path you need to take to get to the place you want to get to.

Since I’ve been in HR, I’ve watched a lot of porn

It wasn’t what I expected that’s for sure….
Lap-dancing clubs for corporate meetings
But having worked in some very male dominated environments it has been the subject of a number of investigations I have led that have often resulted in dismissal.  I can recall one guy that used the company systems to book an escort and others that sent shocking images to junior female staff for a laugh.

I can still remember in my early 30’s when I began working for a small merchant bank (that no longer exists) in the shadow of St Paul’s and going into the dealing room and just seeing a sea of porn on the screen savers.

In those days male traders still entertained male clients at Spearmint Rhino and it would pop out at lunchtime for a bottle of wine and to watch a quick semi naked dance before they slithered back to their desks.  You could always tell who had. They had a far away glint in their eye. It wasn’t nice.
Using lap-dancing clubs as corporate venues certainly excluded women even if one did get invites to go and watch and be one of the lads. Some women felt forced to do this to progress their careers as it was where lots of deals were done as well as recruitment. 
I’d like to say it doesn’t happen anymore but of course it still does.
Porn at work – hard to judge
In the days before the internet, you would not expect to see someone sitting at their desk reading Penthouse or something similar but there is a culture in some workplaces of highly inappropriate emails being passed around.
Now I say highly inappropriate because I am mindful that any pornographic image is probably very offensive to some people and that most people wouldn’t feel it was proper conduct in the workplace.  And of course it breaches the Equality Act as the employer has a duty to provide a positive working environment for all.
But it seems some people find this hard to judge.  Especially District Judge Timothy Bowles, Immigration Judge Warren Grant and Deputy District Judge and Recorder Peter Bullock who have all been removed from office for viewing pornography during working hours via the judicial IT systems.
Penalities are severe (or should be)
None of them work together so it looks to me like the Judicial IT department  have done a random sweep of their systems and picked this up.  Whenever I have done this in a workplace (after issuing a code of conduct and a warning) it has always picked up people mis-using the system and not expecting to get caught.  And it is gross misconduct which means they can be dismissed without pay. And they often are.
But often we don’t take senior folk to task enough.  So I’m delighted that the Lord Chancellor and the Lord Chief Justice have concluded it was an “inexcusable misuse” of their official accounts and “wholly unacceptable conduct for a judicial office holder”.  I firmly agree. If you hold the office and take the salary you need to behave in a manner that is fitting. We should expect the same standards from MPs and anyone in a senior or responsible role.
What should you do if someone sends you an inappropriate email?
Delete it without forwarding it. To anyone. Even yourself at home.
What should you do if you receive a complaint that one of your employees has done this?
Don’t do what I heard recently and delete the inappropriate content.  That just makes you as the employer more culpable.  You must do an investigation and if appropriate discipline your employee.  Make sure your IT and Communication policies are fit for purpose and update them if not.

Shared Parental Leave – do you know what’s coming?

Paternity leave, parental leave and now shared parental leave…it’s no wonder employers can get confused as to when and how to apply all these different forms of leave. So here’s the lowdown on what this new shared parental leave is, when it can be used and what you need to know.
Shared parental leave is going to be available for the parents of children due to be born or adopted on or after 5 April 2015. It’s a new policy that aims to enable eligible parents to choose how to share the care of their child during the first year of birth or adoption.


Broadly speaking the way this will work is that the parent will opt out of her maternity or adoption leave/statutory maternity or adoption pay and opt into the shared parental leave/shared parental pay. This will then allow them to share the remaining time and leave with their partner.
So how does this actually work?
Here’s an example. A mum may have gone on maternity leave 2 weeks before her baby is born. Then 6 weeks after the birth she gives 8 weeks notice to curtail her maternity leave and notice of taking shared parental leave. This means she will have taken 16 weeks of maternity leave, which will leave 36 weeks of shared paternal leave available. She can now share this 36 weeks with her partner, so either the partner could take 20 weeks and she could take the remaining 16 weeks or they could both take 18 weeks together.
Who is eligible?
This is pretty straightforward. You must share care of the child with either your husband, wife, civil partner or joint adopter; the child’s other parent; or your partner (if they live with you and the child). You or your partner must be eligible for maternity leave/pay, maternity allowance, or adoption leave/pay You must also have been employed continuously for at least 26 weeks by the end of the 15th week before the EWC; be employed by the same employer while you take SPL; and have main responsibility for the care of the child (apart from any responsibility of the partner).
How is Shared Parental Leave requested?
Now this is where the rules get a bit confusing…
To request shared parental leave you first need to provide a Leave Curtailment Notice to end your maternity or adoption leave.
You then need to provide Notice of Entitlement and Intention to Take Shared Parental Leave. In essence, three notices are required:-
1.     The mother and the partner must each give their employers written notice of entitlement to SPL and ShPP.
2.      The employee must also provide a signed declaration
3.     The employee’s partner must also provide a signed declaration stating
It is inevitable that sometimes an employee is going to want to change their mind over how they want to split this leave. Now, they can do this but unsurprisingly this is going to mean they need to serve another notice of intention to take shared parental leave confirming estimated dates and what leave is available to them. It’s worth noting here that they can change their minds over this as many times as they want.
When an employee is ready to request the actual date of this leave they need to serve a period of leave notice. Employees need to give their employer’s 8 weeks notice of any leave.
One period of leave notice can include more than one block of leave. An employee has the right to provide a maximum of 3 period of leave notices. An important thing to remember is that if an employee wants to change the dates of a period of leave, they need to serve another notice of leave, which comes out of their maximum 3 period of leave notices.
During shared parental leave, all contractual entitlements continue apart from wages or salary. Pension contributions will continue to be paid when shared parental pay is being paid but not when the employee is on unpaid shared parental leave.
So what do you need to do to get ready for the 5th April?
Ensure you have a shared parental leave policy in place
Communicate with your managers so they are ready for questions coming from employees about this new entitlement
Maternity coaching
Maternity coaching is already an established practice and whilst still predominantly female led, at Amelore we are starting to see men join at least one of the sessions.  Coaching before, during and after maternity and potentially shared parental leave provides valuable space for employees to explore significant changes, increase clarity of thought and help really decide the best way of working for the future.
Need help with this?
Amelore can help design a policy that fits your organisation and provide the tools to upskill your managers so they’re ready for the inevitable questions that will start coming through.

Is HR your Friend or Foe?


A few years ago I appeared in an article that the Guardian published in the sadly now defunct Work section.  It was written by the charming Mark King (who now edits Moneywise) and it upset SOME people.

Mainly people in HR.

Dear oh dear.

Here is the article.

At that time I was quite a regular commentator on the Dear Jeremy page as ExBrightonBelle (for anyone that remembers me) and Mark approached me as it was obvious from my responses that I was an HR professional.

I don’t think any of us can get away from the fact that HR serves the management team over the employees. And yes as much as there will be many positive things that internal HR functions can do, they will mainly be focused on reducing costs, getting rid of difficult people and keeping the management team happy.

You can see how from a staff point of view that given those facts they may well see HR as their foe. 

What has been hugely refreshing for me since I started my own business 5 years ago is that I honestly think it’s different when you are external.  You don’t have to deal with politics, you can make recommendations and improve things and often part of our remit is coaching and developing people.  Which you never get to do as an internal person.

The other thing we do a lot of which I love is bringing the brand in-house. The Brand very much being the domain of the marketing department when you are internal.  And those two functions don’t often collaborate too closely.  You can have a Brand bible and a Staff handbook and reading them it’s like two different companies.  So being external we can also be pretty creative. In fact we have to be really to compete – why else would people choose to retain us?

Of course we are not a traditional outsourced HR business because we insist on face to face contact and agreed attendance in the office. Yes we support remotely 24/7 (but we don’t have an advice line – you just call your HR lead directly) and yes we firmly insist on the correct on brand (yours not ours) paperwork and good governance structures (we don’t offer tribunal indemnity insurance because we have never lost a tribunal – not as a company or in the professional history of our founder Ruth Cornish – so why would we slow everything down in that way) because we just don’t do tribunals.

If reading this you are kind of curious about what we could do for your business please get in touch.  We’d love to hear from you.