In this article I talk to an HR expert at a top London law firm to find out more about their day to day work and ask the questions that are on a marketer’s mind.
G: What’s the main thing you’re grappling with in your job right now?
H: The main issue for me is employee wellbeing, encouraging people to get back into the office and recruitment... the ‘war for talent’ is real!
G: What's your busiest time of the year? When is it best to avoid you?
H: Year end can be our busiest time, any time when we have our annual processes running we have a lot on our plate. These include appraisals, salary and bonus reviews, promotions and benefits reviews. As well as that, if a tricky employee relations case come up, that can wipe you out. I'm not sure there's ever a quiet time!
G: Which HR channels do you engage with?
H: The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) is important in most HR circles. They have a lot of networks and training available and can help to understand the bigger picture of HR. It’s always great to have HR contacts in other organisations who might have encountered a similar difficulty with an employee and are willing to share their experience and guidance.
The HR community is very collaborative, we like to help each other out, whether that’s with recommendations or new introductions, we talk to each other!
I subscribe to the daily CIPD updates as well as several law firm updates to keep on top of employment and immigration law changes. HMRC tax and employment updates are also vital. I also subscribe to updates for more general developments in recruitment, wellbeing and general HR.
I tend to log in to LinkedIn a couple of times per week, and we use Glassdoor a lot too, for keeping an eye on what other employers are up to as well as for advertising job vacancies.
My approach is probably more traditional - I don’t use Twitter or watch YouTube for HR updates because I have so much training available to me, this leaves little time for anything more.
G: If you wanted to learn about something new in HR, where would you go?
H: My first port of call is always CIPD, or probably the law firms that offer employment to HR professionals.
G: What makes a good HR event for you?
H: I have no preference for in-person or remote but it depends on the format of the event. If it’s in-person, I would absolutely expect it to be interactive. I like being able to take part in discussions and questions. This is important now more than ever because I don’t to travel to an event and not speak to anyone, wishing I’d have just logged in from my kitchen on Zoom!
When it comes to speakers, the best ones are in touch with the day to day realities of HR and who show an appreciation for what we do. Believe it or not, there remains some people who don’t recognise the value or breadth of what we do and are there solely to try and sell something, it’s a waste of time for me.
G: How often are you targeted with cold emails, do you just delete them? Have any ever caught your attention?
H: It hasn’t been too often in the past but I have noticed that it’s becoming increasingly so these days. They rarely catch my attention unless they’re on the topic of something that the team is looking for in that moment.
G: What process do you go through when finding a new supplier or making a new purchase?
H: Depending on the spend, we would usually ask our HR colleagues in other firms, ask our colleagues internally what and who they have used in the past in other places. On top of that, we’d usually undergo a tender process for larger or more exposed purchases or agreements.
G: What's the most recent software or tech that you and your team have implemented?
H: We recently installed a new system which stores our data and that also helps with workflows. It’s capable of storing documents, is integrated with payroll and enables self-service for our employees (so is more efficient for our admin team).
G: How long did it take to implement?
8 months and counting! Our day to day jobs are super busy at the best of times, but this system has taken up a lot of time in configuration meetings and gathering the right data. It should hopefully make our work lives easier in the future!
G: How much has your workforce been impacted by working from home?
H: Our teams adapted remarkably well, it helped that everyone already had their own laptops. We now have a hybrid model in place, with employees able to come into the office for a minimum 2 days per week, but full time if they wish.
Some have struggled with the practical issues and prefer to be at home full time but most have got used to it and are happy to come into the office. We put a lot of support in place such as counselling and training which has helped people transition back to the office.
G: In your opinion, what’s the future of office space?
H: The office of the future it as a place people can go which is so inviting and offers so much that they don't wish they had stayed at home, somewhere with meeting rooms but also quiet working spaces and places to congregate with colleagues over lunch or a coffee. We are social animals so it’s no surprise that interacting with colleages is important and the workplace needs to encourage this.
An office which is close to transport links will be important for those who choose to live further from their office than before.
But I think working from home for part or the majority of the week is here to stay - I don't know how businesses will attract people if it isn't, from my experience of work and recruitment.
G: How have the demands of employee mental wellbeing been on your time over the past couple years?
H: It’s been really demanding to say the least, but I am so fortunate to work in an organisation thattakes this seriously so we have a lot of external support in place for people's wellbeing. Employees expect this support nowadays, and the employers who put services like counselling and employee assistance programmes are really setting themselves apart from the rest.
G: The 4 day work week: feasible or just fiction?
H: Feasible! It would be quite an adjustment and it would need a shift in mindset, but I think it has the potential to make us more productive, maybe getting rid of a few unnecessary meetings too! It’s so important that we see rest as a complement to, and not opposite from work.
Rest is when we solve problems, think creatively and mull things over, even subconsciously, and I think this would help a lot of people do better. And by rest I mean doing anything that is not the day job.
We can reset, return more refreshed and there is the potential for us be closer to enjoyment than resentment on the work scale if we have a better work / on-work balance.
I haven't given much thought yet as to the challenges such a change would bring to performance management, such as how would adjust employee targets? What about those who charge their time out (like consultants and lawyers) and those who provide a service that could be needed any working day? It wouldn't work for everyone or every company but I think it would be a wonderful thing for our mental health if we managed it.
Maybe a 9 day fortnight is a good compromise to start with?
G: What are the typical job titles you’d encounter in HR?
Thank you H, lots of intersting insights from an HR's point of view! Changing forces such as remote working, emphasis on employee wellbeing and the cost of living are making an impact on the priorities of HR teams. As marketers, it's useful to know how we can approach them and really understand an HR's day to day struggles.
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