International HR Day 2023
Shaping the New Future is this year’s theme for International HR Day 2023. When focusing on the future it’s important to recognise the significant impact Human Resources have. They are the backbone of every business, and the guiding force that ensures employees well-being and professional development.
To celebrate, we acknowledge the vital role our Human Resources department Catherine Swindells, Designate Director of HR and Gemma Taylor, HR & Administration Assistant, play in creating an inclusive work environment, and fostering organizational success.
We sat down with Catherine and Gemma to gain insight into their experiences, challenges, and achievements. Through their expertise and dedication, they have helped shape our company culture and nurture our diverse workforce. Join us as we delve into the intricacies of HR management and learn from the professionals who make it all possible.
What drew you to a career in HR?
“I have always been a people person, so working in a role that allows me to work with people every day and focusing on their needs, sounded perfect.” says Catherine.
Catherine originally came from a legal PA background but decided she wanted a new challenge in life in 2015. Using her transferable skills Catherine decided she would be best placed in HR where her natural openness, effective communication, and professionalism would be vital, “the stars were aligned, and the rest was history”.
You could describe Gemma’s work in HR as a happy accident, when asked the same question she said “I studied law at university but soon realised I didn’t want to go down that path. I put my trust in a recruitment agency and they suggested my current role.” Being intrigued by the human element of HR Gemma knew she would be a great fit, “I enjoy working with people, building relationships and helping as much as I can”.
What is your favourite thing about your job role?
“My job is full of variety and keeps me busy, which I love! Helping people and being able to deliver good news at times is one of the perks but of course there are also challenges in tackling conflicts. Achieving a positive outcome from difficult situations is rewarding though.”
“Being the first point of contact for staff, listening to their concerns and working towards a resolution.”
When you’re not working, what do you like to do in your spare time?
“Lots of walking with my dog” Catherine’s black Labrador, Dexter “City breaks with friends, eating out & wine!” Catherine recently returned from Poland to celebrate her husbands 50th.
“Going to music concerts with friends, cycling, dog/cat sitting and cooking” Gemma’s signature Tofu Peanut Butter Curry is a fan favourite! And she recently adopted her very own Pointer pup called Tilly.
Would you say HR has changed over the years? If so, how?
“Yes, since COVID we have seen a huge shift towards flexible working, which has been the biggest internal change over the past few years. The perception around flexible working hours has changed, COVID has made us move on from traditional working schedules” says Catherine. “Staff progression has become a huge focus too, people want clear pathways and we understand the importance of developing our employees by offering and supporting training to improve skills for internal progression or future roles”.
“It’s difficult for me to say as I have only worked in HR for the past year, but I recently read that there has been a shift from the typical Human Resources to People Practice and moving away from seeing people as resources and the understanding that putting energy into people will ultimately create a happier work force and in turn, help businesses grow.” Gemma continues “Focusing on well-being and being more compassionate with an understanding of staff members mental health will show people they are valued and supported.” Gemma developed ‘Wellbeing Wednesdays’ which aims to raise awareness on certain topics to remind staff to look after themselves and make good use of all the company benefits we have to offer. “I want people to look after themselves and each other and know that the company cares about each individual.”
How important is diversity in the workplace?
“Very! Our staff members come from all types of backgrounds, different cultures, ages, and genders – we reflect diversity well.” When asked why diversity is important Catherine said, “It’s great to get input from each and every person, this brings fresh ideas and contributions which helps to promote an inclusive workplace culture.”
Gemma added “representation is a must, it brings different backgrounds and cultures together which comes with different skills, experience and assets which can be shared with other employees, increasing employee morale. It creates a more vibrant environment where everyone’s voice is heard.”
What keeps you motivated?
“Always wanting to do a good job, I’m a bit of a perfectionist so I give 100% to everything. I enjoy being able to tell people good news but understand in the role I’m in it’s not always going to be the desired outcome. As long as procedure is followed with compassion, I know I have done the best I can do and fairly.”
“I’m motivated by new challenges and contributing to change and making a difference.” Says Gemma
How do you develop your own skills?
“I have completed a CIPD Level 5 Diploma and complete short external courses, I make sure to keep up to date with recent news articles and legislations to stay knowledgeable and make sure I’m following best practices.”
“I am currently doing my CIPD Level 5 Diploma and always keep up to date with workplace related news and legislation. I also make a habit of taking on new challenges outside of my job description.”
It has been great to hear different perspectives on Catherine and Gemma’s journeys to and in HR. The pair have shared their experiences, challenges, and achievements, offering insight into their dedication to shaping our company's culture. Their journeys into HR, despite originating from different fields, showcase their shared passion for people and their commitment to creating a healthy and productive workplace.
The evolution of HR is a key theme in their discussion. Catherine noted the shift towards flexible working hours and a stronger emphasis on staff progression, reflecting the transformative impact of the COVID pandemic on workplace practices. Similarly, Gemma highlighted the transition from traditional 'Human Resources' to a more compassionate and individual-focused 'People Practice'. Both emphasised the importance of personal development, with each either having pursued or currently pursuing a CIPD Level 5 Diploma and staying up-to-date with HR-related news and legislations. This focus on professional growth, coupled with initiatives like Gemma's 'Wellbeing Wednesdays', underscores their dedication to enhancing the well-being of their diverse workforce. This insightful discussion highlights the pivotal role that HR professionals play in shaping the future of organisations, resonating with the theme of International HR Day 2023 Shaping the New Future.