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Continued from A new year, a new HR – some resolutions for 2015 (Part 1)

In Part 1 of this two-part series, I shared with you some the HR lessons I learnt in 2014, expanding on the thought leadership I witnessed at Symposium’s range of conferences. Part 2 brings you more knowledge from the heart of the industry, consolidating it into resolutions for the new year.

Recognition goes a long way

Linda Smith from Unum presented a variety of surveys and research at our Health@Work Summit in June. According to one report, 82 percent of employee respondents indicated feeling empowered at work was important and 81 percent wanted recognition for achievements and not necessarily in a monetary way. Employees want and need autonomy and a “well done” when appropriate. It is clear to me that emotionally intelligent managers and supervisors are a key component of all organisations and yet they may be still a rare breed in today’s workplaces.

Managers who are adept at recognising their staff are invaluable and can have a transformational effect on their teams. Reward and benefit packages remain important, but we know that engagement is dependent on much more than salary. Taking the time to recognise high-performing individuals should be a must for managers in 2015, and training and encouraging managers to do so a must for HR.

The 2015 Health @ Work Summit will take place on June 11.

Ella Weston, Health & Wellbeing Manager, Arqiva

Ella Weston, Health & Wellbeing Manager, Arqiva

Make leadership diversity more than a tick-box exercise

Many of the stories told at our Talent Management and Leadership Development Forum in October showed that there are organisations who are resolutely focused on inclusion and diversity – not as a tick box, but as a way to enrich and deepen the resources in their leadership. It was encouraging to hear how much good work is taking place and how much commitment there now appears to be to create opportunities for people to grow. Great work is happening out there, that is respectful to individuals, and aligned to employer brand and strategy.

Diversity and inclusion should be at the heart of any decent talent programme in 2015, and it includes different experiences, ages, genders, origins, and people from different educational backgrounds. True diversity recognises potential everywhere. Many people within HR may have already resolved to be seen to be improving the diversity of their senior leadership group, but a genuine appreciation for both the moral case and the benefits of doing so should be your true resolution for the coming year.

The Symposium Talent Management & Leadership Development Summit returns on October 22 2015.

Stephen Gilbert, Practice Lead, Rethink Talent Management

Stephen Gilbert, Practice Lead, Rethink Talent Management

Fail to plan, plan to fail!

Strategic HR requires robust forward planning in line with the aims of the business. This much we know and have known for some time, but many HR practitioners still find the demands of their day-to-day roles restrict their ability to put longer-term strategies and planning in place, be it for individuals, teams or the workforce as a whole.

Our Expatriate Management and Global Mobility Forum in July saw Richard Pennington, head of international assignment services EMEA at General Motors, make clear that careful preparation is critical before deploying an assignee to a challenging environment abroad. He warned against hasty preconceptions concerning regions suffering from political unrest and conflict and stressed the importance of interviewing the family and spouse, as they are key decision makers, and discussing careful contingencies for medical requirements and evacuation procedures should the need arise. Richard succinctly compared the decision of working abroad to the well-known piece of traditional wisdom: ‘Marry in haste, repent at leisure’.

One of my resolutions one both a personal and professional level this year is to improve my ability to plan ahead. It can be a dispiriting process, especially in some environments where year-long plans can be abandoned after only a few weeks in ever-changing environments. However, detailed forward planning breeds confidence both in the HR function from other areas of the business and within the function itself. Whether you are assigning people around the globe, focussing on learning and development, recruiting or introducing new wellness initiatives, resolve to plan ahead with your teams and develop and update those plans whenever you can throughout 2015.

The Expatriate Management and Global Mobility Forum 2015 will take place on July 9.

Apprentices aren’t just for Lord Sugar

We ended our event programme of 2014 with our first conference on Apprentices and School Leavers. The event was completely sold out and a huge success and made clear the value successful apprenticeship schemes can add to your talent pool.

There has been a steady increase in the number of apprentice and school leaver programmes available over the last few years and The Centre for Economics and Business Research predict that this will grow even further in 2015. As employment law expert Kate Russell stated, “Student employees are often responsive to guidance and they accept work evaluations as they accept academic measurement. Many students want to get this experience so when they come into the workplace, they are enthusiastic and willing to learn.”

Aside from the CSR and brand benefits, apprenticeship schemes can add huge value to organisations of all sizes. There could be many roles within your business that could be eligible for an apprenticeship, including development opportunities for both the apprentice and manager and access to funding. At Symposium we hope to recruit our first apprentice in the next month. Resolve to find out more about apprenticeship schemes and how they can add value to your business in different ways.

The Apprentices and School Leavers Conference will return in December 2015 (date TBC).

Delegates in deep discussion

Delegates in deep discussion

Family matters

2015 will bring several significant legislative changes regarding family friendly policy. Our events in March and November on maternity, paternity and shared parental leave brought home the force and effect of these upcoming changes and the impact they will have on organisations’ HR policies. In particular, the introduction of a new childcare voucher government scheme in the Autumn and the start of new shared parental leave arrangements in the Spring are complex and require in-depth understanding by HR practitioners.

Kim Wager, Assistant Director, Flexible Working and Shared Parental Leave and Pay, Labour Market Directorate, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) shared the view that “By giving families more choice, the Government expects that women will be able to better maintain their attachment to the jobs market. That means mothers’ skills and experience are not lost to the economy, and employers are able to select from the best pool of talent.” Kim has been responsible for the right to request flexible working and maternity, paternity and adoption policies for the last two years and is leading the policy and implementation on the new shared parental leave and pay system.

As we enter an election year, we are undoubtedly set to see a raft of new proposals from all parties regarding employment law, working conditions and pay. Resolve to keep yourself abreast of all the changes so that you can plan and update your policies accordingly to make sure your employees are supported and your business remains compliant.

Discover hidden talents

Those with experience of working in smaller businesses, as opposed to the bigger corporates, will know the potential that exists for managers to discover and utilise skills within their teams that they may not have been aware of when the individuals were brought on board. Life in a smaller business often entails work outside of an individual job description or usual skillset for their role, work at which people often unexpectedly excel, allowing the individual to develop and open up new opportunities for both themselves and the business.

Our Graduate Recruitment and Leadership Development forum in February, in its eighth year, included a presentation from recruitment heavyweights and event sponsors Saville Consulting, in which it was stated that ‘Many organisations are starting to focus more on what happens beyond the traditional graduate programme and are looking for ways to pinpoint high-fliers earlier,’ as ‘Graduates with potential across the whole business usually have skills over and above those for which they have been recruited.’

Are you giving your employees the chance to demonstrate the breadth of their skillsets? In 2015, more and more organisations with be looking to do just that, using methods such as role rotation schemes and self-directed learning and development programmes. Start with your own team and resolve to find their hidden skills and how they can be used to add value to your HR function.

The Symposium Graduate Recruitment and Development Forum returns on February 26 2015.

Engage your board on engagement

For those of us in HR it feels like the debate around employee engagement and the best ways to create, measure and utilise it seems to be never-ending. However, here is something that may shock you. Amy Armstrong, a research fellow at the Ashridge Business School, chaired our Employee Engagement Summit in May and, before introducing a line-up of distinguished speakers, began with the eye-opening insight that, according to a recent Ashridge report, ‘CEO’s still struggle to define employee engagement.’ Whilst much of the morning was to focus on measurement and action to increase engagement, it is important to remember that there is still a lack of understanding undermining the entire employee engagement and HR agenda.

So, in 2015, make sure that your business’s key decision makers fully understand the concept of an engaged workforce and what that could mean. Introduce them to the Engage For Success campaign at and demonstrate the need for a dedicated strategy to engage and retain your best talent.

That concludes my thoughts on the year just gone. I’ll be sure to blog my learnings from our Graduate Recruitment and Development Forum, so be sure to check back in then. Or, even better, why not attend yourself?