Lisa has over 25 years’ experience working in Human Resources across a wide range of organisations and market sectors including IT, Pharmaceuticals, Food and Drink and Manufacturing. Lisa is a member of the CIPD, has a Degree in Law, a Masters Degree in Human Resource Management and is a Licensed Practitioner of NLP, Insights® Discovery, Myers Briggs (MBTI) and other psychometric tools. Lisa specialises in advising small and medium sized businesses on people and HR related matters, making the ‘minefield’ that can be HR, more accessible and user friendly. Lisa is passionate about the value that effective HR support can add to a business. HR is not about telling business owners what they can’t do, or about tying them up in compliance Yes, there are boxes to tick when employing a team, but great HR is far more about engaging with the people that work for you and motivating them to drive loyalty, commitment, teamwork and high performance.
What does your working week look like, Lisa?
HR is a mixture of reactive and proactive work. I always plan my day and week, but sometimes my diary will get completely thrown by something reactive that becomes all consuming, such a disciplinary or grievance matter which will need to be handled promptly. Generally, I can talk things through with my clients over the phone or Skype, but sometimes I may need to be onsite. I do whatever is needed of me.
I support a number of clients, generally in the SME market, so my basic day to day is looking at what each one needs and working out how to deliver it. It may be an immediate need such as a contract that needs to be drafted or an employment issue where advice is needed, or doing work on a longer-term project such as a company re-organisation, developing a performance management approach or planning a training programme. I review the urgent tasks and prioritise that way. If there is any time left in the day, I will look at my own business – continuing to improve the services I offer and how I can attract new clients.
Do you find that businesses know what they need in terms of HR? Or is often a new area for them to think about?
People often have a mental block when it comes to HR. There’s a feeling that HR is just about compliance, taking a ‘policing role’. In reality, although there are the ‘legalities’ to employing people, HR is all about getting the best out of your team, so they are motivated and engaged to perform at their best for the business. I feel passionately about helping businesses to achieve this.
The issues that I deal with on a daily basis can be really stressful and emotive for business owners and managers. I want to ensure that my clients feel fully supported, so that while they are in control, they are not alone. Being there to listen and provide guidance can really lighten the burden.
How did you get into HR?
I studied law at university, I knew that even though I did not want to become a lawyer, I definitely wanted to use the law in my career. I was always drawn to the more commercial roles. HR was never originally my ‘dream job’, but it just made sense to me. I always knew I wanted to make a difference in my career and add value to whatever business I worked for. When I looked at how I could use my skills in a business environment and the things I felt really passionately about, it was the perfect fit.
Do you have a certain approach to what you do?
I think I am very approachable. Quite often the first time that I deal with a client it is because they have encountered an employee issue, and more often than not they have never used HR before. They can be in a panic and need someone to listen to their needs, provide reassurance and guide them so that they can be more confident in managing the issue through to a successful conclusion. Listening to client needs is so important as every client and their company culture is different, and advice should be tailored to their specific situation.
What have some of your highlights been so far?
Setting up my own business was the real highlight for me. I was working in corporate HR roles beforehand, but I worked my way up to a position whereby I could set up on my own. I set up my company specifically to work with SMEs, as I love to work with business owners and leaders who are so passionate about what they do. I am fortunate to work with some amazing businesses and people across many different industries. They all have different requirements and day to day needs, but the common theme is the same-their passion and drive to achieve.
What are the challenges currently facing your sector? Have these changed during your career?
There is a level of consistency in HR as we are dealing with people and therefore the same sort of needs or issues crop up: recruiting great people into the business, building an effective team, helping them to perform at their best, dealing with issues that arise and rewarding and recognising performance. In terms of current challenges, these will very often mirror the challenges facing business more widely. Brexit is obviously the big uncertainty currently with its associated impact on resourcing, both in terms of being able to recruit candidates with the right skill set, but also concerns over whether businesses will lose work and hence have a reduced need for team members. We’re also helping clients deal with the impact of GDPR, competing for the best talent in the market and the changing ways this is happening and improving approaches to support ‘wellness’ and mental health at work.
Could you say a bit more about this shift into considering the wellbeing of employees?
Whilst there is a real and positive shift towards a better understanding of mental health issues at work, there is still a long way to go. One in four people will suffer from a mental health issue each year and many of my clients have experienced first-hand, team members who really need support. Mental health support in the community is not always adequate and this creates additional pressure for the individual who needs support and the business. HR can support managers to support their team members, encouraging openness and understanding.
It’s common for small businesses and entrepreneurs to try and do everything themselves. What advice would you give to them about HR?
It is definitely best to get some advice when it comes to HR matters. Whether it’s about how to engage and motivate your team, get some HR infrastructure in place or to deal with an issue. You don’t need to spend a lot of money, so do the research and get the best HR support you can. In my experience, HR issues don’t go away so it’s best to intervene early and hopefully get to a good resolution. It is also so easy to do something wrong however innocently, which can then cause an issue to escalate and become a huge time-eater to deal with. Having someone to seek advice from can not only nip issues in the bud, but also give you some creative ideas to really get the best out of your team.
If you could work with absolutely anyone, who would it be?
There are so many really inspirational business people out there but if I had to name a couple, it would be Jo Malone and Richard Reed, the Co-Founder of Innocent Drinks. Both have established brands that I love and admire, have such down to earth and refreshing approaches and have shown huge tenacity.
What do you think about the growing trend of people setting up their own businesses and enterprises?
I think it is fantastic. If you can build a business around something you feel truly passionate about, that has to be a good thing. Life is too short to work in a job you don’t enjoy!
For anyone just leaving university now, or leaving school and looking to start a career like yours, what advice would you give?
This is a very interesting area. The traditional path is through the CIPD qualification, which will give you a great grounding; but in reality, it is theory vs practice. Every business and person is unique and therefore every situation you deal with is unique.
My advice would be to get out there and get as much practical experience as you can, even at a basic level. Get the feel for it and build your HR tool kit from each experience you have. That way you will be much better prepared for the next situation.
What do you think your industry will look like in ten years’ time?
Technology will continue to become increasingly important across all aspects of HR. There will also be a far more dynamic and flexible workforce in place: people are demanding more flexibility in how and where they work and with the war for talent not likely to change, companies will need to respond positively to that. Ultimately though, people are people and HR will always require the human touch!
What do you do when you are not working?
I am a very keen runner, which helps both with fitness and de-stressing. I have three boys, aged 14, 11 and 6 – we do park runs at the weekend as a family which is great fun and great time together.
What’s next for you?
I love what I do and I want to continue building my business and adding more value to my clients. I love working in the entrepreneurial community that surrounds me… so more of the same, but expanding my reach to meet more great inspirational people.