Change happens….


Throughout my career (thus far) I have worked in teams and organisations where change is not only cyclical, you can almost set your watch by it.  In my younger days this gave me great cause for concern and on more than one occasion I held my breath while the redundancy wheel of misfortune spun, missed me once (phew) but caught me the second time round!  The media and PLN groups that I follow are full of great helpful advice on planning, executing and managing change and the benefits this can bring to an organisation and the people within it but we are still, deep down really scared of change, even in HR (sometimes especially in HR).

It appears to me that not only is change healthy but absolutely vital to eradicate silos of thinking and to enable us HR professionals to support the development of an agile but strong and positive culture, and build a confident approach to embracing change.  This said, on an individual level it is easy to overlook (and I am guilty of this myself) the perceived impact of change and the aftershock of change as we are so focused on physically managing its manifestation and immediately trying to embed it.

I do love a model and the fact that the Kubler Ross change curve was originally designed to monitor the grief cycle speaks volumes to me.  We invest so much of our time in our workplace, we sign up emotionally to the values of our organisation and we strive to be part of a coherent team with common goals, why wouldn’t we grieve when something happens to alter the equilibrium?  And importantly why wouldn’t an organisation plan for this and support the people that it has invested so heavily in?  I am aware that this is not a new subject my any means but one that as an HR professional I have encountered most of my career.  With this in mind I am making myself back to the curve and want to ensure that in the excitement and the execution of the physical change that I am not ignoring the aftermath.   Cementing the new order is so important to build trust in the leadership of the organisation and to strengthen the organisation’s culture and resilience for the future.  I’m not sure that anyone has all the answers but an approach of learning, growth and development for you as an individual, for the team and the organisation as a whole can only be a positive way to approach this.

Best wishes to you all for the Christmas and New Year and I look forward to connecting with you in 2019!

20 Years ago.. a really personal post!

On this day 20 years ago I woke up to the most amazing news, there was no brain tumour, I was going to live.  After a long, delicate operation the amazing surgeons had uncovered, drained and cleaned a huge abscess from the edge of the back of my brain.  For a few weeks this monster had been squeezing my brain and my sight was going, I was down to less than 50% vision and had issues with balance.  I had difficulty conversing and finding the words which scared the socks off my lovely flat mates and me.

I have to say that the hardest part wasn’t being ill, for me the scariest part was getting better.  Every time I woke up my sight had come back a little bit more, I had painful flashing migraines daily as my brain tried to heal itself.  I needed to wear a hat as the surgeons had shaved half of my head and a huge square scar, that we lovingly called my ‘cat flap’ was visible to the world.  As a family we used to joke that my catching was even worse than before and that I would always walk into old ladies and small children as I just couldn’t see them!

My family and friends were amazing, I went back to work after 3 months (way too soon!) and my colleagues were so great, supporting me and now here we are 20 year later!  My scar still hurts from time to time, the flashes appear infrequently now and my sight is pretty much 100%, I still can’t catch and I have rubbish balance but I am so grateful for the second chance I was given.  My world is full of love from my two beautiful children and my lovely husband and my family and dear friends.  I don’t let life pass me by and I have a great deal of respect for the doctors and nurses that cared for me.  The amazing family doctor who wasn’t happy about my headaches and sent me to A&E is sadly no longer with us and to him I will always be indebted – he actually saved my life.

What have I learned from this?  I have learned a great deal in the past 20 years.  I have become a Mummy twice, I have made mistakes, but I have done good things too.  I have brushed shoulders with anxiety, I have been so happy I could burst.  I have learned it is important to live your own life, love deeply and truly and laugh often; be kind to each other; don’t worry about things, worrying doesn’t help.  Say sorry when you are wrong and when you hurt another’s feelings.  Learn from your mistakes.  Life is precious, money and status is not.  Food is fuel and smiles are contagious.  …. Happy Christmas everyone!

Mentee Success Story!

Incredibly proud of my mentee Anthony. When we first started our journey together he told me that he had been written off by his school as not being suited to A-Levels and was told he should pick a manual trade and follow a less academic pathway.  This wasn’t what he wanted, so he rose above, never letting go of his dream to get a degree. He went to college and only a year behind his peers collected enough UCAS points to apply to university.
Today I am so proud that this man, who was blessed with the gift of a different learning style they broadly label ‘dyslexia’, has graduated with a 1st class honours degree in Business Management and HR!
“Take that!” the teachers that called him lazy! “Take that!” the learning support department that told his parents they would only support him if he was statemented and “Take that!” the Careers Advisor who couldn’t see past the end of her own nose! I am so pleased that Anthony had drive, a non waning ambition and strong supportive parents who wouldn’t take this nonsense, who fought for his education and provided him with the tools and encouragement he did not get at school. Anthony was lucky, there are many young men and girls out there who need this kind of support but can’t access it.
I truly believe that I am so lucky too.  I learned such a lot from Anthony and his Mum, he is a role model for me as a professional, she is a role model for me as a mother and as a person and they are the best kind of role models to my children. I will continue to support Anthony in his search for an HR role and I will be re-registering myself as a volunteer mentor for local young people. Today is a great day!  Congratulations Anthony, you more than deserve this accolade!

*If any of my HR contacts are interested in hearing more about this intelligent, talented and driven young man please do get in touch.  Thank you. Natalie 

Social Mobility – What can HR do to help?



Recently I was fortunate enough to have a piece published on the Guardian careers site.  It was a piece about apprenticeships being as robust a start to a career as an undergraduate degree and a topic that is close to my heart.  As a volunteer mentor, I have often met with young people who are confused, scared and doubtful about their future careers; the path of GCSEs, A Levels, University, then a Graduate scheme, just does not work for them.  Some have high aspirations, but are failed by a system that chooses to put children in boxes as learners and as such those that don’t fit are failed. Some are keen but not financially able to go to university but have all the characteristics, drive, determination and intellect to achieve great things in their career.  This really got me pondering about social mobility and how if anyone can, we as HR practitioners can effect a change in attitude.  We embrace and champion diversity but are we merely ignoring social diversity, labelling this as OK as we’re looking for academic excellence in our organisation?  Why can’t more organisations remove minimal degree requirements from their recruitment criteria and instead hire for attitude and potential – yes, that is harder to compare but is surely of more use to the business in the long term.  I attended a CIPD meeting the other day where the speaker, an organisational psychologist, commented that probably over 90% of the learning that undertake  for our degrees is ‘learned for test’ and not retained long term.  Our brains empty almost all of it after our finals.  He remarked that learning is cemented in 2 ways; copying or trial and error.  I came away wondering – what even is the point of a degree for most people (I’m most definitely in the 90% category – mentally blocked my financial accountancy module).

So what are we doing to help?  What more can we do?  The CIPD have launched a new scheme to put HR volunteers into schools to help support career guidance and this is a great start but we also need a hand in making our vacancies accessible to all.  Career guidance and support is worthless if organisations don’t adapt their entrance criteria to accept different learning pathways and this needs to be shouted about.  Ernst & Young and other large organisations have removed academic qualifications from their selection criteria and this happened in 2015 so why are we still seeing such disparity and still a widening gap between social classes in the workplace.  Surely the old boys/girls network isn’t that far reaching?! Here are some ways to make a difference:

  1. Outreach – Visit local schools, give back, and engage with colleges. Use that CSR policy to good use and get out there.  Talk about your job, what you love, how young people can join you.
  2. Make information about vacancies, progression and routes into your business clear, jargon free and easy to find. Use a variety of mediums; social media, local newspapers, job centre plus etc to make sure you reach as wide an audience as possible.
  3. Have fluid routes into your organisation. School leaver and higher apprenticeships are great, but so is emotional intelligence, diligence and willingness to work hard and learn.  Also shout about those employees who have taken a different route up the hierarchy.
  4. Hire for attitude and provide line manager training to develop individual’s skills.
  5. Offer relevant, clear training and development at all levels that is accessible to those who would benefit from it.
  6. Offer planned and structured work experience programmes and advertise them!

I am aware that this list is by no way exhaustive and am also very aware that a culture of ‘jobs for the boys/girls’ is still rife.  The culture of hiring also needs to adapt and that I’m afraid is a harder nut to crack and a whole other topic altogether!

Thank you for reading and please feel free to share your thoughts and experiences.  Do you have something like this in place that works?  Best wishes Natalie

International women’s day 2017

A short post today in the light of international women’s day.  I am of the generation that was warned of the glass ceiling – that later morphed into a glass wall.  I grew up with a woman Prime minister and Edwina Currie even came to visit our school to give a talk about being a woman in leadership.  The possibilities for my generation were going to surpass anything before – we were going to be unstoppable!  We should dress in sharp trouser suits and lead as the men do, a necessity to be accepted (apparently)!  How wrong we were!

Here we are, a few years down the line, I’m halfway through my career (I say career, I mean working life) I abandoned my aspirations to enable me to look after my children and be there for them!  I made my own choices, am not bitter and I have never experienced gender inequality directly.  I am however acutely aware of  the need not just to educate our daughters but that it is imperative that we educate our sons!  The current patriarchal society can not be changed overnight, this will take a generation to be natural and endemic in the beliefs of the populous, which is sad; I’m sure Emmeline Pankhurst is turning in her grave!

Let’s continue this fight!   Let us stand up for inequality whether it be on the basis of gender, race, sexual orientation or social class, disability, intelligence, caste, weight, height, mental health or even on the basis of favourite colour!  Whether you have experienced this or if it happens in your presence, you have the right to refuse to accept this.  If everyone refuses to stand for this then we may just make the world a fairer place for everyone.

My favourite quote from today comes from Joyce Stevens and is taken from the Women’s liberation Broadsheet, 1975.  Much of this is still true today.



Thank you for reading and here’s to us all!  Best Wishes. Natalie

Welcoming key rings & cupcakes – The importance of #onboarding

I do enjoy a LinkedIn post with a picture of a desk covered in cupcakes and merchandise.  It is usually tagged with a gushing, “Thank you to my new team, for making me feel so welcome on my first day”.   The power of getting Onboarding right…. get it wrong or ignore its value at your peril!

A study of 264 new employees by the Academy of Management Journal found that the 1st 90 days of employment were pivotal in building rapport with the company, leadership and colleagues.  When perceived and actual levels of support were high, the new hires showed more positive attitudes towards their role and the organisation, and were more productive.  When the contrary approach of little to no support was noted, the study showed unhappy, unproductive employees who were less likely to make it past the 4 month mark.  So this is common sense, yes?  Welcome your new hires properly and make them feel part of a team and they will flourish.  It all appears to be quite simple, so where are businesses going wrong?

Michael Falcon says that Onboarding is “the design of what your employees feel, see and hear after they’ve been hired”.  Often companies confuse this with induction training which, whilst an important part of the Onboarding process, doesn’t represent it entirely.

Cupcakes are all very nice and good but to get your hires really on-board they need to:

P  Feel they are a valued member of the team bringing appreciated skills.

P  Feel they are a vital cog in the machine of the organisation.

P  Feel aligned to the aims of the organisation and their team.

P  Share the values of the organisation, feel that the team and organisation ‘walk that way’ as well as ‘talk that way’.

P  Feel that the validation of all of the above is authentic!

In terms of human behaviour this should be common sense, to make someone feel valued and that they belong, however lazy induction programmes with the explicit premise of ticking those HR boxes can be demoralizing to all involved.  A well thought-out and user centric Onboarding programme should not just include the delivery of a prescriptive list of ‘dos and don’ts’, rules and expectations.   Your Onboarding programme should be robust; starting from when interested people see the advertisement for the role.  The application process is an often neglected area and we all know the power of 1st impressions, both positive and negative.  This then should continue through your fair selection process, ensuring that you are ‘walking your why’ and illustrating how your company values are ingrained in all that you do.  This builds your employer brand and will make the Onboarding once your new hires start a continuation of recruitment best practice.  Not only will you keep your new hires but in the application process you will ensure that you attract the best talent for your organisation and make a real connection with those whose values align with the organisation’s.

These have been my initial thoughts on Onboarding.  Please feel free to share your experiences and thoughts.  Best wishes Natalie.


Super Chickens – A rather different look at long term team development.


As one of my New year’s resolutions I have decided that I am going to try to walk to work more often.  The 2 mile stroll will give me time to focus, centre and listen to all the podcasts and TED talks that I’ve not had time to listen to.  This week I came across a great talk by Margaret Heffernan about an experiment by William Muir.

Muir, an eminent Biologist conducted an experiment where he created 2 groups of chickens and watched them for 6 generations, monitoring their egg production and interactions.  One group was left to their own devices and the other group was selectively bred for maximum egg production.  At the end of the experiment the ‘control’ group production had increased over time and the ‘selectively’ bred group had only 3 survivors; the missing having been pecked to death by their comrades in the war for supremacy!

Traditionally this has been quoted by business minds as a lesson in the dangers of high achievers and how a team of highly functioning people can be more destructive than constructive.  In my opinion, I see another lesson here also; the group left to their own devices actually increased their own production over time, surpassing the ‘super’ group – maybe the correct support  could have increased production even more.

This brings me back to teamwork in general and how (as I’ve blogged about previously) that diverse teams, whatever that diversity looks/feels/sounds like are the most successful.

So, should we carefully manage talent, treat it as a destructive force, with no longevity and a quick burnout?  No, talent isn’t a cardboard cut-out, 1 size fits all, it doesn’t come with a flashing neon sign (well not always). Talent comes in a variety of forms and strengths – individual, and team talent are vital for success.  Appropriate leadership and support of all talent (whether inherently visible or yet to shine) is the way forward for all organisations.  Come on let’s not forget on our less obvious talent that is keeping us moving whilst the ‘high achievers’ are pecking each other to death.


Thank you for reading and please do let me know your thoughts. Natalie

Talking HR … I’m interviewed for a US Podcast.


My career has taken many a turn over the years and my latest opportunity came up after chatting with a Career and Life Coach and a Recruitment Consultant at a birthday party, a few Proseccos and a telephone call later and we were invited to record a pilot podcast for US audiences on a Business Radio Network.  The questions were posed from a layman’s point of view and I was interviewed as the HR specialist, which gave me a certain glow of pride, I don’t mind telling you.

I was expecting an easy time talking through what the HR department does in different organisations and how this influences the direction of the business, strengths, USP etc.  I was very happy however to instead be asked about my predictions for the future and the challenges that HR and employees alike face – something to get my teeth into!

I thought, dear readers, that I’d also share a morsel of the interview  with you to see if you have any thoughts you’d like to add as I’m more than sure that this is in no way a definitive list.

Q1. Is HR changing?

Yes, HR is changing and so it should.  The rate of change in industry should be met with the people support that it needs. HR needs to be as agile and adaptable as the industry it supports.  The onset of the 4th industrial revolution that the Forbes article mentions has been anticipated for a long time.  The replacement of people with AI and global networks of remote workers has been discussed in HR circles before.  Hr needs to not just respond to the current changes of the working environment but also to predict the future needs of the organisation in the industry and markets that it operates in.

I think that HRs are working smarter.  Working together with information at our fingertips, connected via social media and building our networks and knowledge by interacting with HRs at all levels across the world.  HR like specialisms such as marketing is responding quickly to an ever changing world and we’re doing it like good HR professionals should – using our people skills to connect and develop ourselves and each other.


Q2. What is your projected view of the immediate future of HR?

I think that HR will very much go in the same direction as industry as a whole, it has to.  I can’t see a time where people are obsolete or completely replaced by AI that can auto match candidates, generate reports, and analyse them etc – what about the human element, personality?  However, I think that the practice of HR will change.  There will be a greater emphasis on managing change and culture, especially with the growth of remote and flexible working patterns.  Also we have to see that with each generation that are building our industries there are differing expectations and requirements.  Baby boomers are less prolific yet still may hold the highest of seats at the board table.  Millennials are the future leaders (and fast climbing current middle leaders) who work in a different way.  They have grown up with internet and global connectivity and a world of work open to them that no other generation had ever seen.

Big data has been a long discussed topic.  What are we collecting?  How are we using this data?  HR are looking to build future proofs into their people strategy but as with everything it is only a projection – that’s why the key to successful future planning for all is agility.  A quick changing model in a superfast changing global market.

I think that there is a drive for creating and supporting resilient teams through a greater emphasis on wellbeing with creative people development offerings for a diverse employee base.

Also I see that performance management will need to change.  The annual performance review is outdated and not in keeping with the idea of building an organisation for the future.  More rounded and constant feedback (360 degrees) will help to create and develop teams as a whole and I see software programmes bringing a large chunk of development planning and mapping to the fore.  People can access MOOCs (Massive open online courses) and structure their personal development better than before.  Development will continue to be an overarching action, not just the addressing of prescribed specific interventions by organisations onto employees.

For me, the cohesion of all of these forward thinking measures is held in the creating and maintaining of a healthy supportive culture within the organisation that underpins everything that you do.


This is merely a snapshot of the full discussion and I hope that I will be able to share more details with you as they unfurl.  As always please do comment and share your experiences, thoughts and future predictions.  I wish a Happy and Successful 2017 to you all, Natalie.

*Guest post for Ashley Kate HR*: When coaching and mentoring programmes stagnate; how to reinvigorate the learning culture.



Full article as published on Ashley Kate HR Guest Blog – December 2016

Coaching and mentoring is not a new idea.  Companies large and small run coaching and mentoring programmes whether formally or informally and have done since the practice was first recorded in Ancient Greece.  We know that people learn best using a variety of mediums and that they work best when motivated, engaged and most importantly valued.  Academics and practitioners alike identify that coaching and mentoring help to encourage these.

You had a great idea, you launched a mentoring scheme using senior managers and you trained your line managers to act as coaches to those who report to them.  For a while it all worked well; attrition was down, working relationships were improved and great conversations were taking place regarding long term career planning.  So HR sprung into action, sent out a survey and everyone patted themselves on the back for building another successful intervention to develop people.  

Let’s take a leap a few years into the future….. The magic mentoring programme is failing, matched pairs are not seeing out the full programme and feedback is not good.  Senior manages are not mentoring anymore, middle managers are still coaching their reports but the learning and growing culture that you tried so desperately to reinforce is dwindling.  Why?

A common mistake that I have come across is the belief that training and development budgets can be slashed if ‘we just nail this mentoring and coaching lark’, so schemes are used as a cost-cutting exercise.  I have seen well thought out schemes fall flat on their face because they were thought to be the ‘magic cure all’.  The most extreme of these was in an organisation who believed that they could eliminate all other management training by using Mentoring.  This fell apart rapidly.  Senior management became overwrought with extra responsibility, head count had been reduced and now there was an expectation that they would mentor leaders of the future with no support, at a time when trust in the organisation was at an all time low. The company values were displayed loudly and proudly, but the interventions that they were putting in place were overshadowed by those that they took away.  

How do you rescue a scheme when this happens?

When any organisational incentive stops showing a benefit, it is time to reconsider.  

  • What exactly does this organisation and the people need?  
  • Where is our mentoring talent?  
  • How does mentoring and coaching fit within our existing development offering?  
  • How does this link to our company’s values and goals?
  • How do we embed this learning culture into our organisation?

It may not be your most senior leaders that make up all your leader mentors.   Your middle leaders may be better placed and more knowledgeable about the organisation to make a more positive impact, especially on those at the start of their career.  Most importantly good design and a clear vision of the purpose of the scheme is paramount.  A robust mentoring programme must be:

  1. Focused on the learning and development of the Mentee.
  2. Structured – have goals, a vision of the purpose of the relationship, follow an agreed time structure (even if that is ongoing)
  3. Built on mutual trust – learning means taking risks, sometimes failing.
  4. Considered in matching of mentoring pairs – personality fit and ease of interaction is vital.
  5. Measured on the success of the learning; not all mentoring pairs can be measured against the same markers.
  6. Another example of development that embodies the values of the organisation, not a stand-alone development activity.
  7. Championed as an intrinsic part of leader development with the necessary skills being prerequisites of the Mentors that take part.
  8. Supervised by HR to ensure that the programme remains effective and is valued by the Mentees.  Mentors must be provided with the necessary support and access to learning opportunities to help them be the most effective mentors that they can be.
  9. Made available to all those who would benefit.

To build trust and consequent engagement with the programme an organisation will need to stop, re-think, re-design, re-brand and re-start a mentoring programme.  In order for coaching and mentoring to be a widespread success across an organisation it needs to be a part of the ‘norms’, an activity that all employees can access at different points of their career.  Shouldn’t this fit within the culture of the staffroom as well as the boardroom and be equally valued in both?

Please feel free to comment and let me know of your experiences. Best wishes Natalie.

Intrapreneurs & fostering creative thinking… Big business with start up agility.

Image result for intrapreneur woman

Business moves fast, trends come and go and we are all looking for that magic spell to help us to move with our markets as fast as our competitors.  Agility as individuals, I believe, will be the only way that we can survive in the ever changing workplace going forward but we also have to explore how we can improve business agility for all.  I have long been interested in how large companies diversify and having worked in large corporations and very small businesses alike I have seen first hand how hard this is to call, and have also been there when it was too late and we all packed up and went home.  This made me ponder whether the agility of mind of individuals throughout the hierarchy was the key to the overall agility of the business.

Building a business with 5 one-man-bands

The start-up, agile, pivot if it doesn’t work mentality of the eventually successful entraprenuer seemed a good place to start.  I came across the  ‘intrapreneurialism’ research from the CIPD (below) and was intrigued as to how this could work in practice. They state; ‘Intrapreneurs’ usually work in larger organisations, where they are tasked with developing new ideas and concepts in a similar way that an entrepreneur would in a start-up company’. (What Big Business can learn from Entrepreneurs – CIPD 2013)

The UK’s economic growth could be boosted if large firms adopt the entrepreneurial spirit that drives success in start-ups and small firms, CIPD research has found and by encouraging a culture of ‘intrapreneurialism’, big businesses could help their employees adopt entrepreneurial behaviours that foster innovation and growth, (CIPD).

They also discovered that nearly four in ten employees would welcome the opportunity to take on an intrapreneurial role within their company, but that just 12% of organisations encourage and facilitate such behaviour (CIPD 2013)

Of course the father of ‘Intrapreneurialism’ is Gifford Pinchot who comments that he has seen a resurgence of the intraprenuer in recent years and cites millenials as the most visible group.  Pinchot says that they are searching for meaning in their work from the moment they leave university and want to make a difference.  This isn’t surprising though, after all this is the generation that has lived their whole adult lives with the awesome power of the internet and it’s heroes, Google, Facebook, etc. and are looking to emulate that working life.

Another great attribute that intraprenuers/entrpreneurs are seen to exhibit is adaptive persistence, this allows people in existing organizations to anticipate disruptions to the market and to recognise opportunity (Bloomberg 2008 )

Howard Schultz of Starbucks fame had adaptive persistence.  On Shultz’s travels to Italy he had seen the power of the barista and wanted to bring that coffee shop experience to America.  He presented his idea to Starbucks who rejected it on more than one occasion.  He finally got approval to try it out in a few branches.  He went to raise equity for this and was working without a salary for a while!  His wife was pregnant and although he thought he was ready to give up, he didn’t.  Schultz was able to leverage his network to stave off threats  and stuck with it.  We all know how this plan worked out!

The data appears to stack up that we need diverse teams (Is there an ‘i’ in Team?) and intrapreneurs are diverse thinkers; agile, intelligent and energised.  The key is to know how to attract, select, develop and retain these people.  Clear and strategic programmes to recognise existing intrapreneurs within the business are also vital – to attract and keep out of the box thinkers you need an out of the box programme!

Thank you for reading my initial thoughts on Intraprenuerialism.  Please do like, share and let me know your thoughts. Best Wishes Natalie