As I sat in the interview, listening intently to the ‘to do’ list of people-related tasks, I checked my skills and experience against each item. Holding my nerve, I thought ‘expectation management’ is going to be key in this role. Do they think this is all achievable at a rapid pace over a three-day week?
Scroll forward twelve months and Thursday 9 January 2020 was my one-year anniversary in a brand new, part-time, stand-alone HR role. I can honestly say I have never had a more varied, busy and challenging position!
I look after all the people aspects of a 40-strong team across three global offices. I work on a Monday, Wednesday and Friday in Central London. Like so many other part-time workers, my home life is full to bursting.
As the first Head of HR at the organisation, the role was a great opportunity to get my arms around something and make it my own. I knew there was an ambitious agenda, the business was at a critical point in its evolution and that the role would encompass everything from managing employee files to drawing up succession plans. My eyes were open.
However, the realities of driving the people agenda forward single-handedly have been challenging – and I have learned a huge amount.
Variety and flexibility
Every day is different, and you must be extremely flexible, accepting that your plan for the day may be blown out of the water by surprise events. You never get bored – and it is wonderful to be a much-needed member of the team.
I do my best to protect my ‘non-work’ time but there are moments where the two collide – and I believe this is the reality of doing a challenging and stimulating role on a part-time basis. There has to be an element of give and take.
Planning and organising well so that personal time is protected, and office time is maximised is essential. You cannot afford to be precious about missing things when you are not at work but by connecting well with the team, you can catch up with events when you are back in the office.
However, this only works if you stay calm, manage your emotions and stress levels, seek support when needed and make sure you have fun, laugh and shrug off any setbacks.
Working with dynamic leaders means that ideas take flight quickly and you must be ready to respond. That can mean kicking off several different initiatives at one time and constant juggling.
Sometimes you need to play the unwelcome role of slowing things down and challenging so that plans are evaluated thoroughly and adapted. However, when one of your ideas resonates, it feels great to see it come to fruition.
Building relationships with fellow members of the management team is invaluable. Alliances enable you to gain support for ideas quickly. Time to debate and communicate is tight, so garnering support at every opportunity is key.
Connecting with the rest of the team is also extremely important, of course, and this can be a challenge across time zones. Leveraging any HR touchpoints such as performance reviews or life events and opportunities to send a congratulatory note or a word of encouragement can help alongside the normal meeting schedules.
External networks are critical. Building a pool of experts who you can draw on when you need specialist skills. You cannot be all things to all people. The role is about making connections and facilitating solutions.
My final word of advice and encouragement if you are thinking of embarking on a similar role is – embrace the opportunity to learn. You will be operating outside your comfort zone 90% of the time but picking up new skills and experience at full-speed as you go.
Roll on another busy year!
Kate Swindin, Head of Human Resources, Asante Capital Group https://www.linkedin.com/in/kate-swindin-0a263513/