I recently had the pleasure of meeting with Dorothy Westerman, HR Director of Aish Technologies Ltd based in Poole. As a member of the Engage HR Forum we were keen to learn more about Dorothy’s role and, in particular, how she was able to put into practice some advice from Global HR director of Fitness First, Niall Cluley, after being inspired by his experience during his presentation at the Engage Forum.
Having spent the majority of her career in the financial services industry, Dorothy decided in a change of direction and joined electro-mechanical engineering SME, Aish Technologies Ltd, in October 2011. Over the past 5 years Aish has seen significant growth in the number of staff employed across the company; almost doubling from 130 to 250 employees. This ‘people growth’ alone has meant the necessity of a clear HR strategy which would be key to the smooth running of the company’s HR department.
Dorothy explains: “Starting with a blank piece of paper I set up the human resource function for Aish, including process and procedures, personal development reviews, training plans and role progression. I am now involved in working towards a new HR system which is on the agenda for 2017.”
Dorothy’s passion for people development is evident, and she has been actively involved in apprenticeship programmes during her time at Aish. Apprenticeships have been offered in engineering, IT, business development, and HR. This has brought with it its own challenges, as at the time apprenticeship frameworks were not available for the business development and HR roles. However, Dorothy’s hard work is starting to pay dividends as she has seen employees qualifying through the Peter Jones academy and CIPD. Two years ago Aish was recognised for their apprenticeship programme when they received The Dorset Business Award for Apprenticeship Training 2013.
Aish is committed to working with its managers to help develop their leadership skills, and The Board is leading the way to review the company’s vision and values. What is particularly satisfying to hear is that Dorothy was able to take away ideas on how to communicate Aish’s values to its employees from Niall Cluley’s recent HR Forum presentation. Taking inspiration from Niall’s own experience, Aish asked its employees for suggestions on how to visualise their own vision and values, resulting in a very positive response. Suggestions included; merchandising on the stairs and messages on coasters and posters. This exercise in itself has been engaging and the best idea will be rewarded. Employees at Aish have also been encouraged to think about how, if they changed their behaviour in-line with their new values, this will impact the bottom line. It is satisfying to see a great example of HR integrating and helping to impact upon the success of the organisation.
Aish have also taken steps to ‘shout’ about how successful they are by entering a variety of awards, and are delighted to announce that they have won the Solent Business Award for Dynamic Growth, as well as being shortlisted for the DCCI Emerging Business Award in the ‘growth category.’
The Engage HR Forums have become a very popular and respected breakfast forum over a very short space of time. Attended by HR directors and leaders, the Engage HR Forums stand out from its contemporaries by its interactive nature and relaxed approach, whereby like-minded executives are able to discuss their issues and triumphs, boost their contacts and make high calibre connections with other HR executives.
Dorothy concluded: “I have found the Forum sessions very helpful, especially as the subjects have been relevant to what we have been experiencing at Aish. It has also been helpful to use the techniques discussed in one Forum on ‘building resilience’ in my own development, and shared with colleagues. I always try to take something of value from the sessions which I can apply in my day to day.”