Lynn Barker is HR Manager at Poole Housing Partnership (PHP). Since joining in 2008, originally to look after recruitment and training, her previous experience and skills enabled her to quickly develop a comprehensive generalist service and she now supports the business right across the HR spectrum.
How did you initially get into HR, and what aspects of the job do you particularly enjoy?
“I started my HR career at United Advertising Publications in Poole. Having worked in a couple of other roles within the company, including managing the IT Training Department, I moved to HR in late 2004. At that time there were only 2 HR Advisors for 800 employees at offices all over the country, so you could certainly say I was thrown in at the deep end, but I loved the role and the variety of work I was involved in.
“It didn’t take long before I knew that HR was the career for me and I think I took to it naturally. I particularly enjoyed organisational development and employee engagement, which became two areas of particular interest for me.
“As part of the leadership team at PHP I’m involved at a strategic level and I have a great relationship with the senior management team who are always open to new ideas. I certainly feel I have ensured that HR is seen as a vital function within the business.”
Do you hold any professional qualifications and if so, do you feel that has helped you advance in your career?
“I really enjoyed studying for my Masters part time at Bournemouth University’s Business School, which I started in 2009, followed by two years of hard work while also working full time (I’m sure a lot of people know the feeling!). On the back of that I became a Chartered Member of the CIPD. The qualification and CIPD accreditation is valued within our industry and I gained skills and knowledge that have certainly helped me to develop my career, but I also know some fantastic HR people who are not professionally qualified, so it’s not the ‘be-all and end-all’. I took on the Masters as a personal challenge as much as anything and I also gained some great friends.”
What do you find particularly useful and inspiring when it comes to networking?
“Being a standalone HR manager can leave you a little isolated if you’re not careful, and although you can do the job without networking, why would you? When attending The Engage Forum I always come away with something really useful, such as a good contact, some valuable information or a great idea that I can pinch (giving credit where it’s due of course!). It’s also really nice to be able to share experiences, problems and questions with others in your field at events. As well as networking, I also attend as many employment forums and seminars as I can fit in, as these are a terrific way of staying current.”
What makes the Engage HR Forum stand out from others, in your opinion?
“I think it’s fantastic. It stands out as it’s very different to other forums in that it is not like a training session and instead very much focuses on inspiring people. I’ve found that at the Engage Forum, everything is relevant and I never fail to come away buzzing with ideas! You can tell from the atmosphere in the room that everyone is engaged and inspired. I thoroughly recommend it.”
Has there been a particular Forum which stands out for you?
“The presentation by Niall Cluley, global HR director of Fitness First, was immensely interesting and entertaining and I could really relate to what he had to say, particularly about looking at organisational and personal values and how they align. Although his organisation is much larger than mine, his ideas were scalable and I’ve already been able to implement similar initiatives at Poole Housing Partnership. For example, we have involved the entire company in redeveloping our values and we are promoting our new model, designed by our employees, even displaying it on the back of the toilet doors!”
Are there any challenges you think HR will face in 2017?
“Absolutely. Recruitment is becoming increasingly challenging and the effects of Brexit may start to come in to play in the not-too-distant future, if they’re not already. Not so long ago we were inundated with applicants but currently we are seeing far fewer high calibre candidates. We are an organisation that has always valued clever people, but for us that doesn’t necessarily mean academic achievement. We love motivation, enthusiasm, innovation and passion for the work we do. We can support people to gain qualifications and skills, as long as they have the PHP attitude. So, we try to open up our candidate pool by being as inclusive as possible, and perhaps attracting people who might not necessary have specific role or sector experience, but who have transferrable skills, and importantly, the right attitude.
“Another challenge is the ‘multi-generational’ workforce with many organisations having a mix of Generation X/Y and Millennials, with Generation Z hot on their heels. We need to attract good employees, keep them engaged, motivated, performing well and communicating effectively, bearing in mind that they may be motivated by different things and so want and need different things from their careers and their employers.
“Looking further ahead, as Gen Z comes to realise that these days a degree, previously seen as so important, doesn’t guarantee a job, it’s possible that graduate schemes may increasingly be replaced with apprenticeship-type schemes.”
Can you tell us a bit about your working relationship with Sally at Engage?
“Sally really took her time to find out what Poole Housing Partnership was really about and built up a lot of loyalty, trust and respect by listening to our expectations and taking them seriously. Above all, Sally and Engage were able to come up with the goods! Every single candidate that Sally found for us was appointable, which is very rare. Through Sally, we found our new FD who, as well as being excellent at her job, is an extremely good fit for the company. Sally is both professional and personable, which makes the working relationship we have with Engage a very pleasant and productive one.”