The Engage HR Forum Interview: Lynn Barker, HR manager of Poole Housing Partnership

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!”


Niall Cluley’s presentation at the HR Forum was of particular interest to Lynn.



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.”


Meet Emily – our newest recruit at Engage.

Engage is delighted to welcome Emily as our new executive recruitment resourcer.


Emily’s past experience working within social media, corporate training, recruitment and people management in London, means that she will be bringing a huge amount of experience with her to Engage.  In particular, having previously integrated the use of social media into the recruitment process, using innovative and highly successful techniques, Emily will be using this expertise in order to grow Engage’s presence on its social media platforms; Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.


Emily attended her first HR Forum this month when Dave Hall from Ideas Centre Group presented a lively and thought provoking introduction into what his company is about and the ethos behind it.


Emily said: “My first HR Forum was a really great experience. I’ve been to a lot of networking events over the years, and I found the Engage HR Forum to be one of the friendliest groups yet.  It was nice to meet new people as well as seeing some friendly faces.  I’m really looking forward to helping Sally organise and host the forums in the future. I’ll be the one taking lots of pictures and live-tweeting snapshots of the event!

“Dave Hall’s session on creativity was fascinating, especially having worked in creative industries myself, and I look forward to attending one of his full workshops soon.”


If you would like to find out more about the HR Forums, please contact or call 01202 674488


Dave Hall from Ideas Centre Group kicks off the Engage HR Forums for 2017!

It was an energetic start to the 2017 Engage HR Forums when Dave Hall from Ideas Centre Group joined us at The Cliff, Canford Cliffs, Poole, for our first Forum of the year.



Dave’s enthusiasm for his job and the subject matter being discussed was undeniable.  Introducing himself to the gathered HR directors and managers, Dave explained that the Ideas Centre Group was born out of ‘corporate frustration’ 5 years ago, with its aim to ‘put in place systematic approaches to drive innovation and change.’

Dave got the group thinking and nodding in agreement when he stated, ‘we make sense of our world by looking backwards, and this determines decisions we make in the future,’ but because of this we improve at a much slower rate as we have to look backwards and analyse first, before any decisions are made or changes introduced.

Change and improvement was a key element to the presentation, with Dave highlighting that in order to overcome the mental blockages which restrict thought processes and problem solving, we needed to go back to basics and think about creativity and innovation in order to drive change.  Dave discussed the benefits of implementing ‘childlike’ (not to be confused with ‘childish’) techniques to unlock creativity and thought processes, such as building with lego bricks – you can lie on paper but you cant lie through your lego model!

It’s fair to say that Dave’s very interactive presentation certainly inspired lots of discussion within the group, and his techniques can definitely be applied to other areas of business and not just HR.  Many of our attendees were eager to speak with Dave after the presentation, and Dave has very kindly offered to follow up personally with every member.

Our resident commercial solicitor, Malcolm Scott Walby, rounded up the Forum with his own unique mix of candid anecdotes and discussion on the new gender pay gap law and regulations coming into force, which will affect companies with 250+ employees.  We always look forward to welcoming Malcolm to our breakfasts, and are very grateful for his  continued support of the Enage HR Forums.

The Engage HR Forums are always full to capacity due to a mix of excellent speakers, a laid back, welcoming and interactive atmosphere, and highly relevant subject matter.  If you are an HR director or manager and would like to find out more, please contact or call 01202 674488


HR Forum: 2nd February – Dave Hall from Ideas Centre

I’m delighted to announce that Dave Hall from Ideas Centre will be kicking off our hugely successful HR Forums for 2017.

The Ideas Centre provides organisations of all types (private sector, public sector, charities, small and large) with the ability to challenge the traditional thinking that traps them within the world of “more of the same”. We run in-house sessions and train individuals to facilitate hands-on through local Ideas Centre workshops, introducing problem-solving techniques that develop Breakthrough Thinking, allowing organisations to actively find creative solutions and proactively drive innovation.

Thinking will be challenged, stretched, provoked, stimulated by techniques that take even the most conventional, left brain, hard-line problem solvers through step-by-step instruction that will release fresh insights, creative solutions, and take control of the innovation process.

At the Engage HR Forum, Dave will talk about how a culture of creativity and innovation can differentiate a business.  We, ourselves, have taken part in his masterclasses and can therefore speak from first hand experience of how he has helped us think differently and create new solutions, so it goes without saying that Dave comes with a personal recommendation!

Over the past 2 years, the Engage HR Forums have gained momentum and respect as one of the most innovative, relevant and enjoyable forums to attend for HR directors and managers.  Our guest speakers are consistently high quality and in-demand professionals who have proven track records in helping businesses, as well as often having their own personal journey to use as experience to the benefit of others.

Get in touch if you’d like more information or to book your place!

Our next HR Forum will take place:

When:   Thursday 2nd February 2017

Where: The Cliff, 6 Ravine Road, Poole, BH13 7HX

Time: Arrive from 8.30am, start at 9.00am, finish at 11.00am.

We look forward to seeing you there!

The Engage HR Forum Interview: Dorothy Westerman, HR director, Aish Technologies, Poole


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.”

HR Forum: Jo Kane discusses resilience


I’m always thrilled by the feedback we get from our HR Forums, and I can honestly say it’s been a delight to welcome each and every one of our speakers, who have all brought with them their own unique and inspiring perspective, and knowledge, to our breakfast gatherings.  With that in mind, it was fantastic to see so many of you joining us again to hear Jo Kane of Trailblazers return to the Forum to talk about resilience, last month.

I think it’s fair to say, by the level of interaction from everyone listening to Jo whilst enjoying coffee, croissants and bacon rolls, her presentation hit just the right note with everyone at the forum.  There was lots of discussion, nodding heads and laughs as Jo discussed the topic, highlighting the fact that often, we simply do not give as much care, attention and thought to ourselves as we do to our friends and colleagues.  In short; don’t be so hard on yourself!

My thanks also to Malcolm Scott Walby for taking the time to add his professional thoughts and welcomingly unique and candid insight into employment law issues affecting our businesses. 

Here, Jo has generously written a post forum blog for us, which I am sure you will take a lot from.  As always, I would love to get your feedback, thoughts and suggestions on topics and speakers you would like to see at our HR Forums.

– Sally


It’s well known that the great inventor, Thomas Edison, made many thousands of unsuccessful attempts before he finally came up with the lightbulb and subsequently many other inventions. He wasn’t deterred by his apparent failures but chose to see them leading him towards his desired outcome.

Resilience was clearly one of his attributes; that ability to keep going, to bounce back and not to let failures deter you or get in the way.

Why is resilience increasingly important for us in our lives and not just in the corporate world?

Life can bring many challenges and, in fact, it would appear to be part of the journey that everyone has to deal with. If we fall over at the first hurdle and let that define us then we wouldn’t get very far. Resilience is important as it helps navigate our way through the challenges and grow from those experiences. It’s a trait that many of us would like to develop within ourselves and can be closely linked to our levels of self-esteem and confidence.


Cultivating a strong sense of resilience gives us an inner strength and a trust in ourselves that we can recover and reconnect with a part of ourselves that is strong, adaptable and resourceful. Often people think that it’s something you were born with, and it’s true that there are some individuals who do seem to be naturally more resilient. However, it’s not just a question of nature over nurture, as we know that resilience is a trait that we can build and cultivate. It’s not set in stone and with a bit of focus and conscious awareness we can all become more resilient. For those of us who are parents, surely it must be one of the key attributes we would like to see our children showing up with. Therefore, role modelling that to our offspring as well as to those around us in business makes a lot of sense.

Tips for Building Resilience

Make sure you are getting enough sleep. It sounds so obvious but sleep deprivation can really impair your mental and cognitive processes. Given that resilience has a lot to do with how you look at situations then you can start to see how not getting enough sleep could really skew your perspective.

Are you actually moving around enough during the day? We weren’t designed to be sedentary all day sitting in front of a computer. Our bodies were designed for movement and we thrive when we can move about and the blood is pumping round. Even if you can’t fit in the time for exercise which really is the ideal then at least get up and walk around regularly.  It’s said that even moderate walking can help your brain’s memory centre maintain its health and vitality.

Being able to manage the voice of your inner critic is also key to building resilience. Often when we are about to step outside of our comfort zone and take a risk, the voice of our inner critic usually has something to say. It might be along the lines of ‘who do you think you are?’ ‘`It will never work and you ‘ll end up looking stupid,’ or ‘What’s the point, no-one will listen.’ You get the picture! That voice is designed to keep us small, and if we want to build our resilience and feel confident on the inside then we need to learn how to manage that voice. A simple Clock It, Stop It and Swap It approach can help.


First you have to notice what’s happening as without that awareness the voice will run you. You then have to remember to Stop It – You have a choice and you can let go of listening to the limiting beliefs and negative self-talk. The final part is shifting to a more expansive perspective and swapping the destructive self-talk for something that’s more empowering. How would you speak to your best friend? Often, we are so harsh with ourselves and wouldn’t dream of speaking to our friends in the same way. Think about how compassionate, encouraging and supportive you would be with a friend. Adopt a bit of that for yourself.

The key thing to remember with resilience is that it’s not what happens to us but it’s how we choose to deal with it. A resilient person will make the most of their situation and look for the learning, and perhaps even look to how they can use what they have learned in service of others. It’s been said that a miracle is a shift in perspective. What perspectives may you need to shift in your own life?


Dragonfish: Cracking your Culture Code to Transform Performance

Our friends at Dragonfish have very kindly written this fantastic blog just for us – ‘Cracking your Culture Code to Transform Performance.’  Dragonfish worked with our most recent HR Forum speaker, Niall Cluley, Global HR Director at Fitness First, who talked very candidly about the process involved in spearheading a global re-brand across different countries.  In this blog post, Dragonfish – a culture and engagement consultancy based in Southampton – attempt to demystify culture change and make it all less academic and more tangible for leaders tasked with improving business results. 

We will be welcoming Jo Kane from Trailblazers back to the HR Forum on 22nd September, where she will once again be taking an interactive approach to discussing resilience, mindsets and stress management.


Click on the thumbnail below, to view the Dragonfish blog.



Niall Cluley: Global HR Director at Fitness First discusses triumphs and challenges


I was absolutely delighted to welcome Niall Cluley, Global HR Director, to the latest Engage HR Forum, which, with over 30 had the highest attendance yet. Word is getting out!  I’ve had some fantastic feedback from everyone, so we know we’re doing this right and our attendees are really getting something very special out of our forums.


Whilst our guests enjoyed fresh fruit, croissants, coffee – and a cheeky bacon bap or two, Niall talked candidly about how he first joined Fitness First 5 years ago as global head of talent, after initially approaching the CEO as a member, when he became frustrated with the group who he saw as focusing more on sales than service.  Niall led the development of the organisation’s people strategy through its global rebrand and transformation programme; becoming Global HRD 2 years ago.


During his presentation, which was peppered with impromptu questions and discussions from our guests, Niall talked about how the rise of the low-cost gym, and ‘wearable’ technology – such as the fitbit and other fitness apps – has affected the way gyms have had to think about how they procure and retain members.


Not afraid to open up about all aspects and challenges faced in his role, Niall discussed the frustrations involved in spearheading a global re-brand across different countries with extreme geographical and cultural diversities; all of which affected decisions on the brand logo, aspirational slogans, and uniform.


Rounding up the forum, our resident solicitor, Malcolm Scott Walby, briefly discussed the importance of the human aspect in being a good boss, and how getting to know your employees on a personal level can help you understand and iron out any issues in the workplace well before legal action is required.


As I said previously, I continue to have the most fantastic feedback after our HR Forums, and so I’ll leave you with some of those quotes and a reminder that, these forums are about you, the HR leaders that make your company or business run smoothly from behind the scenes, and so please do not hesitate to get in touch and discuss any subjects which you feel we could be covering which will help you in your job.


Resize_Niall Cluley“Informal, informative, open debate and genuine interest in learning and sharing experiences.  Well organised, a lovely group of people, topped off by a great choice of breakfast snacks.” Niall Cluley, Global HR Director, Fitness First.

“The most recent meeting presenting by Niall Cluley, Gloval HR Diurector of Fitness first, was a great example of how HR can successfully drive and enable change in an organisation. The talk was informal and participative, and as always from these events, I walked away feeling inspired to consider how some of these work practices could be translated into my own HR processes in the future.” – Andrea Finnagin, Data Harvesting.

“Great HR forum run by Engage at The Cliff in Canford Cliffs.  One of the best networking events for HR professionals, or those responsible for HR in their business, in the area.  The last event saw Niall Cluley from Fitness First talk us through the change program undertaken over the last 18 months – the highs and lows and how they got engagement from the team.” – Sue Kerr, Reality HR.


Date for your diary

Our next HR Forum is on 22nd September, where our guest speaker, Jo Kane from Trailblazers will be presenting on resilience, mind-sets and stress management.  As this is a vast subject, we are keen to hear from you what you would like Jo to concentrate on, so please do get in touch.


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Engage: The story so far…..


When I’m out and about meeting new people and clients, I’m often asked what makes Engage different from other executive recruitment companies, and what value we can bring to a company who chooses to use our services.  So, I thought it might be a good idea to use this month’s blog post to address those queries, as well as talk a little bit about the story so far…

At Engage, we work in partnership with our clients to provide a full search process. We provide our services on a retainer basis, which means our time is dedicated to working exclusively for you, to ensure the best candidates available are approached on your behalf, and in turn, provide you with a candidate shortlist of the highest calibre suiting your precise requirements.

We also offer a great value package that enables our client partners to receive additional recruitment tools; motivational mapping, the latest job surveys, skills testing, and online computer training, as well as exclusive invites to our directors’ lunches, which feature innovative and inspirational speakers, whose presentation detailing their own experiences in business is something our lunch guests find both hugely beneficial, and often highly entertaining.  Most recently we enjoyed being entertained by the creative brains behind many of the Doctor Who creatures and Hollywood movie and theatre special effects, Paul and Gary Hardy-Brown aka the Twin FX, who brought in a life-size dalek to greet our guests upon arrival at the Bournemouth Hilton Hotel.

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.  I’m exceptionally proud of the feedback we receive following every forum, so please do browse the HR Forum blog posts on here to see why they are so popular and always fully subscribed.

Through the trust and respect of the Engage/client partnership, we develop the additional benefits of creation of talent pools to ensure and seal relationships with future potential.   This has proved a key area of success; not only recognising talent and culture fit, but managing a relationship with the candidate.

The ‘war on talent’ currently affecting the employment market means time is the priority.  Candidates are more self-confident, knowing that their skills and talents are in high demand. The cost of unfilled vacancies is at an all-time high.  Over 50% of candidates will have attended an interview within two weeks of stepping into the job hunting market, and therefore with Engage as your dedicated executive recruitment partner, you can be sure that we have our fingers on the pulse, waiting to acquisition that talent for you, before it moves onto a role with your competitor.


One of Engage’s specialist areas is the marketing sector, and we are fortunate to have worked with some notably progressive brands.

Our networks have steadily developed to include Strategy Directors, Producers, Client Services and e-commerce, as well as technical functions such as experienced UX, web development, social media and paid social specialists.  Concentrating on the middle to senior management sector, we have been successful in securing both freelance/contract and permanent positions.

As you can see, Engage offers an exceptional and unique product, with packages carefully tailored to meet the individual needs of our clients, and with additional ‘perks’ exclusive to our clients and partners, which all add value to the Engage Executive Recruitment experience.

So, don’t wait until you meet me at a networking event or business lunch. If you are interested in understanding more about our partnership packages or  would like more details on how Engage can help your business – and I’ve only touched upon the tip of the iceberg to give you an insight into what we offer here – then please do not hesitate to contact us on 01202 674488 or and we will be delighted to meet you for an informal, no obligation chat.

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