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


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: Sandra Attrill from House of Colour

sandra attrill

We are delighted to announce that our next HR Forum will feature Sandra Attrill, a leading personal stylist with House of Colour, who will be sharing great tips on how to make that first impression count.

The use of colour and knowing how to dress for you and your lifestyle can have an amazing impact and take the stress out of ‘what am I going to wear today?’  Whether you are dressing for the boardroom, networking or presenting, your clothes speak volumes!

Sandra will take you on a House of Colour journey, that for her, transformed her world from neutral to colour, and frumpy to fab!

Sandra has helped hundreds of clients – men and women – gain confidence in what they wear and to save time and money when they shop.

We look forward to welcoming you on 10th December at The Cliff, Ravine Road, Canford Cliffs, Poole BH13 7HX.  8.30am to start at 9am and finish at 11am.

As always, Malcolm Scott Walby will also be with us to answer your HR related legal queries.



Engage HR Forum with Mike Dutton of Inchmery Associates


Last week we were delighted to welcome Mike Dutton of Inchmery Associates who took to the stand as our first speaker for the first Engage HR Forum.


The HR Forum was held at The Cliff, Canford Cliffs, and was well attended by HR leaders, executives, and decision makers across a wide range of companies and industries in Dorset and Hampshire. A light breakfast of fresh fruit, pastries, and bacon rolls was on offer with copious amounts of tea, coffee and fruit juices.


After welcoming everyone to the Forum, Engage Executive Recruitment Director, Sally Bennett, handed over to Mike who started his talk on change management.


The informal forum involved discussing scenarios one had dealt with regarding change management and the steps taken to overcome problems which arose.  Mike also covered topics including; appreciative inquiry; Kotter’s 8 steps, Action learning, and the Sarah curve.


Feedback was hugely positive with comments congratulating Engage on the speaker, topics covered, the refreshingly informal yet energising feel to the Forum, with many attendees commenting on how fantastic it was to have such a ‘meeting of minds’ where they were able to discuss both the challenging aspects of HR as well as the strategies they had implemented which had been especially successful for them.


The next Engage Executive HR Forum will be held in May where Joanna Kane of Trailblazers will be our speaker.  Joanna is also author of The Suited Hippy & The Stress Junkie.



Jobshop UK’s Executive Recruitment Company, Engage Executive Jobs, Resolves HR for Local Businesses

Sally Bennett Engage Executive Jobs Resolving the challenges that recruiting within the HR sector brings, Executive Recruitment Director for Engage Executive Jobs, Sally Bennett, draws upon her twelve years of recruitment experience and in-depth knowledge of HR; its function within an organisation and its challenges, to match the ideal candidate to the organisation.

CIPD qualified, Sally’s experience as a global recruiter and her specialism in HR recruitment for both agency and corporate organisations, enables Engage to offer a tailor-made and holistic executive search service honed to the precise requirements of its client.

Being keenly aware that people are key to the success of a business, and recruitment of the right people in a timely manner essential, Sally’s previous role as Business Partner at Farrow and Ball has given her a broad range of relevant experience with first-hand knowledge of direct campaigns, working in partnership with different functions across the organisation, and offering advice on additional areas of people management.

Locally, Engage will be organising HR forums offering the opportunity to discuss hot topics in a confidential arena of shared experiences where subjects discussed include addressing change, employee engagement, and employer of choice.

Under Sally’s expert leadership, Engage work in partnership with its clients, as an extension of the team, in order to really understand the culture within the company they are recruiting for; an essential practice in successful recruitment.

Approaching every project individually, each brief is taken personally followed by an in-depth search process involving an accurate selection of candidates for face to face interviews before the final shortlist is presented to the client and supported with a concise profile overview.

Engage’s comprehensive approach to recruitment, encompassing all aspects of its client’s business ensure all candidates presented for interview are not just fully qualified and experienced for the role but also fully briefed on the organisation and motivated at interview.

Sally said: “In this challenging marketplace which is short of available talent, people are the foundation of any organisation.  Engage prides itself on implementing a range of techniques in order to find the right match.  With my background in Recruitment and Human Resource Management for a global organisation I am transferring my own skills to help develop strong partnerships with organisations.  Over time I plan to add value and build a trust in our client partnerships in order that they view Engage as an extension of the Human Resource Department.”