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.”

Lush CEO Mark Constantine concludes Engage executive Jobs’ lunches for 2016



While the Chancellor was unveiling the impact of Brexit on the UK economy, a concerned group of local Directors met at the Jobshop UK and Engage Executive Jobs’ Directors’ Lunch in The Hilton Hotel in Bournemouth. In their fourth and final event of 2016, it was no surprise that the biggest topic of conversation was concern for our local workforce in a post-Trump, post Brexit world.


Jobshop UK Directors, Frances Miles and Tracey Wood, kicked off the lunch with an update of the UK recruitment market which has changed rapidly in the last 2 to 3 months. Whilst starting to pick up now, it is an industry that tends to be the temperature gauge for changes in the economy and they both shared their concerns of the 31.7million in employment in Britain today, 1.6million unemployed and 750,000 vacancies.  It would appear that the 1.6million could be seen to fill the 750,000 vacancies but sadly, many of those included in these unemployment figures are unable to take up work or do not have the skills needed for the vacancies. If we lost the 3.2million non-British workers in Britain as well, the figures will not add up.


Frances and Tracey highlighted three main areas currently affecting recruitment in the local area: A Candidate shortage, highlighted even further by our reliance on the 25% of the Poole workforce that don’t hold British passports; a Skills shortage which has worryingly increased from 30 to 70 sector areas in the last 18 months; and a Talent shortage for more agile, inspirational and motivational workers that are able and willing to work in this new fast-paced and unsure environment.


Directors, who attended from a range of industries including legal, education, finance, retail and IT, agreed on one thing – a general feeling of frustration and unease for the future.

Echoing this sentiment, guest speaker Mark Constantine, Co-founder of Lush, who followed, pointed out that 75% of everything sold on the high street today is made abroad. From Dyson Cleaners to New Look shoes, the only two high street businesses that make all of their products in Britain are Greggs and Lush. Thanking the Jobshop Directors for illustrating the recruitment problems that Lush faced, as the 43rd fastest growing company in Britain, he highlighted how much they needed plenty of hands on deck.


Mark explained that the base roles of capitalism are freedom of movement of capital, goods and people and that this is not a menu where you can select one or the other. He went on to say that, in his experience, the current climate in Britain is very anti-business, predominantly caused by a crisis in our political parties, with both main parties riven by the need to cut immigration but at the same time serve capitalist businesses.


Discussion later from the floor raised concerns about the black economy, unscrupulous competitors lying to customers and the effect on the economy as currency contracts run out.

Mark closed his talk by asking members of the audience to try out Lush’s latest product, Rump.


Engage Executive Jobs’ executive recruitment director, Sally Bennett, commented: “We’ve been delighted by the huge popularity of the Engage Executive Jobs  and Jobshop UK Directors’ Lunches, and have been privileged to have some fascinating speakers who have helped make all the lunches a sell-out success.  Mark’s presentation was particularly pertinent with the current economic and political climate, and 2017 will see us welcoming more high profile and relevant speakers to the floor.”

The Engage HR Forum Interview: Maria Seabright, Greendale Construction Limited


Maria Seabright is Finance & HR Director at Greendale Construction Limited; the Poole based chartered building company established in 1990 by Rob Hooker and Chris Kane, specialising in a wide spectrum of construction projects from luxury private houses, NHS, schools and colleges, to internal office refurbishments and commercial builds.  Amongst the company’s many acclaimed achievements is holding a Gold IIP award, and winning the FMB Chartered Builder of Year 2012 for its work renovating Durlston Castle in Swanage.


Maria is a regular at the Engage HR Forums and has found the supportive and relaxed format something which makes the breakfast meetings highly enjoyable and something to look forward to.

“The speakers are always really inspiring and their presentations are consistently relevant to situations I have to manage on a regular basis.  I love the interaction and being able to candidly discuss HR topics in an open and friendly way with people at my table, and there’s always lots of laughs as well which is a bonus!”


Maria joined Greendale on 1st October 1997 as an office administrator/receptionist, having previously left Poole High School in 1985 with, by her own admission, ‘a handful of very low grade CSEs.’  Over the next 19 years, Maria worked her way up within the Company, eventually being appointed to the Board of Directors on 1st January 2013.  Greendale now employs around 58 people and last year turned over £15 million.

As a successful woman in a very male dominated industry, and one who didn’t take a typically academic route in her career, I was fascinated to hear Maria’s story, and how her experiences have shaped the person she is today – in and out of the business environment.


Maria, you’ve achieved so much, but, if you had your time again, what, if anything, would you do differently? And, with hindsight, is there anything you think you could have done better?

 “I went through some personal tragedy in my life when I lost my son, George in 2004, who was born prematurely.  Looking back, I felt that I couldn’t really be with him in hospital over the 6 months and 1 day he was in special care.  As much as I wanted to be with him during the end of his life, I felt guilty being away from work, and in such a male dominated company, I felt other people wouldn’t understand how I was feeling from a ‘mother’s point of view.’  When I look back I wonder how I did it; balancing work with visiting George in hospital and then going home to be a mum to my then 10 year old son, Jordan.

“I know I can’t change this now, but as I try to focus on the positive in life, I can see the experience made me grow as a person and has made me a better employer, as now, I always try and see personal issues any of my staff has from their point of view, and be sympathetic and understanding from that position.”


Being a Finance/HR Director holds a lot of responsibility.   You’re responsible for keeping the Company financially fluid and also, the welfare of your employees and the smooth running of the company on a ‘people’ level. How do you deal with stress and have you achieved the all too often elusive work/life balance?


 “I go to the gym twice a week before work where I have a personal trainer, Marvin, who is amazing at keeping me motivated, which focuses my mind and in turn sets me up for the day.

“I also really enjoy spending time in my garden and renovating my home – a cottage we moved to in the countryside near Wareham in 2013.  I love to take our dog – a border collie called Lacey – for long walks in the countryside with my husband, Andrew.  I also enjoy cooking using vegetables we’ve grown in the garden, and I love to bake.  I think living in a house I love, surrounded by beautiful countryside really helps with the work/life balance, although inevitably, a stressful week at work still manages to creep home with me more often than not, so like most people, I’m still working on it!


Only 1 in 10 Executive Directors in the UK are women and not only have you achieved a Board position, but you have done so in a male dominated industry.  What is your advice to women who are hoping to achieve the same?


 “You need to be prepared to stand your ground.  From a personal point of view, when I was appointed Director at Greendale, it was a massive step up from being a manager – in both responsibility and workload. I am the only female Director on a Board of 4 and the only senior ranking female in the company.  I think that women given executive and board positions have to prove themselves more than  men given the same role – particularly with the older male generation who might take exception to being answerable to a lady boss.

“I’d tell other women that it’s not going to be an easy ride, but you have a voice and you have to make sure that it’s heard above the other male directors.  I think a woman always looks at things differently and this has gone in my favour when dealing with delicate/tricky issues in the business.  Never exploit your sexuality as it just degrades you.  Get to where you want to get to on your own merits – through sheer hard work and determination.  Every problem has a solution – look outside the box and take time to make decisions, don’t fire from the hip.  Plan ahead.”


As a South Coast employer, what are you concerns for the future talent/ employment/training/apprenticeships for the region?


“I am passionate about training for the future of the construction industry and this is something as a company we are very pro-active with. However, I have concerns that not all employers in this industry feel the same as Greendale, or are as committed to investing in training, as we are.

“At Greendale we actively encourage apprenticeships and work very closely with the local college and schools.  The construction industry is a place where, as long as you have passion and drive, you can have a successful career regardless of your academic ability.  Many years ago it was seen as the choice for those who were less academic, but the truth is, it’s an industry which needs those with talent and ability across a wide spectrum.  We have employees who have taken the career route through university to become QS/Contract Managers, and we have young people who have come to us straight out of school on an apprenticeship or training scheme and proved themselves to be highly talented and in demand within their chosen trade.

“I think that because I disliked school so much I like to really help students that are struggling and I want to encourage them and give them a chance.  I attend various events at schools and do lots of talks about the construction industry and the careers that are available within it.

“When I left school I was told by teachers and also by my parents that I would never make anything of my life.  These words have stayed with me throughout my whole career, and been the driving force pushing me on. Today, I can say I am exceptionally proud of what I have achieved.  I know that I am very lucky in the fact that I joined a great local company that has grown over the 19 years that I have worked for them – enabling me to grow in terms of my career.  I know that I wouldn’t have got to where I am today if I wasn’t at Greendale’s.  Although I have been able to forge a successful career without great academic qualifications, when talking to students I try to get across the importance of working hard at school and striving to get the best you can achieve as it’s a different world today than it was 20 years’ ago.

“All in all, I love what I do and I love the company I work for…..99% of the time!”











Candidate management and the art of the balancing act


When I am recruiting candidates into specific roles for my clients, although focused on the brief in hand, I am also highly mindful of the bigger picture; that is, candidate management.


Being a great recruiter is like spinning plates.  During the recruitment process you may meet exceptionally skilled and talented people who are not quite right for the role you are currently recruiting for, but, who you know will be highly sought after for another role which could open up in the future.


Building good relationships with these candidates is key to strengthening my relationships with my clients, and in turn, is essential to enhancing the success of the recruitment process.


Any candidate can look great on paper, but not all personalities lend themselves well to all jobs.  Understanding the ethos and culture of the company I am recruiting for is another essential element in sourcing the best candidate for the role.  Effective candidate management means considering not just a person’s academic and professional achievements, and work experience, but also how well he or she is likely to get along with co-workers, and their ability to excel in that company’s work environment, as well as satisfy the job’s overall requirements.


Candidate management, at its core, is relationship management; evaluating people based on that sixth sense; that instinct that this person is not just a good fit, but a perfect fit, for a position.


In a candidate led market, keeping in touch with those high calibre professionals, not letting your ‘data’ on them go stale, and being aware of any new developments in their professional lives is essential to being a great recruitment partner to your clients.


Another factor of candidate management which makes the difference in a great recruitment partner, involves being able to see potential talent and how it will benefit a business in the future, and not just based on present business needs and trends.  In a candidate driven market, it is no longer simply about hiring talent; a business must be able to see the potential for high calibre candidates it meets within its organisation even without a current specific role, hire them, and then retain that talent by making them feel a valued part of the organisation.  The candidate needs to be nurtured or a company risks losing a valuable employee to a rival company.


At its core, candidate management is about balancing patience with due diligence, and technology with an appreciation for talent; using data alongside human instinct.  Ultimately, it’s about keeping those plates spinning until the right time…



Entrepreneur and CEO of Lush, Mark Constantine, to speak at Engage Executive Jobs Directors’ Lunch

Jobshop Directors Lunch at the Italian Villa. Photo Nick Free. 14-10-15. Francis Miles director of Jobshop UK with guest speaker Mark Constantine director of Lush and Paul Booker director of Bionanovate

Lush CEO, Mark Constantine, has been announced as the guest speaker for the next Jobshop UK and Engage Executive Jobs’ Directors’ Lunch on Wednesday November 23rd at The Hilton Hotel, Bournemouth.


Founded in Poole in 1995, Cosmetics manufacturer and retailer, Lush, now boasts 933 shops and has again seen enormous growth in sales with their predicted global turnover for this year of £574.1 million, as well as having appeared in the Sunday Times 100 best companies to work for 11 years running.


 Sally Bennett, Engage Executive Jobs, said: “We are delighted to have Mark as our guest speaker for the 11th consecutive year, Mark is known to be highly principled, honest and often controversial; he always delivers a talk that is punchy, surprising and enlightening.  The Engage Executive Jobs and Jobshop UK directors’ lunch is always full to capacity when Mark speaks, so we advise to book early and avoid disappointment.”

For more information, please contact Jobshop UK on 01202 674488 or




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?


The gig economy and Brexit to be addressed by Kevin Green at the Engage Executive Jobs annual seminar

rsKevin Green

Kevin Green, the Chief Executive of the Recruitment & Employment Confederation, and the man largely credited with helping transform Royal Mail from losing £1 million a day in 2003, to making over £600 million profit in 2007, will be the guest speaker at the Engage Executive Jobs & Jobshop UK annual seminar on 7th October at The Bournemouth Hilton Hotel.

A regular contributor to TV and radio, Kevin will use his wealth of professional knowledge and personal insight to talk about the economy post Brexit, the future of the labour market, and how exactly the ‘gig economy’ potentially effects local businesses from both an employer and employee perspective.

Engage Executive Jobs recruitment director, Sally Bennett, said: “We are delighted that Kevin has agreed to speak at our annual seminar for the fifth year running.  His presentation will be of particular significance given the developments of Brexit, that have, and will continue to impact upon the UK economy over the coming months and years.  The gig economy is also a subject many people are interested in finding out more about, and we know Kevin, who is a highly engaging speaker, will be able to answer all concerns.”

The Jobshop UK and Engage Executive Jobs annual seminar is an invite only event held at the Bournemouth Hilton Hotel on 7th October from 8am-11.30am. For more information and to book your place, contact

Ageism in the workplace: Throw out your stereotypes and tap into the talent of the silver surfer generation.


Over the past five years, the total number of people in employment in the UK has grown by 6.9%, with employment for the over 50s rising faster than for younger workers.  So, with this in mind, I always ask myself, ‘why is it that employers seem less keen to see candidates in the 50+ demographic?’


According to a report by the Institute of Leadership and Management, 61 per cent of managers say that their over fifties workers have low, or very low, potential to progress.  An assumption is made that the over-fifties, having entered their ‘Autumn years,’ will be looking to sit comfortably back in their role, and lack the enthusiasm and drive which is so key to some of the more dynamic companies’ ethos.


However, this short sighted and incorrect assumption does not take in to account all the positive aspects the over 50’s bring to the workplace, as it is this age group who score higher than their younger colleagues on occupation specific knowledge and skills (85%) and understanding of customers (78%).  So, if you want an employee who is confidently able to engage with your customer, and share their industry know-how with co-workers, then it’s an over 50s candidate you want!


In my experience, the over 50s are equally as keen and motivated in their jobs as their younger counterparts. Many professionals are choosing not to retire until they are well into their 70s – either for financial reasons, or, simply because they love their job and feel they still have so much to offer.  After all, not everyone wants to go from career professional to spending their days gardening and babysitting grandchildren!  The over 50s have a plethora of skills, knowledge, and the added benefit of experience, to bring to a company and shouldn’t be written off due to preconceived opinions and stereotypes surrounding their age group.


If you are put off recruiting an older employee for fear that they won’t be as tech-savvy with the internet, high-tech software packages, or even the in-house intranet, think again. They may not have grown up with a smartphone grasped in their hand, but this is the generation who has seen the biggest improvements and changes in industry based technology throughout the 20th century and into the 21st.  The phrase ‘silver surfers’ exists for a reason, so believe me, they can handle the technology!  Having said that, when it comes to employees facebooking and snapchatting during work hours, it’s much less likely to be your over 50s – another bonus to your department’s productivity.


So, where does the law stand on using age as a discriminatory factor when hiring?


In a nutshell, it is unlawful for an employer to discriminate directly by treating a job applicant or employee less favourably because of age without objective justification. This would preclude an employer from passing an employee by for promotion on a belief that because of their age they were not keen to step into a new role.


Government figures show that an estimated 13.5 million jobs will be created over the next 10 years, but only 7 million young people will enter the labour force. A management skills’ gap is looming, and employers would be foolish to disregard the talent of older workers.