Taking five minutes out of his busy day Guru caught up with Andy Selway (HR Expert and all round nice guy) who enlightened us on some crazy Christmas party disasters, house cleaning allowances and a whole lot more…
Can you provide a summary into your role?
I am the founder of ‘Your HR Consultancy’. We provide HR & people solutions to start-ups and SMEs, ranging from setting up the HR function, providing a part-time and flexible HR resource or just helping companies with a one off people project (or problem!). We also provide services to larger companies, for example; mediation, coaching, contract HR cover, etc.
Being a consultant is great as you get to work within a variety of industries and can get stuck into all sorts of HR and people initiatives (and challenges!). Also, it’s great from a business perspective as my contact is usually the managing director or the business owner, so you really get to know what’s going on in the business and are able to suggest and drive HR initiatives that can really add value – without loads of red tape. It sounds cheesy and very corporate – but it’s true – and you get to do it in jeans and a baseball cap to boot!
It’s tough to start with as you have to change your mind-set from 100% pure HR person to 50% business development person. This can be tough at the start as most HR people aren’t great at selling themselves, so it’s always useful to have a good network of other HR consultants around you to share ideas.
I am mainly a HR generalist, but I’ve got a strong employee relations background (the tough and often horrible stuff) and I also performed a reward role a few years back.
In addition to this I am a Corporate Engagement Consultant for ‘DGS Employee Benefits Solutions’ (as well as their in-house HR consultant). Corporate Engagement is an interesting part of my role as I get to be the HR voice of DGS when it comes to sourcing and implementing employee benefits solutions to new clients. I also get to meet loads of other London based HR people, eat cake and drink lots of tea around London!
I also run Corporate and Cocktails, which is fast becoming one of London’s biggest growing HR communities with over 1,700 HR members. We run (FUN!) free events throughout the year and we also have subgroup meet- ups for standalone HR professionals and those who work in SMEs, as well as a group for freelance HR consultants. So I’m pretty well connected on the London HR scene – hopefully liked as well!
Can you share any unique experiences?
I once dealt with the most horrendous work Christmas party disaster and fallout, which was totally alcohol fuelled. It resulted in an ambulance, 3 police cars, 3 employee arrests, bottle fights & full frontal nudity. I was quite green back then, especially coming from a very corporate HR Advisor role and it scared the crap out of me, plus it was my first HR Manager standalone role. I remember thinking all over the weekend; “I don’t want to go to work on Monday, it’s going to be a rubbish month”.
I laugh about it now, but I do look back and think – “Yeah, Andy, you handled that pretty well”. It gave me a lot of confidence in dealing with difficult ER issues from then on.
Can you offer up some useful HR Advice?
To those in their early HR career:
HR is different in every company and what is expected can be very different. In your early career it’s easy to try and replicate previous initiatives and processes when you move companies. I’ve found that the most effective thing you can do when you start a new role is to watch, observe and participate in what is going on already before making suggestions as to how you ‘think’ you could improve things. Being sensitive to your new environment is key, otherwise you risk isolating yourself from often well-established co-workers in the business who you need to build relationships with in the future. This can also be applied to most people in most professions too!
Listening is one of the key skills needed in HR. If you don’t listen and then ask the right questions it’s hard to navigate in the right direction. Things aren’t always what they first seem, so you have to ask the right questions to get to the right answers.
To business owners:
I’m a strong believer in treating people how you would like to be treated (unless you are into the kinky stuff!). Sure, there are set processes in place, but it’s important not to lose sight of the fact that your company is successful because of your ‘people’, and they are a lot more complex than a set of rules and procedures. A ‘sheep dip’ approach will rarely workout well, especially in an SME! Obviously, you still need to be legally compliant with what you are doing (just saying –it’s my job!).
What have been the most unusual employee benefits you have come across?
In my time I’ve come across a pet sitting allowance for when employees are on annual leave (the owner was an animal lover) , a house cleaning allowance for when employees have to work consistently late to finish projects.
I love these sorts of benefits, especially in smaller companies who can really tailor their benefits to suit their workforce demographic. Being in a smaller environment allows you to really get to know what your people value. This allows maximum effectiveness, with often a minimum spend. But it’s important that as a business grows and matures, and its workforce gets more diverse, to regularly review what’s being offered. Sounds like common sense right? You’d be surprised!
Have you been involved with any innovative HR practices?
Sometimes I think the simpler the intervention the more effective the outcome can be. I’m not one for creating time consuming and elaborate initiatives just to prove I’m adding value. I know I add value! Adding value is all about a positive end result, not the complexity of the project or the time put in. However, I do believe in doing things a little differently and knowing your audience (aka the company culture!).
For example, in the company of one of my clients we had a lot of people join the business quickly. It’s a close knit business and people tend to stay because of the great working environment and the people. Integrating a lot of people quickly and getting people chatting and interacting across teams can be tough in any business, especially on little or no budget!
So, I organised a massive lunchtime speed dating style event, with pizza and beer of course, plus a bit of positive PR! I printed out a list of set questions that got people talking on a personal and professional level, and I literally held a stop watch and a whistle and …. ‘MOVE TO YOUR LEFT!’
This was a simple solution, but it worked for what we needed it to achieve. It also proves that you can achieve a positive outcome with a limited budget too and have fun along the way!