No Image Available

Annie Hayes



Read more about Annie Hayes

HR Practitioner’s Diary: ‘Daniel’ meets his match


This week intrepid HR Consultant, Sue Kingston is parachuted in to save boss ‘Daniel’ from faltering HR practices and discovers a new ‘ice breaker’ that leaves her bemused.

W/C 23 May 2005

Life is never dull these days, must be something to do with being my own boss! Each week is another part of an even bigger adventure and I’m still learning loads on my way. It’s a lovely sunny evening and time to reflect on this week’s learning curve:

A little knowledge is dangerous
Spent a day with a client analysing the job descriptions for his workforce of 15. The business has just undergone a major change, reducing its headcount by 50%. The entire management team were stripped out, all but one (let’s call him Daniel for those Bridget Jones fans out there, and yes, he’s always looking for ‘eye candy’!). ‘Daniel’ now sits at the helm and is navigating a vastly unknown course for himself in a tightly regulated environment.

He thinks he has devised a master plan allocating new job titles and job descriptions for the remaining 15. Well, let’s see how near or far he was to success on this one.

I went through the existing written, job descriptions with each member of staff, without Daniel being around. I allowed them 20 minutes each and asked them to relate their understanding of what they thought they should be doing.

Interestingly, I unearthed quite a few inconsistencies, surprise, surprise! Daniel doesn’t have any real HR knowledge and I firmly believe that a little knowledge is dangerous in this and numerous other situations.

Two individuals believed they were responsible for Health and Safety issues, fact of the matter was that, in Daniel’s mind, he had one covering facilities and the other covering people – confusing or what, especially if your staff are not mind readers!

If the fire alarm was faulty or someone was trapped in the lift, or the smell of gas was coming from the boiler room, not only did the staff have no idea who dealt with these types of instances, but the responsible parties themselves were not even clear – help! They would go to one, only to be passed to the other – how many times do I need to tell businesses that communication is key to success and safety.

As a result I sat with Daniel and gently, but firmly, educated him in the art of definition and clarity. Hopefully he has learnt one valuable lesson in that he needs to think through the bigger picture and demonstrate clearer communication to his staff.

The result is that I am now drawing up 15 accurate job descriptions for my client which in turn will lead to more productive performance reviews and training needs analysis. If Daniel’s regulators visit on spec to perform an audit of his processes, he will pass with flying colours.

“Size matters, but not how you think!”
An excellent line from Natasha Bedingfield and you can apply it to so many things in life. She’s referring to love and the heart, but I’ve discovered I can apply it to … company sizes!

When I started running my own show I thought that most of my clients would consist of smaller businesses, those that cannot afford the luxury of a part or full-time HR resource.

Whilst that market certainly exists, I’ve discovered, much to my delight, that I can consider the ‘big boys’ too!

I’m spending a research day with a large brewery that are looking to outsource elements of their training requirements. They want to free up their own HR people for more strategic and general issues.

Providing we are all comfortable with the outcome I will be looking to run training days for their managers throughout the UK. I’m hoping this will be the beginning of an exciting new relationship and open the door to all sorts of possibilities.

I’ve already agreed with them that we are going to ‘refresh’ their presentation and make it a more logical format, currently it jumps from one subject to another, missing out the bits in the middle which are then lumped in at the end (if you follow).

During research, as an observer, I can assess how much ‘fun’ they are currently putting into HR, as it can be so mind numbingly boring. I just don’t do boring, life is too short, and if I can switch people onto the fun of HR then I consider that to be a great achievement.

The little guys!
I’ve been referred to a local business that has suffered two major staff cutbacks in the last two years. Their Account Manager is currently processing the payroll, but no one is dealing with the more general issues of recruitment, contracts, disciplinary procedures and so on.

Being one of Northampton’s well established businesses I’m keen to help them to maintain and hopefully improve their profile as a viable business in the 21st century.

They were established in 1923, even having their factory bombed in the Second World War, so they have first hand experience of ‘disaster recovery’! Their product has now joined the world of technology and they feel the time is ready for growth again. This is hopefully where I will come into play as an HR strategist. I’m a great believer in the ‘PPPPP’ method – “Perfect Planning Prevents Poor Performance.”

I’m hoping to meet with them next week to discuss the way forward with a workforce in place that will assist their direction, growth and profitability. They may be ‘little guys’ now, but “from little acorns …,” time will tell and I hope to help them from the beginning to enjoy the longer term rewards when they return to their former glory as a market leader.

Anyway Diary, early night tonight, up at 05.30 for a 06.30 start and, I suspect, at least a 12 hour day – oh the joys!

Vital Stats:

For all of those ‘singletons’ out there:

  • Weight – 9st 13lbs (too much Chocolate Fudge cake with my afternoon tea)

  • Chocolate – nil (Chocolate Fudge cake was ‘fix’ enough)

  • Wine – nil, but several delicious glasses of Champagne (see ‘Boyfriends’)

  • Boyfriends – 1 date, enjoyed scrummy Balti curry, followed by trip to new Champagne and Cocktail bar. Enjoyed Champagne, but it was muddied by worst chat up line ever – his question “How heavy is a polar bear?” Puzzled look from me! His answer, “Heavy enough to break the ice between us!” My response “I didn’t know you needed to break the ice in a friendship?!” Result – he apologised for poor ‘joke’. I turned down his next invite to a Quiz Night in preference to nine holes of golf (with a good friend) without a polar bear in sight (not even at the 19th hole)!

  • Deep thoughts – discussion surrounding ‘ice’ leaves me cold, give me a big, warm heart any day.

Keep it simple everyone and enjoy your week ahead!

*Sue Kingston is a self-employed HR Consultant with 23 years HR experience. Sue can be contacted on T: 07966 216561 or at [email protected]

More diary entries:

One Response

  1. Ice Maiden

    Boyfriends – one date and the worst chat up line ever? If that was it you’ve led a charmed life!

    I suspect that he was hoping to warm you up with a curry and add a little fizz to the relationship with champagne but you froze him out then consigned his hopes to the depths of the ocean as surely as the iceburg that sank the Titanic.

    I’m sure that you had your reasons but if one (not so bad) joke has ice running through your veins what chance is there for that “diary in the snow” moment to melt your heart?

    Not so much “Bridget Jones” more “The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe” – hope for better news next week.

No Image Available
Annie Hayes


Read more from Annie Hayes

Get the latest from HRZone

Subscribe to expert insights on how to create a better workplace for both your business and its people.


Thank you.