As a freelance HR professional, employment law consultant and corporate trainer, Tara Daynes needs to be confident presenting to large groups as well as on a one-to-one basis.
But rather than pursue a career in the performing arts, Daynes – a regular and well-respected HRzone blogger – graduated with a degree in social policy, before completing a CIPD diploma in personnel management.
By nature, she tends to be logical and process-driven so putting in place all of the policies and procedures that the company required suited her. “People think if you’re in HR you’re a people person, but I’m not that fluffy!” she laughs, although she counters it by saying that she knows how to handle people.
Daynes’ next move, meanwhile, was to one of the big four accountancy firms, Ernst & Young which, in contrast, already had well-established HR procedures in place. But the post enabled her to broaden and deepen her HR knowledge.
A subsequent relocation to London saw her become HR advisor at newspaper and magazine distributor, Dawson Holdings, however. Although it was meant to be a generalist HR role, she ended up handling grievances and disciplinary proceedings.
But after five years, she felt that it was time to move on again. This time, rather than move up a rung on the HR ladder, however, she chose to go freelance.
“I go into organisations and assess their people management strategies and act as an advisor and help organisations maximise performance,” she explains. “A lot of organisations see HR as a bolt-on to the business, but I feel very strongly HR can benefit an organisation at a strategic level and Investors in People has a strong focus in that.”
She also does a lot of work with not-for-profit organisations, however, which are continually trying to do more with less. But she believes that a lot can be done on a budget and without necessarily splashing the cash.
Training that isn’t targeted, however, will not produce results. “You can spend a lot of money sending people on training, but unless they remember what they have learned, they won’t be more engaged and productive,” she says.
In 2007, meanwhile, Daynes added another qualification to her list, gaining a specialist paralegal certificate in employment law. She had been advising companies on legal HR and found that they would subsequently go and check her suggestions with their solicitors.
Daynes has now been self-employed for four years and can’t see herself returning to the traditional Monday to Friday office environment as she loves the freedom and variety offered by the freelance lifestyle. And it’s this that still keeps her interested and excited in what she does.
Margaret Thatcher – nothing to do with her politics but because she was the definitive woman making her mark in a man’s world. I’ve often found myself on male-dominated management teams, sometimes with men who pigeonhole HR as a ‘women’s thing’, so I empathise with the professional and personal challenge of proving yourself in that situation.
What’s your most hated buzzword?
‘Upskilling’ – we have three perfectly good words in ‘training’, ‘learning’ and ‘development’ so why make up a new one?
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Always make your own security so you don’t have to be dependent on anyone else. I now pride myself on my independence and it’s very liberating.
How do you relax?
I find it hard to sit and do nothing so I have a monthly facial and massage where I can’t get up and start doing laundry or emails. I get so chilled out, I usually doze off half way through.