5-minute briefing: Head of People

Jan 22, 2020

We spoke with our Head of People Rosie Shimell to delve into how we embed EngineeringUK values into our working culture and the benefits of being on the team.

As Head of People, what are the core parts of your role?

The aim of my role is to help EngineeringUK deliver on the people and culture aspect of our 5-year strategy by creating a supportive and exciting work culture with motivated and engaged employees.

In terms of what this means on a day-to-day basis, I develop policies and procedures that support the employee life cycle. It might mean some training and development, people management, coaching of staff for specific issues, talent development and rewards and benefits. A lot of my role is about relationship building and talking to people – that’s probably the most important part.

In what ways do you work to embed our values into the working culture?

At EngineeringUK, we aim to be insightful, passionate, courageous and inclusive in all areas of our work. Values are redundant when they're not realised and lived across all areas of an organisation. As a result, we spoke with staff throughout 2019 to find out what these values mean to them on a personal level and what practical steps we can take to embed them into our day-to-day.

For us, the ‘how’ really is as important as the ‘what’. We look at positive behaviours, as well as outcomes, during our appraisals. We also recognise our values at our monthly all-staff meetings. Colleagues thank one another by giving examples of how the values have been demonstrated that month. I'd certainly say in the last 12 months, we are much improved in terms of connecting to our values, but we still got some work to do.

How does your previous experience help you in your role at EngineeringUK?

Previously I worked in HR in the world of digital marketing and advertising. I learnt a lot in this fast-paced working environment and bring a degree of commercial awareness. At EngineeringUK, I can consequently be ambitious in terms of what can be achieved. We aim to foster a consultative and considered working environment which allows people to be innovative and courageous enough to take smart risks.

When reflecting on 2019, what are you most proud of?

When I first came on board, the first task was to create a good employee value proposition. We all agreed that we could not do this without first consulting with staff to find out what they wanted.

We therefore ran a staff survey which provided us with an action plan. The second staff survey in August 2019 then measured what we had done and how well it had been received by staff – our scores had improved across the board over the 12 months.

This is a real tangible sign to me that everything we'd been working on was moving us in the right direction. That said, there is always room for improvement. We'll continue to consult with staff to help build a positive, friendly working culture, whilst continuing to focus on our mission.

The second thing I am most proud of is signing the Time to Change employer pledge to improve awareness of mental wellbeing at work. We've really worked hard on that in the last year and we'll continue to work hard on it next year. We've got some very engaged employees who have formed a mental health action group who want to be involved with this topic.

What has been the biggest challenge?

What I find interesting about working in HR is that everyone has an opinion about people and culture in the workplace. We’re fortunate to have great people with a diverse range of ideas and it is always good to hear examples from other organisations who are implementing positive policies.

However sometimes these may be fantastic examples that are put into practice in larger or more commercial organisations and it can therefore be a challenge to tailor expectations to our size and to prioritise what will have the most benefit for most people.

What are you hoping to implement in 2020? 

We’re rolling out the second phase of our appraisal system, which we launched in March 2019. We will launch it on a new online platform. We want it to be more conversational with more focus on values and on rounded 360° feedback.

We'll also be looking at our Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) policies and have a new Head of EDI starting in January. We've partnered with Time to Change on our mental health work and we'd like to partner with more organisations, such as Stonewall and Working Families, to look at other areas where we might need some more professional help.

Why do you enjoy working at EUK?

I really like working here. It is an incredibly generous and consultative working culture and the standards of professionalism are high. Ultimately though, it is about the people. There are some lovely people, which makes working here a pleasure.

What are the key benefits to working at EUK?

In terms of our actual benefits, we have a very generous pension and we provide free yearly medical check-ups with Bupa for people who are over 35 and subsidise it for people under 35. This helps give peace of mind when it comes to health. We have generous holidays and we give volunteering days each year.

In terms of the non-tangible benefits, we rolled out a flexible working scheme early in 2019 which has been a real winner. In fact, anywhere I have worked, the ability to flex time and have more free-time is the thing that people value the most.

For me, it's a complete no brainer that any workplace would roll out flexible working for staff. Ten years ago, it was more of a cutting-edge thing to do and was seen as a nice-to-have for carers only. That really must change because everyone can benefit from flexible working, whether parents, carers or someone who benefits from going for an early morning run to help their mental health.

Why is volunteering important for you and for EUK team?

Giving volunteering days to staff benefits EngineeringUK in two ways. It is about motivating staff, getting them out of the office and connecting them to communities. It has a tangible connection to professional development because there are things that you might learn that are useful in the workplace, for example teamworking, having to think on your feet and being innovative.

In terms of how this works, we each have two volunteering days per year and can use these to volunteer for a cause of our choice. We will be releasing a policy document soon so that staff better understand how it works, hopefully boosting uptake in 2020.

As a member of the Living Wage Foundation, why do you think it is important for more organisations to pay the real Living Wage?

For me, it's all about creating a fair and level playing field for everyone.

In terms of encouraging other organisations to commit to the Living Wage, I would say that doing the right thing as an organisation always pays off. Saving money might make sense today but over the long-term, I don’t think it ever pays to cut corners with people. If you do the right thing, you are rewarded with more engaged employees who deliver great work and further your mission.

Does EngineeringUK have an internship and work experience policy?

To build on our work with the Living Wage Foundation, high on my to-do list is to create a solid internship and work experience policy so that when we do offer paid work experience, we can ensure it has a strong foundation and can receive diverse applicants.  

We do have an apprentice here working in Finance. She's very ambitious and she works extremely hard. For us, it is putting our principles into action and living our value of inclusivity. As an organisation, we are often speaking about the various routes into engineering, but we also recognise that apprenticeships are a great way of nurturing talent in many aspects of business. Not everyone wants to go to university, and apprenticeships can be an inclusive way of starting people on a rewarding careers path regardless of background.

What is your professional new year’s resolution?

Most people go into work every day and can feel a little bit overwhelmed with how much they have to do. For me in terms of my personal resolution, it is to be kind to yourself and to do what you can do to the best of your ability. Professionally, tying in with our mental health pledge, I want to make sure that there are always connection points at work and that everyone feels comfortable checking in with their manager, with HR and with their colleagues to ask for help and feedback.

We live in such busy times now, balancing busy work and personal lives. My overall resolution is to practice self-compassion and prioritise self-care. If you don’t feel calm, then everything is not going to be done as well as it could be. Practice self-care and you actually get more done!

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