Here at Liberty HR Recruitment we have been in a reflective mood since returning to work after the Christmas and New Year holidays. Like everyone else, we are in the midst of another lockdown and have little idea when the situation will change. This set us off thinking on how everyone else in our network was doing and how the last year has affected them. So we asked the people who have played a central part of the Liberty HR Recruitment ‘story’ – those who have been guest speakers at our HR Leaders’ Forums over the last year or so – to tell us how they have been faring during the pandemic.
Here are their stories;
2020 was a funny old mixed bag of a year! I quite enjoyed the early part when it was all sunshine and daffodils – despite the fact that my work disappeared almost overnight, and I had no income coming in for about four months. Bits of virtual live training began to return from late July, but it’s been a bit sporadic to be honest, and I found the whole lockdown thing much harder in the latter months of the year. Like most people, I have missed getting up, leaving my house, mixing with people, hugging my friends, and all the kind of events and socials that are normally part of our lives.
Having my time freed up was great in some respects though. Photographer Penny Plimmer and I decided to join forces in compiling a coffee-table book of lockdown photographs and stories from people, businesses and charities within a 20 mile radius of Portsmouth (‘Lockdown 2020 – A Moment in Time’ : https://japics.co.uk/lockdown-book/). It was a passion project rather than a commercial venture, and we’re very proud of the end result.
The book took up an extraordinary amount of time, but kept us both out of mischief, and it was wonderful in the difficult days of lockdown to speak to all these amazing people and hear about their activities and experiences. You wouldn’t imagine that a book about lockdown could be so uplifting and inspiring, but it really is!
I got so caught up in the new book in 2020, that I did very little to promote the book I’d already published at the end of 2019 (‘Your Thinking is Your Superpower’ https://www.amazon.co.uk/Your-Thinking-Superpower-Martine-Bolton/dp/1704509416). I’d had some book talks and events lined up for the year which had to be cancelled, although I did do a few smaller talks over Zoom for various networking groups.
I’m now planning to put the blinkers on, get my head down and focus on getting some of my training content online (pre-recorded and video-based), which I aim to do by the end of March, starting with my ‘Future-Fit Toolkit’ – skills and tools for flourishing in a turbulent world. Essentially, the skills that got us ‘here’ (the present moment) are unlikely to get us ‘there’ (the future), and with all the changes, restructures and increasing expectations many in the corporate world are experiencing, they’re going to need a bit of extra help.
Whilst I think/hope that there will always be a place for face-to-face training, I suspect that up to 80% of what used to be done in training rooms is likely to go online now, where it can be accessed at any time, and from any place, on different devices. When I first went freelance three years ago I knew I wanted to get my content online, but it took the burning bridge of Covid to free up the time and enforce the learning of new skills, to drive the necessary action. I think the saying is “Necessity is the mother of invention”! Many organisations achieved the aims of their digital transformation projects and programmes in a matter of months rather than years! Quite a lot of good came out of the year, in fact, although mostly we’re still feeling the pain of what we’ve lost, so I think it might be a while before we look back and appreciate that the situation ultimately transformed so many things for the better, and gave us far more than it took away.
In terms of where my business is heading – it all feels a bit up in the air still (like a snow globe that’s had a good shake-up!), but I’m feeling quite excited. I always feel this way at the start of a new year anyway but this year, even more so.
My husband Edd, who’s worked in hotel and catering management all his working life, has been out of work for most of the year. He left his job as an area manager in February (where he’d been doing a ridiculous amount of driving, and very little of the hands-on stuff that he loves to do) about three weeks before Covid hit the UK, and everything started shutting down. It’s been so hard watching him lose his mojo this year, along with his hope of getting another job – despite applying for anything and everything he could. It’s fair to say that he’s really struggled, and my thoughts are often with the many thousands of others whose livelihoods have been similarly affected.
I’ve been trying to encourage him to think about businesses he could set up and run, rather than wait and hope that someone will give him a job anytime soon. He makes amazing brownies, for example (we call them ‘Mr B’s Brownies’ 😊), and he’d love nothing better than to have his own little coffee shop somewhere. We’ve talked for years about setting up a retreat somewhere, where he could largely look after the ‘hotel’ side of things, and I could run workshops, and maybe a centre for wellbeing and personal development. We even went over to the Isle of Wight 13 years ago with a film crew (Channel 4’s ‘A Place by the Sea’) on the property hunt, but eventually decided, as our children were still very young then, that it wasn’t the right time for us.
I actually sneaked in a trip over to the island just before Lockdown 3.0, to view a place that we’d stayed in whilst we were there 13 years ago – now up for sale. I can’t tell you how excited I feel about the prospect, but there are a whole load of obstacles and hoops to navigate before we could even put in an offer. And it’s going to be some time before these kinds of businesses are even up and running again (although that could prove to be useful renovation time – am I getting carried away, do you think 😉?!). So, I’m trying to stay calm and grounded, because anything could happen, or not happen! Challenges always seem to come with opportunities, if we’re open to them and prepared to take on an element of risk. I’ve always been a bit of a dreamer, but you never know… Sunshine Retreats (IoW) incorporating Mr. B’s Tea Room/Coffee Shop might just be a thing later this year (or next)!!
‘Savvy’ Sarah Harvey (www.savvyconversations.co.uk)
On 8th January 2021 I’m celebrating the one-year-book-birthday of ‘Savvy Conversations’ And wow, what a year it’s been!
When I came and did my session for Liberty HR recruitment it was back in November 2019 and I was only just recovering from Achilles surgery and still in a ‘boot’. The book was written but it was a further 7 weeks before the book launch party. In fact that was brilliant timing as I was able to invite those who attended the session and many of them did attend the book launch event and have since bought the book – so thank you, the timing was great in that respect. What a wonderful network you have!
Looking back on 2020, with the book launch just one week into the new year, I am so grateful that I was able to get 80 people together at the launch and have such a great party. And of course it was wonderful to see Jane there. Sadly only a matter of a few weeks later all changed and Lockdown 1.0 was upon us.
Now more than ever Savvy Conversations is helping individuals, leaders and teams as they deal with the challenges of furlough, lockdown, making important changes to their business and mostly doing all of this when working from home. There’s been a need for many conversations in 2020 that no one expected to have. And a need for us all to embrace new working patterns and challenges and collaborating with others in new ways. Above all I’ve noticed people struggling with the lack of human connection or at least struggling to get this balance right when we can’t be in the room with one another face-to-face.
So I must say that I’ve been overwhelmed, not just by the response to the book itself but by the way my training programmes and coaching based on the framework have been received. I’m pleased to say existing and new clients have embraced my training and coaching programmes via Zoom which has been a challenge, and a lot of fun too! In some ways it’s been an opportunity to reach further afield and work with people and teams that I would not have easily been able to work with because of location and logistics.
To be honest I can’t wait to meet with groups again face-to-face when it’s safe to do so. But the fact is Savvy Conversations are needed right now, more than ever and I’m so grateful I can still reach people and teams through the book and over zoom until that wonderful time comes when we can meet up in person again.
NB – Sarah’s brilliant book can be seen/purchased via Amazon (https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1916084672/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_dp_ovY9FbBH98NCP)
Nicki Crowhurst HOW2HR (www.how2hr.net)
Well firstly, the entire family is working from home…which is mad!
My husband Austin (http://fizzyprintltd.co.uk) has worked from his home office/workshop for some time but has now been joined by me in my garden office and my son doing his school work in the house (who is now, would you believe, able to cram a whole school days-worth of studying into just a morning when working from home…how ‘efficient’ he has become 😉).
All joking aside, I have to admit to finding the toughest part/biggest challenge of the lockdown is home-schooling. Teachers have always had my respect but I have a new-found admiration for them and for all parents and carers who are tackling the education of children at the moment. You are doing an amazing job!
Workwise I’ve been really busy during lockdown, thank goodness. I am now booked up for at least three months ahead with my usual work. My original 2-day course is now a 6-week workshop and based fully online. Everyone I work with has thankfully embraced the ‘new normal’ and all of my current clients are doing my leadership training course.
My main message to the Liberty HR network is that I am still very much here and still working!
Aurora New Dawn (www.aurorand.org.uk )
Here at Aurora New Dawn we have been under extreme pressure over the last year not just in referral numbers but in ensuring that our services can adapt to a more virtual support model than a face to face one. In addition to this we have had to support staff to be able to work remotely and without the normal support of a busy office. Whilst in some ways working in your own private space can be beneficial in terms of the quietness this can bring, especially whilst on calls to survivors, it can also be a negative in that after a difficult call you do not immediately have a colleague on hand to support. We have encourage our staff not to feel like they are a burden if they need to call a manager or colleague just for a quick debrief or a longer emotional support call. Some staff have really struggled working remotely and for others they have embraced it and really enjoy it.
Our partner meetings have also moved to being virtual and become less frequent, this can be detrimental to the partnership relationships that our workers have built up.
Lastly, being a charity the pressure of securing funding is an ongoing issue and there is the very real fear that once society returns to ‘normal’ there will be less private and government funding with more agencies applying for what is available.
All in all it has been challenging and the ‘novelty’ of working from home has truly worn off!
On the brighter side our 24/7 helpline that we introduced at the beginning of the first lockdown reached its 2000th call this week with over 45% calls coming in out-of-hours. Aurora are the only DVA service offering a dedicated domestic abuse 24/7 helpline.
We also started our first virtual 6 week ‘Domestic Abuse and self-esteem’ programme this week, I’ll keep you posted as to how this progresses.
Simon Rhodes (www.trethowans.com)
Since speaking at Liberty HR Recruitment’s fantastic event last year, I have continued to provide support to clients and to write. Over the last couple of years I’ve written ‘Build Your Super-tribe’ and ‘Lead Your Super-tribe’ which are both about how to create and lead strong tribes and then bring them together, as Super-tribes, to achieve even more.
I have recently finished the third book in my ‘Super-tribes Series’. It’s called ‘Get Win Ready’ and it’s about how to master the winning controllables of your competition to deliver success. It’s full of insights, modern and historical examples; and quotes from successful people.
Getting ‘Win-Ready’ applies to every organisation in a competitive environment. The book covers the 11 most consistent controllables in every competition and how to master them.
All three books are available on Amazon in both paperback and e-book formats.
As every author will know, writing is a time-consuming and dedicated process. To get a book finished requires you to be pretty obsessional about the writing process and pretty sure about what it is you want to say. That said I would recommend writing a book to anyone. Just pick a subject that you really care about, find a point of view you want to get behind; and start writing. It’s certainly helped me get through the pandemic.
Foot Anstey Employment Team Unmuted! (www.footanstey.com)
Like many others, we have spent the majority of our time working from home since March last year – it is unbelievable to think that was nearly 9 months ago! Despite the obvious challenges, there have been lots of positives that have come out of this time and we have found many new creative ways of working.
We have worked closely with HR leaders who have experienced a particularly challenging time keeping up with the significant changes affecting their people and providing support to others but often with no internal support for themselves. We have been able to provide that support through virtual coffees and, as a result, have formed very close relationships and gained greater insight into their organisation and the issues they are facing. It has been a real privilege to be able to help people through this difficult time.
We have joined together virtually with colleagues in our employment and immigration team, across offices (more than 20 of us) to share knowledge and client experiences on a regular basis (daily at peak times of the Coronavirus crisis). The bringing together of the minds of experienced lawyers, grappling with new law, has enabled us to provide the best possible, consistent and practical advice to our clients in all sectors. In addition we have joined together with other Foot Anstey teams to enable us all to look at the bigger picture, not just from an employment law perspective. Our regulatory colleagues have been particularly valuable at this safety critical time. Collaboration across the firm has taken us to a new level of expertise enabling us to provide the best possible support to our clients.
We have kept our clients updated through webinars and, through trial and error, we have learned new ways (for us!) of delivering these using break out rooms, polls and chats to keep people engaged and involved. Our highlights have included Reinventing Your Workplace, our Liberty HR event (of course!) and our Diversity and Inclusion Q&A panel discussion bringing together inclusion experts in their fields of race, transgender and disability providing real insight and practical implementation tips on how you can make a real difference. We have also provided virtual bespoke training to help our clients through these difficult times and help take the pressure off overstretched HR teams, including training employee representatives for collective consultation; menopause awareness; and developing your managers.
Through virtual platforms we have been able to reach far more people over a greater geographical area, with a much higher attendance rate. The removal of the need to travel has saved valuable time and money and, at the same time, is helping to save our environment.
The practices we have developed will be taken forward into the new world. At Foot Anstey we are constantly looking at innovative ways of working with our clients and we will build on all the things we have learnt so far.
We think we will look back at this time and realise that, despite the difficulties and challenges that this time has brought for many, the lessons we will have learnt from being part of a time of such rapid change and development, particularly in technology, will stay with us and change us and our way of working for the better. This is an exciting new world!
Sarah Peacock, Lisa Wallis and Natalie Painter, the Southampton employment team at Foot Anstey