Flexibility, Building Trust & A Global Pandemic: My first few months with Purpose HR

Donna Wrigglesworth joined the Purpose HR team at the end of January this year, and since then has had the opportunity to work with a range of our fantastic clients in the Technology and Life Sciences sectors.  She has spent time on site embedding herself in their teams and has helped with a variety of HR projects, establishing relationships and becoming a trusted advisor.  Donna reflects on her first few months in the role of Senior HR Consultant and how she has overcome the challenges of lockdown.

My career path

After 13 years of working in various in-house HR roles in the corporate and third sectors, I found myself looking for a role where I could use my knowledge to make a real difference. I wanted to bring my experience from large corporate companies to smaller businesses who could really benefit from my skillset.  I had been looking for a new role for some time, but none of those available really struck a chord with me.  Then I came across the role of Senior HR Consultant with Purpose HR and I immediately identified with the business and their ethos.  Now four months into the role, I have had plenty of opportunity to work with a range of interesting and exciting clients.

My Purpose HR journey

So far, I have taken on the responsibility of working with six of our retained clients. They are predominantly in the Technology and Life Sciences sectors, and are all at different stages of development. Their priorities vary, as do the areas in which they look to Purpose HR for support.

For my clients, and many others in our portfolio, I work on a wide range of tasks in a variety of circumstances.  The following list is certainly not exhaustive, but it provides an overview of just some of the areas in which I have been providing support:

  • Policy Work – Handbooks, contracts, shift working.
  • Training and Development – delivering training on appraisals, performance management and feedback and dealing with difficult conversations.  Coaching line managers on how to get the best out of their team members.
  • Correspondence – from every day HR queries, such as a minor change to an employee’s terms and conditions, to complex employee relations and organisational change management programmes.
  • Recruitment – job analysis and job design, salary benchmarking, to then advising on how to reach more qualified candidates, setting up the Employment Contract and onboarding process.
  • Performance Management – facilitating ongoing training, education and coaching sessions for line managers dealing with a range of performance related issues.

Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown in late March, I managed six weeks of working at client sites, in our own co-working space, on the train, in cafes and from home.  This flexibility allowed me to choose an environment that suits the work I am doing.  When I am on site with clients, I like to meet with managers and stakeholders to discuss my ongoing project work and build on the working relationships.  When I work on tasks that are sensitive, I like the privacy of our co-working office. For work that requires prolonged concentration I prefer working from my home environment. I really love that each day with Purpose HR is so different and brings new challenges and opportunities.

The challenges of lockdown

Talking of challenges… the first 6 weeks of my working life with Purpose HR was under “normal circumstances” – with childcare in place, freedom to travel and work from client offices, our shared office space and my own office space at home.  Then in March everything changed with the Coronavirus pandemic. This turned my working life upside down and inside out, as it did for many working parents. I found myself in a new job, with new clients, building new relationships and trying to work from home with my young kids and husband around every single day.

I really appreciate the flexibility which Purpose HR have shown to me, allowing me to temporarily reduce my hours, as I have juggled work with childcare and home-schooling commitments. Coupled with the fact my colleagues have picked up some of my workload for me without complaint. This flexible approach has been invaluable and something that has really helped me to keep my sanity, whilst also being able to still contribute and add value.

Despite all of this I feel I have continued to build trusted relationships with the clients I work with.  I have had to learn to work very flexibly, with many distractions in the background.  One of my key clients I have only been able to meet with once in person; however, this has not stopped us from building a great relationship.  The volume of chat messages, emails, Zoom/Teams calls and meeting requests I get from them asking for advice and support indicates that I am a trusted advisor.  They even invited me to their (virtual) team Bingo/pizza night! 

During lockdown I have managed to run a number of virtual training courses for clients, something I can safely say I have never done before and frankly, felt quite petrified of the prospect of knowing one of my children could burst into the room at any given opportunity!  However, that aside, I have received some lovely feedback which has been a real boost, particularly with the current work setup. 

A lot of my work in the last four months has involved dealing with the many issues relating to the pandemic.  A number of key areas I have been supporting clients with are working from home arrangements, managing remote teams, flexible working requests, furlough worker consultations, higher volumes of sickness absence, shift working set-ups to allow for safe working practices and some organisational restructuring.

About one month into my new role, I had to deal with a difficult redundancy scenario with a client whose usual point of contact was not available. They found the situation challenging to manage and really looked to me to support them through each step. It was great to be able to support them through these difficult conversations. The CEO called me up the following week to thank me for all of my help and support. After I came off the call, it really struck home to me how good it feels to be really valued, trusted and appreciated by our clients.

Looking ahead

My team (both current and predecessors) have built some really great relationships with my clients, which has been fantastic to walk into; however it does put the pressure on to ensure that I continue to nurture and foster these relationships going forward. I have really enjoyed my time working for Purpose HR so far and look forward to continuing to build on my client base and relationships well into the future.

Contact us to find out more about our flexible and tailored HR solutions for early stage and high growth businesses.