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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2012, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
HR executives share their experience in human resources
Article Type: Practitioner profile From: Strategic HR Review, Volume 11, Issue 2
Jo Sims, head of HR
Jo SimsHead of HR at Access.
IT, customer services and supermarket management may not seem to be the most traditional route into a career in human resources, but they form the path that seems to be working so well for Jo Sims, head of HR at consulting, software and solutions provider Access UK.
She says: “Having always been customer facing I was used to dealing with people. In HR every member of staff is a customer that deserves the best standard of service.” While Sims initially joined Access as customer services manager, as the company grew it required a full-time HR function, and Sims stepped up to the role.
Focusing on employee engagement
She is passionate about employee engagement and has introduced and overseen a number of schemes to enhance commitment. “Making a company a good place to work is just as important as competitive salary,” says Sims. “Last year we introduced ‘Big Thanks’, which gave all staff an option of a cash bonus, a pension contribution, a subsidized ski trip, extra holidays or a trip to Spain. Companies need to recognize that not everyone wants the same rewards – it’s important to deliver benefits that are relevant to everyone.”
She continues: “As well as this we also have a range of flexible benefits available for our staff including flexi-time, the Tastecard restaurant discount scheme, pensions contribution, regular paid-for staff nights out, and the opportunity to buy and sell holidays.”
Offering training and skills development
Sims has created a number of training schemes at Access. She explains: “We recognized that on-site implementations of our products are becoming more complex with our consultants working with a diverse range of customers. These are technical people who are not always used to front-facing customer situations. So we introduced the consultant skills development program, which gave an option of a number of training courses for not only technical products, but soft skills training too. This enabled consultants to manage customer expectations and to effectively communicate with them whilst on site. This has produced a team of highly skilled consultants and a correlation between customer expectations and a reduction in free-of-charge consulting days.
“We also set up the perfect call for our support staff following employee feedback on what they believed to be the perfect support call – this was turned into a training course for new staff, resulting in an improved score in our customer satisfaction surveys,” says Sims.
Mergers and acquisitions
During her HR tenure, Sims has overseen the acquisition of an HR software company and the merging of five trading companies into one, and has been the HR lead on a recent management buyout. Sims says: “With all the mergers we ended up with five different employment contracts. As we became one brand it was important to standardize these across the company for consistency, and so everyone was getting the same deal.”
She continues: “We took the best elements from the five separate contracts that were in place and worked with the board on contract enhancements before rolling the new contracts out to 315 employees. The new contracts included an improved maternity policy, role specific periods of notice, and the right to initiate gardening leave if an employee moves to a competitor. We also extended the probation period of new starters to six months due to the nature of business and the technology involved.”
In February 2010 Access acquired Select Software, an HR software company with 36 staff. Sims oversaw the acquisition. She says: “We changed the leadership structure. I was working closely with a senior director who was put in place at the site to facilitate the transfer and integration of the team into Access UK. This included TUPE letters and regular staff meetings. I stayed onsite for a week meeting everyone on a one-to-one basis, introducing them to the company, integrating knowledge, identifying training needs and overcoming the obstacle of the loss of leader for the company’s employees.”
Keeping HR in line with business objectives
“I work hand-in-hand with every director at board level on an operational scale, ensuring the HR strategy is driven straight out of the business objectives,” continues Sims. “It’s important to understand the scope of requirement including needs analysis and scoping out the limitations of the business, the legal framework of HR, and balancing the needs of the individual. Delegation skills are essential when it comes to coaching and training others and it’s important to empower other people to facilitate business requirements ensuring there is no single point of failure.”
About the author
Jo Sims is head of HR at Access UK. Her previous positions include frontline manager at Sainsbury’s, IT manager at KPMG, and customer services manager at Access. Jo Sims can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org