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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2012, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Annamarie Petsis Jones, Head of HR, Learning and Development
Article Type: Practitioner profile From: Strategic HR Review, Volume 11, Issue 6
HR executives share their experience in human resources
Annamarie Petsis Jones has been Head of HR, Learning and Development at Opus Energy since October 2011. She has worked in HR for five years and her experience has raised a single major challenge: the sourcing and recruitment of appropriately skilled employees.
It is her view that, despite the economic recession, there are not a great number of skilled people out there looking for work. With the benefits system set up as it is, those on benefits are required to apply for jobs, and therefore many applicants – approximately 80 percent that she comes across – are not appropriately skilled or correctly motivated for the job.
Since her appointment at Opus Energy last year, Petsis Jones has been looking to establish innovative ways to recruit people into the company and to retain them.
A robust recruitment process
Having secured a placement in the 2011 Sunday Times Top Track 250 league table, Opus Energy experienced an unprecedented 31 percent growth on 2010 sales figures in 2011, and has continued to see a rapid rate of growth in this financial year, leading to the creation of 100 new jobs. In order to match appropriately skilled workers to these newly created roles, Petsis Jones introduced monthly assessment days at Opus Energy’s offices in Northampton.
Shortlists for the assessment days are put together from applications made online via Opus Energy’s website. Up to 40 people are selected to attend and a key requirement is having six months’ experience in customer service. Participants are required to take part in group activities, a panel interview and psychometric testing. Petsis Jones is a big believer in psychometric testing. The process used by Opus Energy rates applicants against a profile linked to the role they are applying for, through a series of questions answered during the application process.
Those who make the shortlist are then given a general intelligence assessment, which measures ability, aptitude and reasoning skills. This is followed by the assessment day itself, where they are given group tasks such as building a tower out of various materials (including plastic cups, paper, paperclips and string) that will balance an egg – to demonstrate team skills and problem-solving abilities. Candidates are then interviewed and taken through role plays.
This process, which was introduced in January this year, has led to a 55 percent hire rate.
A strategic approach to training and development
Alongside the assessment days, the HR and Learning and Development team introduced the Opus Energy Apprenticeship Scheme during England’s National Apprenticeship week in February. Since its introduction, apprenticeships have been awarded across two key roles within Opus Energy: Apprentice Customer Service administrator (Diploma in Business Administration Level 2 and 3), and Apprentice Customer Service advisor (Diploma in Customer Service Level 2 and 3).
Petsis Jones is working closely with one of the UK’s biggest training providers, First4Skills, in recruiting and training talented individuals looking to work in the energy sector. Together, they have tailored each NVQ Diploma to suit Opus Energy’s specific recruitment requirements, with starting salaries more than double those of usual apprenticeship rates. Opus Energy has also made a pledge to track the successful candidates’ development closely and offer them the opportunity to move on to the next level of their NVQ. The Opus Energy NVQ Apprenticeship Scheme tackles Opus Energy’s recruitment issue head-on, helping to grow talent from the start and source applicants who have potential, but do not necessarily have relevant experience.
In addition, Petsis Jones introduced a Management Development program at Opus Energy in April this year, a further incentive for those looking to break into the energy sector and climb to a senior management position. The program consists of 16 modules including subjects such as Personal Effectiveness and Influencing Skills, Managing Performance, Talent Management and Essential Finance.
Growing and nurturing talent
In terms of next steps for Petsis Jones, she is looking to introduce a talent program at Opus Energy in the second half of this year, to grow talent within and nurture potential future management candidates.
In the meantime however, an employee Health and Wellbeing campaign has been launched, including the participation of Olympic gymnast hopeful and Northamptonshire local, Daniel Keatings, who is sponsored by Opus Energy. The campaign includes a pedometer challenge for employees, and Petsis Jones is introducing a lifestyle questionnaire that will shape the further elements of the campaign, to ensure that it is guided by employee needs.
For Petsis Jones, the Health and Wellbeing campaign is about retaining existing employees and attracting new talent, and differentiates Opus Energy from other employers in the area. She says: “This is the icing on the cake for me. Seeing Daniel Keatings in action at our offices to kick start the Health and Wellbeing campaign is a real bonus. I’m thrilled to be part of such a strong and growing company that is willing to provide the financial backing to support HR initiatives, such as those we’ve been lucky enough to see come to fruition”.
Annamarie Petsis JonesBased at Opus Energy.
About the author
Annamarie Petsis Jones joined Opus Energy as Head of HR, Learning and Development in October 2011, following seven years’ practice as a solicitor specializing in employment law, and four years as head of HR at Denticare, a provider of NHS dental services. Annamarie Petsis Jones can be contacted at: email@example.com