Jane Barclay is group HR Manager at Ede and Ravenscroft, having set up her own HR consultancy, Barclay Boland HR. She previously worked for Virgin Holidays and Sony, among other companies and has two children.
1. How did you get into HR? What qualifications/aptitudes did you need?
I had a degree in Economics and Politics and joined Nomura International (Investment Bank) in London as a Graduate Trainee in Human Resources. I subsequently did my Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development training part-time whilst working full-time.
2. What kind of person do you think is best suited to HR?
Someone who is commercially focussed, analytical, organised, diplomatic and a strong influencer. It helps to be naturally interested in personal development, and, of course, to be discreet and naturally confidential about all matters.
3. What have been the highs and lows of your career so far? For instance, is it hard dealing with things like redundancies?
I have dealt with various company mergers, which always start off feeling like there’s a huge mountain to climb – so many stakeholders to keep informed and to influence about the appropriate approaches to various aspects, and, of course, complex legal and administrative minefields to overcome! However, I believe if one remains focussed and is very organised, it can actually be highly rewarding – to see the end result of all your efforts once the companies are combined with a successful and commercially viable structure in place. Any resulting redundancies are, of course, hard to deal with on a personal level, but again a focussed approach using diplomacy and listening skills can go a long way towards building trust and the feeling ultimately from employees that the process has been dealt with professionally and sensitively.
4. How much have you been able to influence the work culture of organisations you have worked for?
Whilst I don’t think you can make a change overnight, the introduction of carefully thought through new ways of working can have an impact over time. The key is to work closely with the Directors as well as with the grassroots levels – in order to build some common ground, and importantly to be consistent in all aspects of communication around any changes implemented….
When I joined Virgin Holidays there was a very established company culture in place, but I felt very much part of a team who led quite a significant transformation over a couple of years – in terms of introducing a more robust high performance culture and increased accountability amongst all levels of staff. We cross-referenced everything we did internally and externally to an adapted version of the previous company values – ensuring consistency of messages to all customers – internal and external. I have recently joined a new company since relocating to the Midlands. This bring a new cultural challenge which I’m really excited about.
5. Have you seen big changes in HR since you started?
Yes. I believe HR has moved on quite considerably – especially in terms of the growth of Human Capital Management, Reward and Recognition and some development initiatives. Certainly in the companies I’ve worked for, HR has become a more valuable asset, measured in terms of its contribution to business performance – which I find very rewarding.
6. After you had children, were you able to work flexibly? If so, what kind of flexibility did you have?
I chose not to request flexibility after my first child, but after the second requested and had a 4-day week honoured when working for Sony. However, due to the amount of business travel required, I decided to return to a full-time role (with Virgin) which was closer to home and required less travel after about a year. After having my own HR consultancy for a while, which enabled me to work just 2 days a week following the family’s relocation, I have been very fortunate as I have now secured a managerial level role on a 3-day a week basis for a fascinating company which offers me the perfect balance. However, it’s often difficult working just 3 days for a business that operates 5 days a week! – when the children are a little older I can see myself returning to a full-time arrangement.
7. How difficult was it to set up on your own?
I was fortunate to be offered a day each week on a consultancy basis with my ex-employer Virgin as well as an additional day by a business contact. I found the administrative side of it very straightforward, but if I’m honest I missed the feeling of belonging to an organisation.
8. How does this work around the family?
It offered considerable flexibility in terms of childcare. However, the long term security through an employer arrangement was preferable for us as a family.