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What volunteering did for me

23 Aug 2017 By Georgi Gyton

HR professionals share their experiences of giving something back

HR professionals have a unique perspective on the world of work and the role of business in society. So it makes sense that they should want to volunteer – but the scale of CIPD members giving up their free time is still remarkable. More than 3,700 are now donating time and skills to help others; 3,200 alone are signed up to the CIPD’s Steps Ahead mentoring programme, where they are paired with jobseekers to help them improve their employability skills, build confidence and find work.

Meanwhile, around 500 have become ‘enterprise advisers’ through the CIPD’s link-up with The Careers & Enterprise Company. This involves working directly with a school’s leadership team to develop effective employer engagement plans and careers education strategies. We spoke to three HR volunteers to find out more.

Matt Corbishley: Director of HR and support services, Ashgate Hospicecare

Matt Corbishley signed up to the Steps Ahead scheme 18 months ago. Having entered HR after a career in financial services, he felt volunteering was an opportunity to expand his passion for coaching and mentoring.

“The mentees often don’t know what they want to do in terms of a career, so I’ve found that a great icebreaker is to undertake a skills and values assessment. They identify the skills they have and haven’t got, the ones that are exhausted and those that are underutilised. Then we look at whether they are a risk-taker, for example, how important friendships are at work or how motivated they are by money, as well as their interview experience and how to construct a CV.

“My work through Steps Ahead has helped improve my coaching and mentoring skills, but it has also improved my confidence because of the knowledge that I have got something useful to contribute.

“The experience has taught me to challenge how we select people to work in our organisations. We are moving towards a values-based recruitment model at Ashgate – partly influenced by my work with Steps Ahead and partly by my engagement with the local chamber of commerce. It is incredibly easy to miss out on opportunities to recruit some great people who may not be naturally academically gifted but who are very bright.”

Hazel Bradford: Future talent recruitment adviser, Marks & Spencer

Hazel Bradford began volunteering in 2016, when she became an enterprise adviser through The Careers & Enterprise Company. Her manager suggested she think about opportunities for her development, so she found one that suited her background in recruiting graduates and school leavers, and was matched to a school in east London.

She used her experience to create a ‘schools pack’ for M&S colleagues, to help them better engage schools, which also built on a project she had worked on while qualifying as an HR professional. A year later, she became a Steps Ahead mentor, where she matched herself with a young jobseeker.

“I was thinking about volunteering from the perspective of gaining skills in coaching and nurturing. It also gives me that extra experience to put on my CV, as I will be able to show that I can mentor and manage people who have all sorts of backgrounds.

“It’s always rewarding and I enjoy doing it. It’s what other people – namely my manager – have done for me over the years, so in a way it is about giving something back.

“I’ve already used my coaching skills to deal with interns at work, and I hope I will also be able to apply these skills when I find myself in a role with a line report, to help them develop their career.”

Sabrina Willabus: Director, HR Provider

Sabrina Willabus has been involved with the Steps Ahead programme for the past two years. Her 20-plus years as an HR professional have given her an interest in the barriers people face when they first enter the labour market, as well as a passion for coaching and mentoring, which she previously explored by offering career development seminars in her local community and working as a mentor through her local church.

“Part of my role has involved sitting on interview panels, where I recognised that various groups were struggling, whether it was employees applying for promotions or those returning to the jobs market.

“The mentoring takes various forms, but revolves around career development; for example, helping people decide which career path to go down, coaching for interviews and visiting Jobcentres to promote the scheme and get more young people engaged with mentors.

“There is huge satisfaction from seeing people develop and grow, and it makes me proud to hear someone I’ve worked with has got a job. It also helps me provide effective support to organisations and managers when they are managing their staff, as I have a better understanding of their developmental needs.”

The CIPD is keen to hear more from those who have taken part in volunteering or campaigning activities. If you would like to explain how you have used your HR or L&D skills to benefit others and your organisation, contact Fiona Scott at f.scott@cipd.co.uk

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