Emma Smart, HR and L&D Associate at Monmouthshire building society and last year’s double award winner, received the coveted HR Star award created by the judges in light of 2019’s exceptional young talent. She also received the HR Assistant of the Year accolade that evening.
- How can organisations encourage and support young people, apprentices and trainees in their continuing professional development? What advice do you have for young people considering a career in HR?
From my own experience on the Network 75 Scheme with Monmouthshire Building Society, I can say my employer has constantly encouraged me to continue my professional development by involving me in all kinds of HR project work, from developing current administrative processes and supporting the application of new HR and Payroll Software to supporting senior members of the HR team with a variety of tasks.
Taking part in activities across the team really helped me widen my knowledge of the environment and understand the reasoning behind why HR tasks, processes and procedures are carried out in the way that they are. My employer encouraged me to take control of my own personal development by actively seeking feedback on tasks and behaviours.
- You studied while balancing a full-time job, what are your tips for achieving a good work-life balance?
Studying an undergraduate degree alongside work was certainly challenging at times. Of course balancing the two was of great importance, and I had to ensure I allowed myself enough time to complete my work by unmovable deadlines.
At the start of each academic term, I would create a timetable to fully map out the time I would spend attending university, going to work and completing my university assignments. When preparing this plan, I would also factor in some free time to relax and catch up with everyday life such as socialising, or even catching up on the latest Netflix Series!
While some timetables may not go to plan due to unforeseen circumstances, it was important to stay calm and set aside time to catch up on work that I may have got behind on. Work-life balance is key - getting it right may take some time, but it really allows you to stay motivated and achieve your aims.
- How has your career progressed since you were awarded HR Rising Star last year? Are there any exciting projects and initiatives you’ve really enjoyed being a part of?
In May 2019 I completed my degree and was offered a permanent position with Monmouthshire Building Society as a HR and L&D Associate. Since taking on this role I’ve been given greater responsibility in supporting senior members of our department and getting involved in lots of exciting projects. It’s been really enjoyable and I’m keen to keep progressing so that I can take the next step in my career as a HR Adviser.
- What emerging trends do you believe will transform the HR landscape in the next decade?
We are seeing more start-up organisations operating on an online/digital only basis, with colleagues opting to work remotely. While this uptake can encourage a healthy work-life balance in allowing colleagues to work more flexibly and prioritise other commitments, it is important to consider the negative impacts of such trends. With more remote workers, HR departments must ensure that employee wellbeing is maintained and that the negative impacts associated with isolation are avoided.
- What do you believe is critical to building an engaged workforce?
Organisations that are committed to building and preserving an engaged workforce need to maintain two-way communication between senior management and the colleagues. If colleagues feel that they can communicate with their employer and are provided with business updates from Senior Management, they will be fully aware of what needs to be achieved and will feel more motivated and engaged to achieve.
In addition to this, building an engaged workforce can also be achieved by providing colleagues with recognition. This does not always need to be in a monetary form but if a colleague receives recognition from others on something that has gone well, this will help boost morale and drive engagement.
- What do you think employers should be doing to inspire great leadership and build effective teams?
In any successful business, both leadership teams and colleagues at all levels must co-operative and communicate effectively. Employers should of course encourage their colleague’s development by promoting training schemes that allow them to grow into their roles and build great teams. When your team are offered effective training and development, they can succeed and really contribute towards the organisation’s growth.
- Lastly, what strengths and skills lead individuals to excel in the HR sector?
I could list a whole range of strengths and skills needed to excel in the HR sector, but one of the most important qualities for me is the ambition and ability to use their own initiative. Having the confidence to use one’s own initiative to improve processes, practices and the culture of an organisation is key to building organisational success.