Solely HR’s Nicola Morrish chats with BTN about Human Resources
Breaktime News is sitting comfortably with a lovely hot cup of coffee in front of Zoom, writes Duncan Little.
To be honest, I’m struggling to work out how to plan out this particular article. Afterall, the subject area involves Human Resources. HR. Personnel. On the face of it, it sounds, well, a little dry. How can I make it sound, well, interesting?
I needn’t have been concerned as Nicola (Nicky) pops up on the screen, and, all of a sudden, all of the stereotypes around HR vanish.
This is certainly not going to be a dull discussion on the finer points of GDPR, but, rather, it’ll turn out to be an open, friendly chat.
Equally, within the next 45 minutes, it will become quite clear that she really, really knows her stuff and can explain things in a way which I can understand. It’s a useful talent when we work in a world where simple explanations are often the most effective.
Anyway, back to the article. Nicky and I quickly discover that we went to universities within a stone’s throw of each other – and at the same time. Nicky: Roehampton. Me: Twickenham.
Giggles ensue as we work out that we would have been patrons of the same nightclubs on the same student nights. It certainly is a small world!
We happily reminisce on music from the mid-nineties. Salad days spent listening to James. Blur. Oasis. Sitting exams. Writing dissertations. Essays. Lectures. Seminars.
The world of personnel
Fast forward a bit and by 1997, Nicola leaves her undergraduate years behind her with a degree in psychology under her belt. She returns to Plymouth and is quick to enter the world of personnel.
‘I liaised with a recruitment agency and they said ‘you’re very much a people person’ and that I would be very good at personnel as it’s very much about communicating with people – and looking out for their welfare,’ she says.
‘I applied for the position of a personnel administrator at the age of 21 – and got the job. I loved it.’
Much has changed since then. Human Resources is today seen as a profession which heavily relies on strategic thinking.
In short, think about a company in terms of a game of chess. The HR mind needs to be planning several steps ahead. If you move your prime employee to the centre of the game then it’s probably a good idea to make sure they’re properly supported.
Chess players might now be thinking about how their Queen should never be left by herself in the middle of the board. Such a move reduces the most powerful piece to the most vulnerable. Not good.
A good player will make sure the prized piece is always backed up by a knight, or a bishop, or a rook. HR thinks in a similar way.
Afterall, your most prized asset is your staff. Lose a good team member and you lose the game. Just as a player who losses their Queen sets themselves up to fall.
To push the metaphor to the nth degree, a good HR professional would line up all the pieces on the board to ensure the needs of the employee are balanced with that of the company.
Solely HR: focused on recruiting HR people
A few years into her career and Nicky took the next step which saw her gain chartered status within the role of an HR professional. She is now at CIPD Level 7 which happily puts her at the top of her game.
The next 17 years were spent working in HR with the past eight being specifically centred on HR recruitment.
‘I was a career woman, and I am now a Mum, so I thought I would take my HR experience, and my recruitment experience, and develop a specialist HR recruitment agency.’
‘In other words, Solely HR is focused on recruiting just HR people. There aren’t a lot of specialist HR recruiters. There are general recruiters but they haven’t necessarily worked in HR themselves.’
‘The HR profession is a fine balance. They represent the needs of the employee but they balance those needs with the needs of the business,’ explains Solely HR’s Nicola Morrish.
In short, recruitment is about finding the right person for the right job in the right company. Get the match right and you’ve reached Nirvana. Get it wrong and expect potential problems further down the road.
In other words, not all recruitment companies will have the right level of HR expertise, and crucially, the experience to match the right HR candidate to fit with the ethos of a company.
Nicky is different from the standard recruitment companies as she’s worked in both roles and has that all important in-depth knowledge, experience and expertise for what the role involves.
In depth knowledge, experience and expertise
‘I can bring a depth of experience for clients who want HR professionals because I’ve been there, I’ve done it and I’ve grown my own HR teams – and I know what a good HR person looks like.’
‘If you talk to someone in recruitment, a specialist recruiter has that depth of knowledge and understanding for what a Managing Director, or CEO, might require when hiring.’
‘I’m all about a quality service and understanding a client’s requirements so I can spend time in their business, become engrossed in its culture, so I can see exactly what sort of personality fit they want.’
In simple parlance, a traditional recruiter may provide a general sweep of the market and go on to produce a set of 20 CVs from people looking to score that all important interview. In this scenario, the recruiter’s hope is that one of those CVs will strike lucky.
It means a time consuming couple of days for senior staff as they wade through resumes to try to work out who would make a suitable candidate for interview.
Nicky’s approach is very different. Her goal is to provide you with a very limited field. It’ll save you a lot of work with the removal of the ‘luck’ factor. In short, her candidates will hit the mark.
‘I might only provide two as I’ve really done my homework and gone into detail and really understood what is required at a senior level. I recruit from HR administrators to HR directors, so that’s a really broad range of roles in HR.’
‘From a recruiter’s perspective, I take the time to get to know the candidate so that the organisation doesn’t have to do so. Sourcing candidates takes a long time for a business and costs a lot of money to advertise.’
Going into the detail and sourcing the right candidate
‘I can provide companies with HR salary information. I can write job specifications for businesses if they haven’t already got them. A lot of agencies won’t do that for you.’
‘I can advise them on what sort of level of HR that they might need. A smaller company which is a growing business and has never had HR before might not know what they need.’
‘I can advise them of that and a usual recruiter can’t do that. I’ve worked in start-up firms. I’ve worked in multi nationals and multi-site organisations. I’ve worked in different industries: manufacturing, services, telecom and insurance.’
In short, Nicky’s rapidly being seen as a ‘go to’ person having got the knowhow and an excellent contacts’ book to match.
‘Because I have an HR background, I have a wide network of HR people that I have known for years, who know me actively and who I’m in contact with. A generalist recruiter wouldn’t have that.’
‘I can recruit HR in smaller businesses all the way through to multi nationals and I will be recruiting HR people throughout the UK.’
‘Some recruiters don’t take the time to get into the detail of the candidate to make sure they have got the skills, industry knowledge and personality fit. It’s not about ticking a few boxes and making sure the job description matches the CV.’
‘I see myself as an extension to an HR department as recruitment can take a lot of time: finding people and talking to people and engaging in proper in-depth screening.’
Specialist connections with HR people
One key takeaway point from our chat with Nicky is that HR people can, sometimes, feel a little apprehensive about uploading their CVs onto job sites.
Afterall, who wants to have that difficult conversation with their boss as to why they might be looking to work elsewhere. And that’s where Nicky comes in.
‘I talk to a lot of people who do not want to upload their resume onto a job’s site as they want to have a conversation with someone, like me, to say ‘I’m not unhappy in my job but if something comes up then give me a ring and let’s have that discussion.’’
A generalist recruiter wouldn’t necessarily have that specialist connection with HR people. Nicky does.
And that means she can chat with them with the assuredness of discretion – and a real understanding of what the HR person is looking to do.
‘A large number in the HR community say this is great as I can now have a discussion with you if I’m looking for work – without my employer finding out.’
‘The HR profession is a fine balance. They represent the needs of the employee but they balance those needs with the needs of the business so they’re constantly looking at what’s right for the employee – and what’s right for the business.’
A real understanding for a business’ requirements
‘It’s a standalone role and can be lonely as it’s about everybody else but no so much about you.’
And so, our interview time is coming to a close. There’s so much which we could have included in the article (we had also chatted about the joys of having a cockerpoo as a treasured family member).
And I guess that’s the point. Chat to most people in business and conversations can be a little, well, direct. To the point. Don’t get me wrong. It’s clear Nicky can easily do ‘direct and to the point’ conversations.
Equally, though, in HR, you perhaps want to have a chat with someone who’s easy to get on with. Nice. Pleasant. Chatty. To be able to combine both skills is a rare achievement. It’s one which Nicky easily achieves – with aplomb.