"I love helping people, so knowing that I can come every day and help people, even if it's with something outside of the workplace, is amazing."

Gina Keohane, HR Advisor at Ubisoft Leamington

How did you get into a career in HR?

I never planned to go into HR to begin with, when I was younger, I always wanted to be a teacher, so I went to University and trained to become a TEFL teacher. As soon as I was qualified and started to teach, I came to the realisation that sadly teaching wasn’t for me, for a while I was in technical customer service roles, and it wasn’t until one of my employers let me branch into the HR team to help out , did my passion for HR really ignite. The organisation gave me a chance to spend one day a week with the HR team, learning on the role and helping out, from this I went back to College and did my CIPD Level 3*.

This opened up a door which led me to land my first HR role as a HR Administrator, the role was only maternity cover but it gave me the experience needed to find a permanent HR Generalist role. From there I flourished, moving from HR Administrator, to HR Assistant and finally HR Advisor. I completed my CIPD Level 5* again back in college in the evenings. I am now with an amazing organisation and currently being succession planned to HR Manager.

What are the key responsibilities in your role?

The key responsibilities for my role are:

  • First port of call for any HR queries
  • Performance management
  • Employee Relations
  • Policies – updating, advising, ensuring policies are family-friendly
  • Amendments to contracts
  • Onboarding
  • Absences
  • Wellbeing
  • Referencing
  • Benefits
  • Guiding managers.

Describe a typical day

A typical day for me would entail arriving around 7.30 – 8am, and checking the absence inbox first and log any sickness absence on the tracker, ensuring that managers are aware of those who are off. From there I will check my email inbox and see if I’ve had any queries come in either overnight or while I was away. Once my emails are answered, I’ll check my outlook calendar to see if I have any new employees that I need to ensure are set up, if so, I may arrange their set-up with IT/ arrange their induction with their line manager or it may even be contacting the new starter to ensure they have everything ready for their start date or if they have any queries. I’ll also update the induction presentation with any new information that may be required.

If it’s a day with a new starter, then I will show them around the organisation, giving them a health and safety tour as we go, ensuring they are aware of all emergency exits, fire wardens, first aiders and first aid kits. I’ll also go through all the HR information with them before showing them how to use the HR tools, once completed I’ll take them to their desk or line manager so they can carry on the rest of their induction.

Throughout the day, I’ll answer any ad hoc queries that come through while continuing to work on projects provided by my Line Manager. I normally complete my day around 4.30, however the world of HR is never 9-5 so I’m flexible if I need to stay later to help with anything.

What skills are needed for this role?

I believe an HR generalist needs to be approachable and personable with good active listening skills, an open mind and empathetic, while still able to be firm when it’s required. Also a good generalist should see people as individuals and learn to look at everything differently as sometimes no matter what case you get, it’ll never be the same as the previous case in the same area. A generalist, no matter at what level, should also have leadership skills, as managers will often come to HR for guidance on subjects and a generalist must be able to guide them in the right direction. I do also believe that good customer service skills are required as everyone is our customer and we should ensure they receive the best service from the HR team they can.

What challenges do you face in this role?

This role comes with many different challenges which can vary from organisation to organisation. The main challenge is ensuring everyone follows process. This ensures that everyone is treated fairly even if the outcome is the same and that we are working within employment law. Another challenge that I’ve come across is when handing over bad news which is part of the role, others may take this personally when you are only doing your role. I’ve learnt to brush this off, but it has taken time.

What keeps you motivated to go into work every day?

I love helping people, so knowing that I can come every day and help people, even if it’s with something outside of the workplace, is amazing. It’s so worthwhile when you see someone completely change because you’ve helped them with something and they don’t feel like they have the weight of the world on their shoulders anymore.

What advice would you give someone considering a career in HR?

My advice would be to get out from behind your desk and get to know people within your organisation, create that connection and relationships as this will be important in creating that employee > HR relationship that brings people to your door for help with anything work or life-related.

* This is a pre-2021 CIPD qualification.

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