Career track: Coleen Paterson, HR graduate, Standard Life

For the next year, Personnel Today will be following the careers of two HR
professionals at financial services company Standard Life. The series starts
with graduate Coleen Paterson and in six weeks we’ll begin tracking the
fortunes of an HR manager at the organisation.

Joined: September 2000

Qualifications: BA(Hons) Business Studies (1st class), Robert Gordon
University, Pg Dip Personnel Management, Strathclyde University, CIPD

Most rewarding: Developing a succession planning framework for Standard
Life Healthcare

Most challenging: Compiling, manipulating and analysing market data for
salaries and benefits

Need to know: How to influence a variety of people at all levels
within the organisation.

Prior to Standard Life, I completed a 15-month industrial placement at one
of the world’s largest oil companies, where I was heavily involved in
organisational change and ‘right-sizing’ as a result of the fall in oil prices
in 1998. It wasn’t the most pleasant introduction to the HR profession, but I
gained real insight into the basics of ‘hiring and firing’ and how difficult it
is to achieve real change.

At Standard Life, I learned that HR can mean very different things in
different organisations. It was a shock to join a conservative ‘personnel’ division
of a large financial institution, having come from the lean and mean machine
that is HR in the fiercely competitive energy industry. It felt a bit like
driving a safe, comfortable Volvo after a fast and fashionable BMW.

I have found HR in a mutual organisation quite surreal, but in a good way.
Mutuality offers the opportunity to do things thoroughly. Fads are not
commonplace at Standard Life; we are more concerned with doing the right things
in the right way, which is good for our customers, as their financial futures
are in our hands.

Coming to terms with the culture here has been a steep climb simply because
I am enthusiastic and ambitious. The last two years have taught me to channel
my enthusiasm to a greater effect. So what seemed like a mountain in the
beginning is more like a hill, as experience has meant I’m able to navigate the
pitfalls of personal agendas and individual values. The summit is in sight and
the journey is certainly very comfortable in the Volvo.

Every six weeks we’ll be revisiting Standard Life to alternately check on
the progress of the graduate and the manager.

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