Having a positive impact

Training and HR manager of IT services specialist Esteem Systems, Susan
Clarkson, explains why she believes her input in a relatively new role is proving

How long have you been in this job?

Since June 2000 when I joined Esteem.

What does your role involve?

The whole HR remit – training and development, employee relations,
remuneration policy and recruitment.

What’s the best thing about your job?

The variety, the fact that I am able to have an impact on the way people
perform in their roles and, ultimately, on how business is done.

What is your major project or strategic push?

We are working to attain the Investors in People accreditation. This involves
developing a more coherent and consistent management training strategy. In soft
skills, particularly, we are looking to align our training with business needs.
This means we have to analyse the training implications of corporate,
departmental and personal objectives.

Preferred terminology: training, development, education, or learning?


Favourite buzzwords?

None – I don’t like them.

Are you good at self development?

Hmmm! I know what I need to do, most of the time and try to learn something
new every day but, in the real world, the answer is not as good as I could be!

What self development have you done in the past six months?

I have been on several HR strategy courses that aim to look at the
underlying reasons for doing what we do. I always make the effort to find out
more about recent developments/trends such as emotional intelligence.

Where do you want to be in five years?

On a sunny beach with a Pina Colada in my hand. Seriously, I would still
like to be working for Esteem Systems, but I would like my role to have
developed to be more strategic and advisory. This post was new to the company
when I started, so I spent the first year firefighting and introducing
procedures, but I expect there will soon be opportunities to take it further.

What was the most useful course or learning experience?

It was not a traditional course – it was the learning experience I went
through when I climbed Ben Nevis for charity recently. It taught me that in
order to achieve something worthwhile, you have to push yourself beyond your
normal limits (be these physical or mental) you can always do more than you
think you can.

Which is the best management book you have read?

Chicken Soup for the Soul by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen – not a
traditional management book, but full of guidance and worthwhile advice.

What was the worst course you ever went on?

I don’t believe I have ever been on a bad course – I try to make sure I
always get something out of them.

What did you want to do for a living when you were at school?

I wanted to be in the legal profession.

What was your first job?

My first job was as an executive officer with the Crown Prosecution Service.

What was the best career decision you ever made?

To move to London with the CPS.

Which of your qualifications do you most value and why?

My A-levels, because the exam results made me sit up and realise I couldn’t
be complacent about my abilities, and demonstrated the importance of
preparation. Up to that point, I didn’t have to work for my exams because I was
bright enough to get by with reasonably hard work during the year. I did not do
terribly well in my A-levels, which gave me the jolt I needed.

How many minutes is it since someone senior in your organisation said
"People are our greatest assets"?

No idea, but it is one of the premises we work on.

Evaluation: holy grail or impossible dream?

Neither – just a good habit.

How do you think your job will have changed in five years time?

Line management will become more involved and accountable, and I will be
expected to contribute more directly to the business.

What advice would you give to someone starting out in training and

Find out about the business you work in. Talk to line managers about what
they want from their department and staff, then look at individual needs. Try
to make a positive contribution as soon as possible.

How do you network?

I keep in contact with other HR professionals I have dealt with in the past.
I make sure if I attend any events, I get to know at least one person and keep
in touch with them, because you must have a common issue or cause for you both
to be attending the same event. I also keep in touch with the local CIPD

Describe your management style in three words or less?

Involving, democratic, serious.

How would you like to be remembered by your colleagues?

As someone they could talk to and approach.

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