HR takes centre stage in dubious docu-soap

Car rental firm Holiday Autos’ people management has been under the
spotlight following the antics of HR manager Susan Wright – one of the ‘stars’
of the BBC TV documentary The Secret Life of the Office.

But while many viewers of the fly-on-the-wall show will assume the call
centre’s HR team spend their time sending out shirty e-mails warning staff over
frequent toilet use or banning eating and drinking at desks, that image
couldn’t be further from the truth.

Joanne Jobson, Holiday Autos’ new HR director, said her team had been
working hard to improve recruitment and retention of staff. They have updated
the recruitment process, increased induction training from one to three weeks,
and introduced mentors for new staff.

Since filming 18 months ago, the company has recruited more than 100 new
staff and reduced employee turnover by 15 per cent to 25 per cent. It now
employs more than 400.

The company has also introduced more flexible working arrangements and
improved communication with the senior management teams.

Jobson believes the HR team – now 10-strong, up from two during filming –
suffered as a result of some cynical editing by the programme’s makers. She
said it was a turbulent time for the business, which included a company-wide
office move and the launch of a recruitment drive.

"The HR department was definitely treated harshly – all call centres
have these performance conditions in place as we need to know what staff are
doing," she said. "They were not enforced or talked about as much as
the TV show makes out."

The adverse publicity has improved morale among the current workforce, said
Jobson. "It has also brought staff together behind the company – as it did
not fairly represent the business."

By Paul Nelson

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