Job swap

Roisin
Woolnough follows a civil servant’s secondment to Virgin Atlantic

A
civil servant for the past 25 years, Marj Keddy is enjoying a nine-month stint
in the private sector. Branch head of a project called Modernising People
Management at the Cabinet Office, she is on secondment to Virgin Atlantic as HR
transformation manager.

“I
am helping develop and deliver a plan for transforming the HR function,” she
explains. “I spent the past two years in the Cabinet Office heavily involved in
HR transformation.”

The
Cabinet Office encourages staff to go on secondments, believing it increases
their capabilities and strategic thinking. According to Keddy, it is very
popular. “It is very helpful for people who want to progress – particularly at
senior level.”

Although
her job is still open once her work at Virgin Atlantic is done, she hopes her
experience will lead to greater things. “I would like to think this is a
stepping stone, and that by having this on my CV I will move to a higher
position,” she says.

Keddy
thinks secondments – particularly ones that cross sectors – give people a
broader perspective and range of experiences from which to draw on when looking
for solutions. She was keen to compare and contrast how the public and private
sectors operate, and to see how the private sector measures success.

So
far, she has found it much less intimidating than she had expected. “There are different
business drivers, but people are still facing the same issues,” she explains.
The main difference has been in the culture. Keddy thinks it is vital that
secondees ensure they have a good understanding of the culture and business
drivers of their temporary employer. “When you’re crossing different sectors,
you need to think carefully about your solutions to make sure they fit with the
culture.”

Her
remit at Virgin Atlantic is to work closely with the organisational development
director to look at how Virgin Atlantic Airways can do HR differently,
developing a more efficient and effective service provision, utilising the
Oracle database system and the automation of policies and procedures. Keddy is
working in collaboration with colleagues at Virgin to:


Look at how you can help staff to manage their own data


Help managers understand their responsibilities


Capitalise on infrastructure and the HR functional capabilities


Sustain stakeholder buy-in

When
Keddy’s Cabinet Office boss first put her in touch with Virgin Atlantic, she
made sure everyone was clear on what they wanted out of the experience. “I
talked through the issues and my experiences with the person I work with now at
Virgin Atlantic,” she says. “We had very honest conversations about what was in
it for the Cabinet, for Virgin Atlantic and for myself. You have to be upfront
to get the right fit.”

Keddy
advises that secondees and those managing secondments draw up tripartite
agreements to iron out any misunderstandings and make it more likely that
everyone’s expectations are met.

She
also thinks secondees must remember the workplace they are temporarily absent
from. “You need to have a re-entry strategy so that your skills are recognised
when you go back.”

Keddy
has set up a mentoring/networking initiative with her Cabinet Office line
manager to ensure she stays in the loop. HR can manage that for secondees, or
put the procedures in place, but she thinks it is up to individuals themselves
to maintain contact with their permanent employers.

For
more on secondments, read Stepping in to a new role on page 18 in this week’s
Personnel Today

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