Alastair Swindlehurst is an independent HR consultant, based in Manchester, UK.
During the last three months I’ve been asked a number of times, how are things? In truth I can only think of one word. Chaos.
If you know me, you know this is true. In January this year I made the decision to start my people consultancy, I’d had two years working as a contractor and I felt that this was my time. This was the moment.
However, it was something very different. My people consultancy was there not just to deal with the run of the mill issues. I was also aiming to support high growth SMEs as they went through the investment cycle, and this felt like an opportunity I’ve never had before.
The pandemic has forced me to think about who I am and what I do
When COVID hit it was like a storm gathering on the horizon which I thought would happen and pass as quickly as it came. But it’s so much different. It has forced me to think about who I am and what I do. As a new business I needed to establish myself in a marketplace where everyone was an expert and I wasn’t inline to receive any help from the Government.
What I needed to do and it felt like there was no other option, was to activate myself.
Lots of people assume in this market that everyone is willing to move HR providers and be willing to pay for advice. In truth, that’s the been the hardest part. Due to the rate and speed of change, very few people have wanted to change providers, in fact some have become more entrenched with who they have. Because the cashflow is so poor, employers don’t want to pay for something that they don’t absolutely need. This meant that I offered to help many businesses with ‘free’ advice.
The last few months has been about doing the uncomfortable things
I needed to own how I managed this and the last few months has been about doing the uncomfortable things and making sure people know who I am. The first change to this was when I was asked to present to an employers group on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. This gave me confidence and then the licence to put myself out there. Be a commanding voice on something that is new and say I want to be that ‘trusted adviser’.
So I have tried things, I have tried to engage business owners through zoom, video content, written marketing collateral but all in a view that I am prepared to fail. One of the hardest fails, but proudest moments, is when no one attended a specific webinar I had arranged.
I’m most proud of the fact I ran a webinar series with the main aim of paying it forward. I wanted to put myself out there to demonstrate what I could offer to people, the value of my network, and I was keen to make sure that people knew where I started and finished. I’m not a jack of all trades nor do I want to be one.
I have seen the power of my network and the need to own the moment
I have seen the power of my network. I really know who my supporters are, those that will fight for you, do more than you ever expect without asking and will make you their priority without obligation. These are business owners, fellow consultants, but more importantly friends who maybe don’t realise the extent of what you do but will ask ‘how is it going?’
I have also seen the need to own the moment and activate yourself to take charge of what is happening in your world.
Looking forward, I worry about the cold decisions business will have to make
As we look forward, I worry about what will happen to wellbeing as budgets get cut and we need to make the cold decisions. How the progress that we have made with flexible working will be conflated as working from home and that the BAME community will be affected by institution as we may not be able to fix the system before people are pushed through this.
As we move forward we need to own these changes and activate ourselves. There are a number of difficult conversations that we need to have. We need to ensure that we are doing the correct thing and educating those that need to be educated.
The next 12 months will bring challenges to how we can be our authentic self. During the pandemic, my wife has discovered Brene Brown and The Man in the Arena by Theodore Roosevelt. This speech has always stayed with me and if you are in any doubt about the contribution you can make, it is something that I recommend that you visit.
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