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12 July 2018

Interview with Shirley Anderson, Chair of the Business South ‘Workforce South’ Action Group

Shirley Anderson has over thirty years of experience in the HR industry. Earlier this year, she took up the role of Chair for our HR Forum which has recently been renamed ‘Workforce South’

It brings together the HR community, professionals, academics and business people interested in the people agenda. We chatted to her about her role and her hopes for the Workforce South.

Why did you get involved in the Action Group?

When you work in HR, you spend all of your time helping everyone else in your organisation, which leaves you with little time for much else. This can make it harder to find time to find support and look at the wider HR picture. I initially joined the Action Group to network with other local companies in order to understand what others were doing and keep abreast of developments in the HR field.

What are your hopes for Workforce South?

From a personal perspective, I’ve centered my professional life around ensuring people are happy and successful at work. My goals for Workforce South act as an extension of this. I want the group to promote the South as a great place to live and work.

Furthermore, I hope to help Business South Champions share solutions to current people issues and to undertake projects to help support the businesses facing them. For example, after our steering group’s initial discussions the Group is looking to create a regional informational public relations piece showcasing the area as an attractive place to work and live. This may help to improve recruitment and retention of talent, which is something many organisations report as their current top priority.

The group is working on creating a series of events to share knowledge and network on current people related hot topics.

The most recent HR Conference ‘Attracting and Nurturing Talent’ was held in May and the workshop format gave attendees a chance to engage with each other and discuss common issues and goals.

What do you see as the biggest HR issues for the region?

Many of the issues effecting the South are the same as those affecting the rest of the country. Talent attraction, retention and engagement of skilled people remain key concerns and this has been highlighted in the most recent Business South Champion survey.

Mental health is a pressing issue, not just for the individual concerned but also their colleagues, their families and the HR team who support them. Absence from mental ill health is on the rise so finding a way to reduce this and increase staff wellbeing is a key priority for all businesses. 

From a recruitment perspective, the issue of Brexit looms over us all. In the South, industries like hospitality and health currently use a lot of EU workers and it is unknown whether the new political landscape will change this. Consequently, many businesses are having to recalibrate their recruitment strategy, drawing more on less-frequently tapped groups of people, such as school leavers and older people. 

However, this, in itself, can pose a challenge. The workplace needs more older people but businesses often find that they do not have confidence in their abilities or feel they can retrain. Likewise, we are increasingly finding that workers entering the workplace from schools and colleges are not ready to work. Both these issues will require creative solutions to resolve them, such as working closer with education professionals and organisations.

The need to recruit more talent into the area also means that promoting the South as a great place to live and work is important, which is why this is one of the key aims of the Group.  

What do you feel are the reasons for Champions to get involved in Workforce South?

Given how much social and legislative change is going on, it is becoming increasingly important for businesses to keep their finger on the pulse. The Action Group is a supportive environment dedicated to issues that matter most to HR professionals and those interested in the people agenda. It gives professionals a place to take some time away from day to day matters and share problems with other professionals. Many of the members of the Action Group have all been working in the industry for years, meaning those who attend gain the benefit of all that experience.

Furthermore, Workforce South is dedicated to driving change and promote the region. If a business wants to help make a difference in the HR industry in the South, I highly recommend they get involved.

Workforce South is run by Business South. It is open to HR professionals and those interested in managing people and the employment agenda from Champion organisations. For more information about the group and how to join, please email anna@businesssouth.org or call 02380 381930.


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