Friday, 7 December 2012

2012: a bit of a mixed bag, really...

Reading through Twitter this morning I was compelled to reflect on the year by some thoughts posted by the supersmart HR professional and writer Neil Morrison.

I may be the sensitive sort, but as I read his posts, I felt a rush of emotions as memories of the year came flooding back. The good ones first- and I smiled. And then the sadness.

As an HR and employee engagement practitioner, mediator, and a community activist I've seen the best and worst of things this year. I've told people they've won and lost jobs, dealt with employees suffering stress and unhappiness, sent flowers to those celebrating new babies and weddings, felt the excitement of a new beginning, and worked with families facing extreme hardship and elderly people faced with a choice between eating and heating this winter.

It's been another hard year for so many. Too many businesses are still battling, facing frustration and stagnation. Many employees feel demotivated, yet compelled to turn up and work harder than ever for fear of losing their jobs. Even bosses have had it up to the eyes with fighting. There are communities, families and individuals facing hardship beyond anything we've seen in decades.

The Chancellor's Autumn Statement this week seemed to confirm that we were on the road to recovery, albeit with growth forecasts downgraded.

Then the news broke that he'd factored in a predicted profit from the auction of the 4G network- something that hasn't happened yet and so the sum cannot be established. It seems that despite George Osborne's assurances- however well intentioned in an effort to boost confidence- the figures were still grim reading, and we are in for six more years of austerity. It's not doing much for everyone's Christmas spirit, and we are in danger of looking back at 2012 through the filter of hardship alone.

Yes, times are hard. Times have also been fantastic at different points. Most of the fantastic has come from moments of real connection, of emotion and humanity rather than from affluence and prosperity. Reflecting on the year, there is much to smile about, and learn from.

Steve and I officially launched Treacletiger in January with the backing of our mentor Frank Bastow. We are blessed to have Frank as a cheerleader, and to have his knowledge and abilities to hand. 

We decided to do it as a 'real' business after a while of doing what we do quietly and for various friends and family over the preceding two years. Looking back, those were nervous times. It's not been an easy first year- making that transition from 'helping out people we know' to 'charging for helping out people we know' was difficult to manage, and we've learned a fair few lessons on the way. We've worked to keep to our ethos of keeping things simple, clear and energetic and remain true to what we want Treacletiger to be about. We have some wonderful clients, and we treasure their loyalty to us. But we know we can do so much more, and for so many brilliant businesses. We'll be expanding our services in the Spring to include Health & Safety support alongside Steve's existing work.

Next year it's time to get our heads down and grow this baby. It's what we dearly love doing, and we are determined to see our client base develop and be exciting in 2013.

In March I managed a set of redundancies for a client. I'd done them before but this was hard: I knew these people quite well, having worked with them to implement training and development plans for some time. Also, every candidate had been in their role for several years and were considered 'part of the family.' Telling them first that their jobs were under consideration, and then working with them through the process to ensure fairness, and ultimately the 'right result' for the client was difficult. It became clear that the candidates selected were going to behave very differently, and I found myself assuming the roles of practitioner, mediator and outplacement support counsellor in just a single meeting. It was challenging, and at the time I was inspired to write this- but I have since heard from the employees who were made redundant, and even been thanked by them for making sure that things were done correctly and as fairly as possible.

In June I turned 40. I was less bothered by this than anyone around me. But you know, it does make you take stock, and there are always certain frustrations, things I wish had been different and people I wish I'd kept hold of longer or got shot of faster. However, I was happy to realise that I was entering my fifth decade in a better frame of mind than I'd met my fourth. Onwards, I said.

July and August will remain with me always. How can we ever think about letting this feeling go? How do we keep hold of the awe-inspiring moments we were privileged to share this summer? So many memories that I hold close and which have me glassy-eyed even as I type. In London on the day of the men's Marathon, my daughter made me proud by recognising that those working on the Games- in this case the Police- wanted to have fun too. The evidence of this can be seen to the right.

My Wenlock and Mandeville stuffed toys still sit proudly above the fireplace in my living room, a permanent reminder of the magic we can create when we come together.

We did something amazing in September, taking part in the 20 mile London Night Hike and raising over £5500 with our friends at Bastows for Maggie's Centres. Sore knees for two days afterwards? Yep. Body clock knackered for the entire weekend? That too. Immeasurable sense of achievement? You bet. Our Maggie's medals adorn the aforementioned Wenlock and Mandeville- a reminder that we too did something brilliant in a year where humanity shone that wee bit brighter than usual.

It was meetings, rain, panel discussions, rain, meeting some truly inspiring and fascinating people, rain, late nights and some serious time management issues as I headed North to be a part of a party conference (my first ever!) in October. Fiding yourself chatting about youth unemployment and training courses with people you've seen on the news- and who present the news- at midnight is surreal, as is bumping into the same (and very nice) Member of Parliament in the ladies' loos not once but FOUR TIMES in the space of four days. The poor woman must have assumed I was a particularly persistent stalker. (I have seen her since and she's been kind enough not to mention it.)

Inspired by this and the US elections, a few of our November musings had a politcial slant. As employment relations and legislation come under scrutiny from both the Treasury and Dr Cable's team at BIS, we face interesting times. We were proud to guest on the Shifting Grounds site, with thoughts on whether quotas are the right way to get women into positions of trust and power (they're not.) I was out and about in my own community too, listening to local people in one of my Borough's poorest wards about their financial pressures and worries about keeping or finding work. I'm aiming to set up a small but powerful project next year to work with long-term unemployed people and would love for my network of friends to join me in giving a little of their time to help with the reality of jobhunting: not just writing CVs or knowing how to impress at interview, but tips and tricks that will help people be truly effective when applying. Let me know if you think you can help.  

We also helped a client pick up an award for Corporate Environmental Responsibility this month- one to add to the growing list, and one they celebrated in style.

December has really only just begun. For many it's the month of winding down, of enjoying a leisurely stroll into the festive season. We are infected with the Christmas spirit too, but we're fighting complacency and aiming to win more business before Santa visits. We'll close this year considering how we build on what's been done and determined to do better next year.

So in 2013, we want to ask you to think about how what we do can help you. How can HR support your business? What impact could a simple wellbeing strategy have on staff retention and engagement? What could mediation do to help your people find solutions?

Thank you to everyone who's supported us this year, whether as clients, friends, mentors, family or other. You are Treacletigers, because you know that strength really does come from sweetness, and you're looking forward to seeking out the adventures 2013 has to offer.

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