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In the Spotlight - Kerry Duffin

Today we speak to Kerry about her role at Principal, apprenticeships and much more.

To start us off, can you give us a brief overview of your job role?

As the HR Executive for Principal 1 Limited, I am responsible for numerous things however the main one is the recruitment of and the on boarding of new staff. I see that whole process through to fruition, so from the very beginning: the designing of the job description, thinking about what skillset will fit within the business, all the way through to the recruitment, advertising, interview process and setup of the new starter. There is quite a lengthy induction process at Principal that has recently been designed. I also deal with appraisals, reviews, leavers, retires and all the not so fun HR stuff that nobody ever really talks about!

Excellent stuff, so what is your favourite part of your job?

I think the favourite part of my job is that no day is ever the same. There is so much variety in HR – on Monday I could be recruiting for a role, Tuesday I could be helping to design a new performance management process, Wednesday I could be writing policies, Thursday I could be organising the Christmas party and Friday I could be catching up with admin. If the job wasn’t as varied as it is, I don’t think I would love it as much.

What keeps you motivated in your role?

Knowing that you have helped somebody find a new job or you’ve helped by looking at someone’s performance and giving constructive feedback that helps them to grow as a professional. I think that’s the greatest prize and it’s an incredible feeling.

How did you get into HR as a career?

I was very lucky as my HR career started once I was already employed by Principal. I started in 2014 and I was an administrator/PA to some of the directors; I used to look after the fleet as well. In a performance review one day, I was asked if there was anything I would really like to do, so I mentioned HR was always something I had been interested in since I left school. However, 4 years ago I was very blinkered as to what HR actually involved! I was very fortunate that my management saw something in me, supported me through my HR qualification and here I am 4 years later, fully qualified in CIPD.   

What did you do for your studies alongside your Job?

Over the 4 years, there are 3 levels of hr qualifications. The first year was assignment based, starting with the basics of what HR is. The 2nd year was more in-depth and branched into things like employment law and employee engagement, again wholly assignment based. Then the 3rd and the 4th year were very heavily focused on strategy and employment law, and how to create a HR strategy which aligns with the goals of the organisation. The 4th year was fast-paced with 2 assignments on the go at once, 5 months of study for an exam and a small thing called a dissertation which spanned the duration of the final year!

Principal support learning across all areas of the business, how would employees go about asking for sponsorship?

First and foremost, your behaviours should be in line with our core values, particularly the investment in yourself. One of the best things about working for Principal is that we are very good at identifying where there are knowledge and skills gaps – supporting people through training not only adds personal value but professional value because it enables us to manage talent and succession plan for the future. Luckily as an SME, employees are people and not just numbers. The apprenticeship levy has been a great basis for supporting training at Principal.

Speaking of apprenticeships, how do Principal utilise them to benefit the business?

The apprenticeship levy has been fantastic for us, and we’ve had some real success stories. The demographics at Principal have changed significantly and the levy has contributed to this. We are very lucky in that we have a low staff turnover and have retained a brilliant workforce over the years. It is also inviting for people looking to get into the industry that maybe don’t have any experience. Apprenticeships are a great way to get your foot in the door. You also have to remember that apprenticeships aren’t just for 17/ 18 year olds but they can help people across all walks of life. If you look at people that have been out of work for a long time it is a good way to help them get back in and bridge the skills gap in their CV. One example is Sophie. She came in as a business admin apprentice and has now gone onto study her AAT. One of the very best things about the levy is the range of courses on offer. No longer is it the ‘traditional’ mechanics/plumbers on offer. The variety is incredible and can only work to help organisations in the future.

What kind of person would you be looking to hire at Principal?

Someone who is very proactive. Somebody who is innovative and embraces change. Attitude has a lot to do with it, I believe that you can teach people skills but you can’t teach them how to have the right attitude and I think attitude will get you so much further in life. We need people who are driven,  focused, have a good work ethic and recognise the goals of the organisation and how the part they play contributes to that.

...and to finish, if you could bring 3 items with you on a desert island, what would they be?

a Penknife, lip balm and lots of cheese books

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