Prior to taking up the role of Head of People Operations at Leeds University Union, I worked for Boots in various retail management jobs for the best part of 10 years. I’d always enjoyed the people management side of my role however I’d always wanted to work in the third sector and fancied a change from working in the healthcare sector. So I decided to take a year out of work to complete my CIPD human resources qualification to move into a specialist HR role. After completing my course, I came across an advert for my current role in the CIPD monthly publication and was particularly excited about the role. I was very actively involved with community volunteering at Manchester University Student Union / Student Associations throughout my undergraduate degree and was excited about the prospect of being involved with a large students union.
A year into the role, I can honestly say I’ve had a really fun and enjoyable 12 months and managed to get stuck into lots of different projects including rolling out a new digital HR system to 600 staff members and getting involved in large scale recruitment campaigns. It’s great to be part of an organisation which prioritises creating as many employment opportunities as possible for students, helping them to build valuable skills for the world of work.
The beauty of working in the student union / student associations is being a SME there’s real scope to make changes to the day to day running of the organisation to the benefit of both staff and students without going through lots of organisational bureaucracy. The atmosphere is always lively with lots of student events taking place in the building on a daily basis and our student staff bring an abundance of optimism and enthusiasm into the union.
The biggest thing that I have learnt in my role is that a one size fits all approach to HR processes doesn’t necessarily work in a student union / student associations setting due to the diversity of roles, departments and activities. Therefore, HR practices and activities need to be adapted to work in practice for the different groups of staff that we employ and whilst this can sometimes be a challenge it also allows creativity to be brought into decision making.
At LUU, we work closely with our HR colleagues within the wider student union / student associations movement and it’s great to be part of the North Student Union / Student Associations HR Forum where there is a whole community of HR professionals to seek advice from and share best practice with.