For the latest of HR Heads' Big Interview series, Rosie Jenkins spoke with Rebecca Monk, HR Director at Softcat, to hear more about her HR journey and how the company is tackling Diversity & Inclusion.
Your ‘day job’ is as an HR Director, but how did you get into HR and what do you love about your role?
I started my career in the world of recruitment before moving into HR. I spent a few years agency-side before realising I was better suited to an in-house role and that’s where I found my feet.
After a couple of years as a recruiter, I started to get envious of the types of conversations the HR Business Partners were having and wanted to get in on the action! So, I studied for my Masters in HR in my own time and the rest is history.
As an HRD I love how varied my job is. There’s always something new happening to deal with and learn about.
What challenges are you and your team currently facing?
The big one right now is managing a hybrid office and remote workforce.
Previously, Softcat was a very office-based company and we’ve had to adapt quickly. Separate to that, D&I and employee engagement is always high on our agenda and they’re the two topics that I spend most of my time on.
How has COVID-19 changed your role as HRD and what lies ahead for you in the next 6-12 months?
I’m not sure it’s changed my role as such, but it has made me rethink my priorities and look at my own skills to make sure I’m best placed to manage the current situation.
Working in a continuously changing and ambiguous environment is hard for everyone and especially me because I’m a planner by nature!
Looking forward, my biggest challenge is to make sure that our employees continue to be engaged and particularly our new starters.
We’re still hiring hundreds of new people so embedding them into our culture at the moment is tough, but critical.
Diversity & Inclusion is hot on the HR agenda at present, what actions have you taken around this topic?
We were behind the curve on diversity and so we’ve had to work hard to catch up.
Two years ago I appointed one of my direct reports to have responsibility for the topic, but Softcat’s CEO and I will always ultimately hold ourselves accountable.
We’ve spent the last two years on a journey of introducing diversity networks and groups, under the umbrella of Softcat Communities. Each network has a set of objectives they’re working on with our support.
We now measure our statistics, we’re voluntarily publishing our ethnicity pay gap data for the first time this year and we give regular updates to Softcat’s Board. We work closely with external organisations such as the Tech Talent Charter and we recently signed the Race at Work Charter too.
We’ve still got a very long way to go, but I’m very proud of how much progress we’ve made in the last couple of years.
What impact has the use of technology had (the 4th Industrial Revolution) on how you deliver HR to the business?
We could make more use of technology within our HR department. I know that sounds counterintuitive given we work in a technology company!
We need better data to support the business functions with their people plans and that’s something I’m actively working on.
What would you change within the benefit of hindsight?
There are some things I rushed into when I first started at Softcat and changes I made too quickly.
In hindsight, I would have taken longer to get to know the business before I did that.
What advice would you give an aspiring HRD?
Try to get as much experience in different areas of HR as you can.
I regret not having worked in pure L&D or Reward roles myself, for example.
It’s far harder to make the leap to HRD if you’ve only ever worked in one specialism. Or if you’ve only worked as a generalist, specialise for a few years so you understand how the centres of excellence work.