LLS Helen

For our first spotlight blog of the year, we spoke to our Head of HR, Helen Sherwood. I learn more about her background, the misconceptions of HR and what she's looking forward to in 2023. The following is taken from our interview.

Brief intro of who you are and what you do?

I have 20 years of experience working in HR, which I gained in Local Government, the Education sector, Nuclear Energy and the Hospitality industry. I joined LanguageLine Solutions in 2018 as an HR Manager in a stand-alone role. My first priority when I joined was to analyse key data metrics and implement positive change. I worked alongside the departmental managers, coaching them on addressing issues in a fair and supportive manner. Subsequently, we reduced absence rates from 6.5 days per person to 2.8 days in my first year.

Building the capabilities and competencies of managers to deal with issues promptly and fairly has also resulted in labour turnover falling from 30% to 23%. The average length of service of our leavers has increased from 11 months to 3.5 years. Last year, I was externally assessed by the UK HR professional body, CIPD and awarded Chartered Fellowship Status. I was promoted to Head of HR earlier this year and led a team of two HR professionals, assuming responsibility for the entire employee lifecycle, training and development, payroll, benefits and rewards, employee relations, health and safety and facilities management.

What misconception do you think people have about HR?

There have been countless occasions where I have found myself in meetings, and the first thing I get asked is, 'what have I done wrong'? People often think HR's role is to monitor staff performance and behaviour, but that's far from the truth. This is actually the remit of the Line Manager. When things don't improve, they seek advice from HR, who advise and support them on the correct processes to follow. There is also a misconception that HR builds the Company Culture. HR alone cannot create a culture; they can only strengthen or help adapt what is already there. I describe Company culture as the shared ethos of an organisation which represents the Company's personality. It is influenced by how people communicate, collaborate, and build relationships at work, which are all heavily influenced and directed by the leadership team's values, behaviours and communication styles.

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What are your expectations for LanguageLine in 2023?

It's an exciting time to be at LanguageLine because we are going through a period of immense growth, which naturally brings change. Over the last 2 years, we have been adapting to change and crisis as we navigate the pandemic. For HR, this has meant guiding and supporting the Organisation through new ways of working, the subsequent inflation surge and the economic slowdown. 

We will further build our Social Value plans to give back to our local community, strengthen the skillsets of our people and adjust to the new normal way of working in a hybrid setting. We also need to ensure our culture continues to align with our company purpose, strategy and business goals whilst simultaneously accelerating our growth, improving employee engagement, and strengthening our brand.

Are there any hobbies or exciting plans you'd like to share for 2023?

I have a 13-month-old Boxer puppy who wakes me up at 6am every morning for a walk. We often take a similar route each day. I'm always amazed at how different the scenery looks through the changing seasons. So, I've set myself a challenge to complete a 365-Photography Project whilst on our walks. This is where you take one photograph every day for an entire year. Dedication, practice and perseverance can help improve your photography skills and make you stop and appreciate the nature around you.

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What would you say is your most significant achievement this year?

2022 was a hectic year for me, both professionally and personally. I wanted to dedicate time to my own professional development, which can often get neglected, so I have spent more time with my mentor this year, engaged with a business coach to help my professional development, and completed training to become a Mental Health First Aider and a Suicide First Aider. I enrolled and completed a level 2 apprenticeship in Counselling skills in my spare time. Sometimes it's been hard to dedicate enough time to all those activities, but it's been worth it. My most significant achievement this year was being promoted to Head of HR and growing the team.

Anything else you'd like to add?

I firmly believe that if you look after your people, they will look after your customers, and in turn, your customers will look after your bottom line. Everything starts with taking care of your workforce, which is just one reason that I love working at LanguageLine – because the business genuinely cares about its people.