Olive Strachan North West Export Champion 2016
Inspiring Business North West
phone +44 (0) 161 509 2017

Olive with CIPD certificate

When I deliver training on Leadership and Management Skills, I always encourage managers to start with the end in mind - in other words, have a powerful vision of what you would like to achieve and aim for that.

The photograph above is a picture of me receiving an award as a CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development) volunteer spanning over 20 years. It was a wonderful moment, and all the sweeter because it was totally unexpected! In April of this year, I will be leaving the CIPD Manchester Branch committee so that someone else can have this fantastic opportunity. As I walked towards the front of the room at the Royal College of Physicians in London where I was attending the Council dinner, I started to reflect on how and why I joined the CIPD committee as a volunteer in 1996.

I had worked in the recruitment industry for many years when I decided it was time to enhance my career prospects by enrolling for a post graduate diploma at Salford University. As it was a CIPD qualification, we were encouraged to join our local committee and we were given all the benefits of attending the events that were available to us as CIPD members. As I was keen to start a new career, I joined the committee straight away and started attending branch events.

My first role on the committee was as Newsletter Editor. This coincided with my leaving the recruitment industry and starting a job with Video Arts. So I was involved in Learning and Development in my day job while completing my post graduate diploma in HR in the evening. A large part of my role for Video Arts was a great deal of client liaison, assisting companies with learning at work day events; selecting training resources; creating a learning culture and becoming a learning organisation. These organisations included: Astra Zeneca, Tameside College, Matalan and Manchester Metropolitan University, to name a few. When I became Newsletter Editor, I saw it as an opportunity to draw together local business and the CIPD. Therefore, I persuaded Astra Zeneca to write an article about their brand new, state-of-the-art learning resource centre. Part of my role as Editor was to gain sponsorship from local businesses for the newsletter, and to place adverts and articles in it. I thoroughly enjoyed this role as it played to my strengths, which are:

  • Building relationships
  • Presenting
  • Persuading and influencing
  • Networking
  • Organising events
  • Business strategy

Over the next few years, I held two similar roles: Group Leader of the Bolton geographical group and of the Altrincham group. These were interesting roles that involved working to a budget and organising speakers, suitable venues and sponsorships. The committee of 22 people was involved in making sure we provided our 5,000+ members with over 30 events - all relevant to HR and Learning and Development or up-to-date employment law.

My next role on the committee was Vice Chair for 2 years, then Chair. The Chair's role was one that I relished, leading over 20 volunteers. I wanted to influence the perception of HR, which was not always a positive one. This was made clear to me when, as new Chair, all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, I visited a company in Wythenshawe where I attempted to encourage the CEO to get involved with the CIPD. His comment was, "What, spend time with HR people? I would prefer to stick pins in my eyes!"

So, together with my fabulous committee, we met and planned our strategy, which was linked to the PACE values of the CIPD. These are:

  • P - Purposeful
  • A - Agile
  • C - Collaborative
  • E - Expert

I did have my challenges as Chair, and on occasion you do wonder if you are doing the right thing. Fortunately, there was a lot of support and advice from previous Chairs, who have formed the Northern Area Partnership (NAP), Wimbledon HQ, and other committee members. We also had a Regional Coordinator, who was an excellent support. When you have 20+ volunteers aged from mid-20s to 70s, with different backgrounds and cultures and some strong personalities, there will always be some disagreement. But it has made me more resilient.

My highlights as Chair were as follows:

  1. Becoming Chair during the CIPD Centenary celebrations and being involved, together with our committee members, in organising a celebration at the Lowry Hotel.
  2. Being asked to host the HR Business Partner conference when it was held here in Manchester.

  3. Being asked to speak at KPMG on workplace pensions.

  4. Speaking at Barclays Bank on annual hours.

  5. Being chosen by Insider magazine 3 years running as one of the top 100 most influential women in business in the North West.

  6. Receiving an award as Showcase Volunteer, CIPD Pace Awards.

My 20 years on the committee have seen me through 3 career changes: working in recruitment, working in the training resources market, and finally working as a consultant and executive coach. During my time as Chair, I met some wonderful people and forged some strong relationships with some fantastic organisations, who provided much support and friendship: Hays Recruitment, TLT Solicitors, Berg, the ACCA Manchester Members' Network, Pro Manchester, and ACAS. These contacts are still current, and some have become lifelong friends.

It has been an enriching experience - I gave a lot and gained a lot, and I would do it all over again! My final role on the committee is that of the HR Leaders leader and Council Representative, both interesting roles that I have thoroughly enjoyed. The next HR Leaders event is on the 8th of March 2017 at Event City. Starting from 6pm, we have Andy Lancaster (Head of Learning & Development Content, CIPD) as our speaker; places are limited, so book early!

You can also join me at the Life of HR conference with Lancashire CIPD, where I am one of the key note speakers, on 25th February 2017. Find out more here.

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