To celebrate Learning at Work week, we caught up with our super-talented Managing Director, Debbie Knowles. Debbie shares her experience of learning and development and reveals how the EML team is shaping up for the future.
I didn’t set out to work in HR
I completed an Economics degree then joined a graduate programme at a home shopping catalogue. I spent three years working on organisational development initiatives, helping employees to pursue their personal development. My employer supported me to study for my CIPD qualification on day release. This led me to a career in HR.
This isn’t my first spell at EML
Our long-term clients know I’ve had two spells working at EML. I started as a Trainee Management Consultant twenty years ago. Throughout my time here I’ve benefited from learning through mentoring and shadowing senior members of the team. We strongly believe in this kind of development and make sure everyone has this opportunity. In fact, many senior members of our team have progressed their careers in this hands-on way.
Developing a love of HR and advocacy
In the early days, I became involved in employment tribunal case preparation and advocacy under the watchful eye of my mentor. I attended hearings and worked my way up to becoming an advocate. I remember the excitement of being involved in a real-life employment tribunal situation and the thrill of coming away from a hearing having achieved a successful outcome for our client. My mentor nurtured my natural talent in this area and I still get the same feeling today.
I learnt a lot from running my own business
In between posts at EML I worked in advocacy and employment law both in a business support organisation and in my own employment law consultancy. Running my own business was a brilliant learning experience. I took a lot from listening to speakers at networking events and the importance of surrounding yourself with the right people.
Growing the EML team
I returned to EML as Managing Director and I’m responsible for business and people development and recruitment. It’s worlds apart from the trainee role I started in two decades ago but still as exciting and challenging. I’m proud to build and lead such a fantastic team of professional HR and H&S consultants. We’ve strengthened by adding three new recruits this year. Delegating projects is so much easier when you have such a strong and trusted team.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing!
If I’d known how much I would enjoy practising employment law I probably would have studied Law at university. Saying that, my Economics degree does come in very useful when running a business.
Continuous focus on learning
Our consultants attend training events throughout the year to fill any gaps in knowledge and ensure we are up to date with employment law legislation. One of our consultants is training as a Mediator. We’re really excited about the prospect of adding Mediation to our service offering.
I learn from doing
You can learn so much through shadowing business leaders and watching how they approach situations. I acquired a lot of my people management skills in this way.
Some skills don’t come naturally, but you can develop them
Selling is not something that comes naturally to me. I recognised a need to develop in this area and sought out a coach to help enhance my skills. Now I don’t find it half as scary as I used to!
If you want to discuss personal development, be ready to explain the benefits to the business
Prepare for the meeting with your manager, especially if it’s a course that might take you away from your day-to-day role for long periods. You need to explain how that learning will increase your ability to do your current role.
Learning and development brings job satisfaction
Pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone might sound frightening but doing this can bring newfound confidence. Employees who benefit from learning opportunities and skills development are usually happier in their role. If you manage a team, have an open discussion with your people and ask them what type of learning they’d like to pursue. You might be surprised by what you hear.
If you want to pursue a career in HR or employment law, study for your CIPD
The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) qualification is desirable in most employers’ eyes. Aside from formal qualifications, keeping up to date with employment law and legislation is a must.