Santander Hosts Birmingham HR Masterclass

HR is a hot topic for UK SMEs – recruiting and retaining top candidates can make or break a small business. Santander addressed these issues in the latest Masterclass with internal and external HR experts offering advice and expertise.

Some of the biggest questions in business revolve around the challenge of recruiting the best people, motivating them and then retaining them. This issue is arguably even more pressing among small and medium-sized businesses with fewer resources and smaller budgets for advertising, incentives and rewards.
To address these issues, Santander hosted an HR Masterclass in Birmingham’s Fazeley Studios on 19 November. The aim of the Masterclass was to show the area’s fast-growing businesses how they can optimise recruitment and HR practices to get ahead of the competition without breaking the bank.

“We recognise that recruitment and retention is important to SMEs and it comes up time and again in our feedback from Masterclasses.” Rachel Nash, Head of Operations and Delivery for the Breakthrough Programme

Delegates came from a wide geographical area and hailed from a broad sector base – from manufacturing to retail. Company turnovers ranged from £500,000 to £50 million and each business faced unique HR challenges, but all had the common ambition to grow.
Relevant advice, easy to digest
The event was split into four sessions, each ending with a breakout period for refreshments and networking. The sessions were interactive and dynamic, covering the critical HR topics of Resourcing, Employment Law, Learning and Reward, and Recognition.
The sessions were delivered by experts drawn from Santander UK’s own People & Talent team, as well as leading consultants and suppliers who work closely with Santander to deliver the ‘people agenda’. As well as delving into pertinent HR topics, the experts led Q&A sessions and discussions, and they were also on hand at the breakout sessions to talk to delegates individually about specific issues.
Responding to customer needs

“We recognise that recruitment and retention is important to SMEs and it comes up time and again in our feedback from Masterclasses,” says Rachel Nash, Head of Operations and Delivery at Santander Breakthrough. “We thought it would be a great idea to utilise our own People & Talent team, and Santander’s key suppliers, to create this Masterclass.
“It wasn’t us preaching about how things should be done, it was about leveraging our own expertise and resources to impart some useful information. We have a big People & Talent department, who look after over 12,000 employees UK-wide. Santander has key suppliers who we thought would be of benefit to SME businesses.”
Rob King is part of Santander’s People & Talent Learning Team, which helped create the Masterclass. “There is an abundance of knowledge in the organisation, as well as from external suppliers,” he says. “It was therefore really good to use that knowledge and to share it with SMEs. It’s interesting to see how much these people have to share; a lot of them have been in the business a long time and have limitless knowledge.”
Delegates heard a range of practical advice on attraction and retention strategies, including best practice on interviewing and integrating new recruits, and then keeping them engaged and motivated. They also heard tips on nurturing and developing talent, including the range of free resources on offer – particularly online – that can help businesses grow.
Levelling the playing field
As well as Santander experts, employment law firm EMW LLP shared advice on the legal aspects of HR, such as flexible working, parental leave and pensions. One topic in particular, holiday pay, caused a lively debate among delegates who were keen to understand the latest rules and their implications.
The final session of the day was hosted by Grass Roots, a global leader in providing employee solutions. It focused on the importance of recognising employees and engaging them with the organisation’s goals in mind.
“We had some great feedback on the day,” says Rob. “People felt they received a lot of knowledge from the sessions. The important message delegates took away was that you can grow your organisation through your people by empowering them, engaging them and motivating them to do more and better things.”
Utilising the internet
Delegates were impressed with the world of free online tools available to help growing businesses achieve their HR goals. Tools like Google hangouts, Yammer, Webex and MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) help entrepreneurs promote an environment of learning and progression.
“Being able to dip into free resources is great for SMEs with lower budgets, who might not be capable of investing in the top-spec products,” says Rachel. “The delegates were taking a lot of notes around this section of our Masterclass because the free resources were so useful.
“It is all about making sure they invest in staff and get recruitment right; for SMEs it’s more damaging if they get it wrong. It’s important for them to have the tools to recruit the best people and then retain them for as long as possible.”
Initial feedback shows that the event was a resounding success and delegates left with a lot of useful information to relay to their respective businesses.
If you would like to be considered for a place on a future Masterclass, contact your local Santander Relationship Director.

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