Get to know your peers in the HR community through our career profile series. Today, we talk to Steve Jeffers, HR director at Meridian Business Support. He shares his career journey; from developing employee skills and effective communication to the importance of being adventurous in your career.
Name: Steve Jeffers
Job: HR director
Current employer: Meridian Business Support
CV in brief:
- 2010–2012, people services director designate, Tactical Solutions
- 2008–2010, senior HR business partner, LBM Direct Marketing
- 2007–2008, head of HR, Furniture@Work
- 2005–2007, various HR/business improvement office, Response
A day in your life
Tell us about your job and organisation
Meridian Business Support is one of the largest privately-owned recruitment companies in the UK. In 2014 Meridian celebrated 25 years in the recruitment industry. Meridian has an extensive network of 60 branches nationwide, providing over 5,500 temporary staff on a weekly basis and placing over 900 permanent candidates each year. Employing over 300 direct staff, Meridian fills in excess of 300,000 bookings every year successfully supplying to over 2000 UK and International companies.
I am responsible for leading the HR strategy for Meridian through organisational development and capability, which forms the HR agenda both strategically and operationally via the specialist teams that we have in talent acquisition, talent management and talent development.
I work closely with the senior leaders to execute the strategy on a daily basis at both group and business unit level to ensure we have the right talent, in the right place, at the right time.
Who do you report to?
Jeanette Barrowcliffe, finance director, Meridian Business Support
Tell us about your team
I have five people in my team. They cover talent acquisition, talent development and talent management. Within the team, we have experience in working across all business units with specialists in employee relations, recruitment and L&D. They are a great team and we couldn’t do what we do without them.
What is the most rewarding part of your role?
There’s nothing more rewarding than working with people to develop and enhance their skills and watch them grow. Working in a business where, ultimately, people are our product. It’s great to see them flourish though the support and development they are given from the business. I’ve had the opportunity to meet and work with exceptional talent in Meridian – people who joined us at the early stages of their careers and have grown successfully into more diverse and senior roles.
What is the most challenging part of the role?
Taking time away from my desk can be challenging at times as I often get caught up in what’s going on day-to-day in the business, ensuring that we are delivering the right people solutions for business. Developing your thoughts into strategic plans is key and then making it happen is even more important. I have to be extremely disciplined at times to ensure I take the time out from the day-to-day balancing act.
What does a typical day look like for you?
No two days are ever the same working in HR and that’s the way I like it. My day is spent engaging with our people, attending meetings focusing on the execution of our HR strategy and spending time with our people and clients on site. I like to take time out when I can to network with like-minded HR and recruitment professionals which can help to focus the mind by sharing ideas.
Why did you choose your current organisation to work for?
I chose to work for Meridian because of its culture and values and I joined the organisation at a very exciting time. There were lots of positive change going on, as you would expect in a growing business. From day one I felt like part of the family which is testament to the culture which had been created over the years by Mark Mitchell, our CEO, and Jeanette Barrowcliffe, our FD. After joining the business in 2012, I was fortunate enough to join the senior leadership team in January 2013, and along with my SLT colleagues, help to shape our strategy for the next seven years with Vision 20|20.
Perks and downsides of your role?
Perks – the people, we have amazing talent in our business.
Downsides – I love what I do. There are challenges from time to time, which we all face in our roles but we work together to achieve the desired results. It’s all a team effort and when you’ve got a great team there are no downsides as you support one another.
What skills are essential for the role you’re in?
Communication and building effective working relations are key in my role; investing time getting to know your key stakeholders and internal customers is paramount to executing an effective HR strategy and driving home the people agenda. Don’t be afraid to challenge the status quo when you hear, “We’ve always done it that way!” Sharing a car journey on a commute is always a good way of building relationships because you get to know so much more about the person you work with –possibly too much sometimes!
How did you get to where you are now?
I was very focused on my career and personal goals. It came down to a combination of hard work, determination and resilience, but always reminding myself, “Work hard, play hard” to get the right work/life balance. But, however, not forgetting to learn from my mistakes – because I did make some along the way. It’s very important to encourage people to make mistakes, as that’s how we all grow and learn.
What were your best subjects in school? What and where did you study?
English and maths. I was a bit of a geek. I went to school in Ballincollig, County Cork. I did my Diploma in HRM whilse working via open learning in the mid 2000s.
What was your first job? How did you get it and why did you choose to work there?
My first job was in a supermarket back home in Ballincollig. It was a part-time job whilse I was in my final year at school to earn some pocket money for £1.50 an hour. That’s when I knew I wanted to work with people in a people-centric role. I got the job by turning up one Monday afternoon after school; I started that evening and never looked back. It turned into my first full-time job where I got some exposure to HR.
Have you followed the career path you set out to?
There have been a few diversions along the way via Glasgow and Manchester, but all in all I’ve followed the path I set out to, with the help and support of some great mentors and leaders.
What challenges have you faced along the way? How did you overcome them?
One of the things that springs to mind is TUPE! I’d been working in HR for seven years before TUPE arrived at my door but you learn quickly, ask questions and get the job done. As your career grows and develops, your colleagues tend to bring new challenges daily and I do wonder sometimes whether they are just testing my knowledge or patience (or both)! The challenges I work on with my colleagues helps to galvanise our working relationship – something I never forget!
What’s the craziest thing you’ve done to land a job?
Move to Manchester. It was such a spur of the moment decision but I’ve never looked back!
What has been the proudest moment of your career so far?
My recent appointment to HR director at Meridian. I feel proud to be part of the team at Meridian. This was a very significant landmark in my career and my c team have played a key part in that.
Do you have any career regrets?
No, I think I’ve been somewhat adventurous with my career and it’s paid off.
What advice would you offer to others who are looking to get to where you are now?
Develop your business acumen, get involved in the day-to-day operations and finance, and most importantly, understand a P&L. I’ve seen too many people over the years focusing just on HR alone and becoming isolated from the business. I learned early in my career that HR should be a business enabler and not a business inhibitor. Roll your sleeves up, get stuck in and enjoy the ride!
What advice would you give to your 22-year-old self?
Grab the bull by the horns and don’t be so risk averse.
- Coffee or tea? Tea
- Jam or marmalade? Jam – strawberry flavour, to be specific. You can’t beat a bit of toast and strawberry jam.
- The Beatles or The Rolling Stones? Neither – they’re not my kind of bands. Give me Greenday or The Script any day!
- Mac or PC? Mac. Avid Apple product user here!
- The Guardian or The Times? The Times. I have it these days on my iPad and it’s great.
- BBC or ITV? BBC mainly for the news and if I’m at home I like to watch the breakfast show.
- M&S or Waitrose? Waitrose, purely for their mushroom ravioli.
- Morning or night? Morning, I am by far a morning person – I like to get the most I can out of a day.
- Rain on snow? Rain because it’s not snow!
- Sweet or savoury? If I had to choose one it would have to be sweet as my guilty pleasure is a Bavarian slice from Greggs.
- App: Just Eat, for those evenings when you simply don’t want to cook.
- TV show: Mrs Brown’s Boy because being Irish myself, I enjoy the humour (not everyone’s taste, I know).
- Band: The Script. I remember going to see them in the Old Oak in Cork City before they were famous.
- Song: Levels by Avicii, I could listen to this track on repeat (actually, I do) whilst driving. It’s a motivational track for me.
- Book: The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni.
- Sports team: I’m not a very sporty person but Manchester United get my vote because they’re practically my neighbours.
- Thing to do on a Friday night: Takeaway, wine and good company makes for a great Friday night.
- Place to eat: Coco’s in Altrincham – they have the most amazing food.
- Holiday spot: Ibiza. I like various parts of Ibiza for a quiet and not-so-quiet holiday.
- Piece of advice you’ve been given: “What’s the worst that can happen?” A great piece of advice received at an early point in my career that’s helped my decision-making throughout my career.
By Karam Filfilan
Karam is Changeboard Middle East's editor and UK deputy editor.
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