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Career profile: Rob Walker, head of resourcing, Royal Mencap Society

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Get to know your peers in the HR community through our career profile series. Today, we talk to Rob Walker, head of resourcing at the Royal Mencap Society.

Basic details

Name: Rob Walker         

Job: Head of Resourcing

Current employer: Royal Mencap Society

CV in brief:

A day in your life

Tell us about your job and organisation

My primary role is to design, develop and deliver Mencap's resourcing strategy that supports our goals both as a charity and service delivery organisation. Although I do love HR, my passion remains in recruitment and it's my responsibility to lead my team by example and attract, recruit and retain the best talent.

We are the UK's leading learning disability charity. We are a highly collaborative organisation that fights for equal rights, campaigns for greater opportunities and challenges attitudes and prejudice. We are also provide care for over 5,000 people with a learning disability across England, Wales and Northern Ireland of care for people with a learning disability.Our services also include supporting people in employment, organising activities, and providing advice and advocacy support.

Who do you report into?

I report to Angela Buxton who is our people director, who sits on our executive team.

Tell us about your team

I am very lucky as I have a great team, I have so much time for all of them.

They all champion best practice and want to make a difference. They are passionate, extremely hard-working and supportive of each other, with a real diverse range of skills and talent.

The team also won the 'Best In-House Recruitment Team' award at the 2014 in-house recruitment awards – and we really celebrate ‘our shared successes’ rather than individual ones.

What is the most rewarding part of your role?

With this job it’s definitely spending time with the people with a learning disability. At Mencap we say that everything we do is focused on making the world a better place for people with a learning disability and this is definitely the case in my role.  

I frequently have the unique opportunity to visit our services throughout the country and gain first-hand knowledge of our resourcing challenges.

By visiting in person I have the opportunity to spend quality time with our residents and support workers, and fully understand how this impacts on our resourcing needs.  For me personally, it is hugely rewarding, I get to blend my nursing background – in the sense of caring for people – with recruitment. I really couldn’t ask for more.

What is the most challenging part of the role?

Within our sector there are universally high turnover levels. This isn’t a new phenomenon. Dealing with high turnover is paramount.

Successful recruitment is all about finding the right person, for the right job, the first time. Within our sector this is so important, for somebody to seriously consider a career within care; it's so much more than making someone their morning toast and cup of tea.

We recruit using behavioural techniques that are mapped against our values. This allows us to find those people that are more suited to working within care, even if they have not had previous experience. Values based recruitment enables hiring choices to be determined by assessing capability against expected behaviours. 

People with a learning disability is at the heart of everything that we do as an organisation, recruiting for values means that we have engaged employees, who emanate our organisations culture.

What does a typical day look like for you?

There is no typical day.

Why did you choose your current organisation to work for?

I wanted to make a difference to the lives of people with a learning disability. It is a cause very close to our families’ heart. Both my wife and I have close family members with a learning disability and we have seen how important organisations like Mencap have been to our loved ones being able to live fulfilling independent lives.

Perks and downsides of your role?

Perks – Being part of a great team, who all pull together, for a cause that I believe in passionately.

Downsides – What I would give for just a quarter of the recruitment budgets I have enjoyed within other sectors I've worked in.

What skills are essential for the role you’re in?

Being visible, being available and providing solutions. It isn’t just about being at the end of the telephone, it is doing the type of activity that I am undertaking today – getting out in front of managers and understanding their needs and being willing to have those difficult conversations. Plus questioning what it is that they believe they need and finding the best solution for the people that we support.

It's about being credible, be a business partner to the organisation and when you promise to follow up, doing it.

Career path

How did you get to where you are now?

The number 72 bus! I have always wanted to say that ever since I first read these profiles. 

My career journey commenced with nursing, after graduating, I became interested in healthcare staffing and then recruitment and moved across permanently into HR. However nursing has remained a constant, I still work as a nurse to ensure my CPD is kept up to date and practice hours are intact.

During my career I have been blessed to have worked for some great organisations and worked in some fantastic countries. My career has allowed me to work across South East Asia, Africa, Middle East, Australia and 8 years in the USA. I am very grateful for it.

What were your best subjects in school?

I loved history, English and art. I went to a Roman Catholic high school and left immediately after my O’ Levels. I didn’t return to education again till later.

I've since accumulated a number of degrees, both undergraduate and post graduate, and my recent being my MSc HRM – which I took while holding down a full time job and gained a distinction. I am really proud of that.

I am a Chartered Fellow with the CIPD and have completed the certification at level 7.

What was your first job? How did you get it and why did you choose to work there?

I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do between 17 and 19 and went from one job to another. My first real job was after graduating and qualifying to practice as a registered nurse. I knew I wanted to do something that made a difference and my mum believed in me.

I met my wife through nursing and everything I have done today has been built upon the decision that I made at the kitchen table with my mum, nearly 30 years ago.

Have you followed the career path you set out to?

No, definitely not, if you had asked me in 1991 I was going to be chief nurse of England. However here I am today working within an organisation I love and hold dear, doing a job that I love and with a fantastic team.  

What challenges have you faced along the way? How did you overcome them?

Probably one of the biggest personal challenges that I have faced was back in 2001 where I was offered the opportunity to work in the USA. With a very young family it was a hard decision to make. I had a great job with BUPA, had recently been made a director, responsible for recruitment for all the care services and care homes divisions. However with the help and support of my wife, we made the decision to leave our jobs in the UK and our families and embarked on our USA adventure. I worked with some huge US and global healthcare organisations and the experiences we gained were excellent.

We left for the USA being a family of four and came back a family of 5, our youngest child being born in Washington DC. As a family we will always look back on our time ‘Stateside’ with fondness. We made some lifelong friends and have some great memories.

What’s the craziest thing you’ve done to land a job?

Probably my first real recruitment job was with a national agency, where mid ‘90’s it was all about sell, sell, place, place, place. I had to sell to a panel the benefits of a biro pen versus a pencil. All I can remember doing was talking with great enthusiasm about the small hole in the pen cap – that if you accidentally swallowed it, you wouldn’t necessarily suffocate! Thank goodness selection has now moved on! This organisation didn’t let me have a seat at my desk until I had billed my first placement and used to tape the headset of phones to consultants who didn’t make their call quotas. Recruitment agencies have come a long way in 20 years.

What has been the proudest moment of your career so far?

There are 3 things that stand out for me:

  • Completing my MSc HRM with a full time job in tow.
  • Landing this job with Mencap as the competition was fierce, and I was really excited about what I could help accomplish and achieve.
  • Finally, whilst with Fresenius, I put together a program offering free healthcare clinics for dialysis care in the Philippines.

Do you have any career regrets?

Absolutely no regrets. Every job I've had, I believe has been for a reason and I have learnt something from the experience. I have had some great mentors, managers and colleagues, and have learnt loads.

What advice would you offer to others who are looking to get to where you are now?      

Your career is going to be a life long journey that will at times have you speeding forward, turning to the left, then the right and occasionally you will need to reverse, however it should always be a journey that you are fully engaged with, because if you are not, you shouldn’t be on the bus. Get off and wait for the next one! 

What advice would you give to your 22-year-old self?

Don't worry too much about finding the perfect career pathway as you will do absolutely fine.

Either/or

  • Coffee or tea? Coffee at any time of day or night, unless my dad or wife is making it, then it's a proper builders tea. They are the only two other people who can make it how a cup of tea should be.
  • Jam or marmalade? Marmalade and Tiptrees please
  • The Beatles or The Rolling Stones? Rolling Stones. I've been brought up on their music, however my mum is a huge Beatles fan – now if you had said best album by either of the two, then Revolver by the Beatles wins everytime.
  • Mac or PC? PC, I can remember being so cutting edge when I mastered Windows for the first time.
  • The Guardian or The Times? I will happily read both; The Times reinforces my small ‘c’ conservatism and The Guardian challenges – it's always good to be challenged.
  • BBC or ITV? ITV until there is no more Downton Abbey!
  • M&S or Waitrose? Waitrose. With my brother being an operations manager for the partnership, if I said anything else he would never forgive me!
  • Morning or night? Mornings are my time. I enjoy it as I am an early riser and nobody else is about.
  • Rain on snow? Snow, I always get excited when you see a real snow storm.
  • Sweet or savoury? Easy, pork pies and cheese & biscuits. 

Favourites

  • App: Google Maps – has saved me so many times from having to do what so many men hate which is ask directions
  • TV show: I loved the Sopranos and Entourage but currently it has to be The Walking Dead
  • Band: The Charlatans – my brother introduced them to me in about ’91 and I have never looked back
  • Song: Vapour Trail – by Ride, just love the song and it brings on so many different waves of emotion, memories (old and new). It is the song I always dedicate to my wife.
  • Book: After all these years and I've enjoyed reading it to my kids too, Enid Blyton's 'The Faraway Tree'.
  • Sports team: Charlton Athletic – however in a 'Happy Hammers' household and married into a West Ham family, so on occasion it's ‘come on you Irons’!
  • Thing to do on a Friday night: Not that exciting to be fair, as a busy dad. It's providing a taxi and financial services to my 17, 15 and 10 year old, then finally settling down to some quality time with my wonderful wife – who I can't believe has put up with me for the past 24 years.
  • Place to eat: My most favourite place in the world is Tony Romas – you just can’t beat those beef ribs.
  • Holiday spot: Best family holiday ever was South Africa and there wasn’t a theme park for miles around. Lots of walking, talking and enjoying each others company. Best couples holiday has to be the Maldives where I took my wife for her 40th, relaxing and secluded – an opportunity to be 'Rob & Sarah' and not 'mum & dad'. My favourite city in the world has to be Hong Kong, the eclectic mix of the east meets west, great food and an exciting vibe.
  • Piece of advice you’ve been given: A long time ago; a manager once told me, “you can't be always really good at everything”, but he then went on to say, “but make sure you are really good at what you do best, all the time”. It has stuck ever since. 
Sarah Clark

By Sarah Clark

Changeboard

Online features editor at Changeboard

Changeboard

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