While it is clear that the Early Talent team work incredibly hard to ensure a good placement/ graduate experience for all, the placement itself was quite a struggle. For reasons that I am sure I will go into in greater depth later on in the questionnaire, my experience was not a wholly positive affair and as a result I had to leave earlier than planned.
I felt incredibly valued and involved with the management teams on site. There is a real sense of camaraderie and support between colleagues and it is lovely to be a part of, especially when I was based at my second depot. The Early Talent team worked to ensure I felt valued and supported also.
For the first month/ month and a half I was provided with a lot of support from my manager. However, as time wore on it became clear that they were very busy/ had a lot on their plate, and my guidance was left to be administered by the HRA I was initially placed with. They tried their best, but I do not believe that they were given any substantial information/ guidance on how to structure/ enhance my learning and development. Most of the time I was involved in administration (filing/ scanning/ folding letters and stuffing envelopes), although I was given opportunities to sit in on particular meetings of interest. When I was moved to my second depot, there was virtually no hand over (the HRA leaving the company was not fully available and quite obviously disengaged by this point), and while I was provided with a weeks worth of physical support from my manager, this quickly dissipated and after I was mostly left to my own devices as they were HR Manager for 3 sites with a very busy schedule. Of course, I had the options of calling/ emailing them but when you are getting stuck in with BAU day-to-day it doesn't feel appropriate to contact your manager every 30 minutes/ 1 hour, to confirm that the way I was going about doing X/Y/Z was correct. The difference in levels of support and guidance I received in my second location vs my third were immense. Looking back, I feel as though I should have been placed in my last location, or at least with a manager who was mainly based from my location, from the beginning, and then moved over to a location with a manager that was not able to provide as much physical support after key skills/ correct policy and procedure follow through/ general HR knowledge were locked in. When I arrived in my last location, I was in the unfortunate position of having been more or less on my own for the better side of 6 months in which I had to learn a lot of things myself (unfortunately, incorrectly), which led to a huge amount of pressure being felt. Everyones hearts were in the right place, but unfortunately hearts being in the right place do not always lead to a good experience.
Incredibly busy. You never feel as though there is nothing to do (especially if you are put into an acting HR Advisor role after 3 months with no prior HR experience!), and there are lots of projects to get involved in throughout the year. The projects were interesting, however the workload sometimes felt as though it was unmanageable.
I was given a huge amount of responsibility. A few months in to placement I was put into an acting HR Advisor position and was told to run with it. I was involved in a Non Banded Recruitment workstream project that was subsequently rolled out nationally, and was able to assist take part in the Skills sessions that were put on to complement the training guide I created with assistance from the Head Office Recruitment Team.
While the placement was challenging in more ways than one, it is my belief that you learn the most when facing/ after having faced adversity. I have learned so much about myself, how to conduct myself in business settings and taken on lessons about self advocacy that I hope will stand me in great stead for the future.
The second depot I was based in had a real family feel to it, with colleagues who were very much friends- not just friendly with each other.
Reflecting on the placement as a whole, my experience was different to other HR IP students' as they changed the way the placement was organised, and I do believe it left a few things to be desired. Of course, in the working world there will be times where you simply have to fit with what is going on in the wider business, but the changes/ seeming disorganisation/ not knowing what to do with me did take a toll. Initially, I was to spend 6 months in Head Office and then 6 months based in a depot. This was then switched to 6 months in a depot and 6 subsequent months in Head Office, and finally it ended up being 12 months based in depots. When I began in my first location I didn't really have a set role parameter- my manager said that they didn't like to create schedules etc and so I was mostly assisting with administration (sorting/filing etc), note taking for certain meetings and assisting where I could. There was not enough work to split between myself and the acting HRA and so when the HRA for my second depot left the business, I was placed in their role 3 months into my placement to fill the gap while they were finding a suitable replacement. During this time the time constraints on my manager meant that I did not see a whole lot of them (they managed HR for 3 locations and were usually based in Head Office once a week). It also seemed as though there was no set plan of where to place me next, and the organisation of finding a next suitable location took a lot longer than expected. This was partly down to trying to find somewhere with enough for me to do/ get me involved in, but I do also feel as though not much thought had gone into it before the suitable replacement was found for the depot in which I was acting HRA. However, the HR handbook and training sessions were well organised and if you had a problem there was always a point of contact you could rely on
The company provided the IP and graduate cohort with 2 or 3 residential training sessions over the year. We also had a list of trainings/ competencies that we were required to complete over the year, and so from this angle I believe they valued our L&D and invested in it accordingly
I had quite a stressful placement experience, and ended up having to make the unfortunate decision to leave early- something my university supported me in doing. I believe that generally though, it is a good organisation to get involved in (on the Operations Management placement or Grad Scheme) if they identify you as a 'rising star', as many doors will be opened to you and progression can be pretty quick. I also found that there is a huge cohort of long-service colleagues who have been with the company for 20+ years. In HR however, from conversations I had with colleagues it seems as though the layers and levels are quite difficult to rise up through (on the operational side at least). During my year with the company there also seemed to be quite a lot of turnover within the Operational HR side of the department which was a bit of a red flag, so I'm not sure I would have been keen to return even if my placement had gone smoothly.
There isn't really anything in terms of social scene with other placement students/ graduates as we are placed in separate depots across the country. If you're lucky, you may be placed in a location with 1 or 2 other IP's/ grads, but really your social scene is however good the general social scene at the depot is, and depends a lot on who you make friends with! For example, as my role was office based, I was working with people with families and mostly aged early 30's or above. The only time we (grad and IP cohort) were able to get together was at residential trainings, and these happened 2/3 times over the year. It would be quite frustrating as you'd meet people you got on really well with a the introduction event, and then find out they were based on the opposite end of the country
In the first location you had to travel further afield to go to nice places to socialise/ go out. Cost of living was fine in both locations.
Very rough in first location, quite a lot of the nightclubs were known for attracting less than desirables but it was cheap
Not as many opportunities with colleagues, however I do believe that there were football teams at a few of the depots you could get involved in, but there were groups you could join around the area
Placement Year (10 Months+)
Administration/Secretarial, Human Resources
22nd October 2019