[Interview] Henicka Uddin, area director for Acas
Ahead of the upcoming HR Summit, we talk to industry expert Henicka Uddin, the London Area Director for the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas).
Tell us about your background?
I’ve worked for Acas for about 18 years’ now which is a long time, but I’ve always just loved what we do here. It’s very much about making the workplace a better place.
When I started out, I was an individual conciliator which meant I helped people to resolve their disputes and avoid ending up in an employment tribunal. For me, that was important because we should all be able to go to work, focus on our work and have a good experience. I’ve always believed that disputes that can be resolved quickly, should be. If there were skills, education and knowledge to support a better workplace experience, then I wanted to be a part of that – and this has remained dear to me throughout my time at Acas.
I was then interested in helping to share good workplace practice, so I became a Trainer. Part of that role was about understanding the challenges that businesses are going through, and the experiences of employers and employees both generally, and sector specific.
My roles have mainly been hands-on. As my skills developed, I moved on to become a Senior Advisor. I dealt with more complex disputes in the workplace. Through building stronger relationships, I was able to develop a deeper understanding of the concerns experienced by different sectors
Currently, as Area Director for Acas London, my focus is in ensuring my colleagues and I are supporting the London workforce through our various services, to make their workplaces a better place.
Can you tell us more about the role of Acas?
Acas gives employees and employers impartial advice on workplace rights, providing guidance, and making clear what is good workplace practice. We provide practical training and help to resolve disputes through our conciliation services. Our website and Helpline offers immediate advice and up to date information.
That must sometimes be a challenge…
When parties are in dispute, our job is to try keep talks ongoing so that parties can find a resolution. We have a statutory role to provide independent support and assistance if parties want this. Here, our role is to facilitate talks. We are impartial. We encourage people to talk, be clear about their issues, help them to break these down and prioritise them.
I’m proud to say that our conciliators are real experts at what they do. Effective conciliation is about challenging and unpicking the details. It’s also about ensuring that parties are listening to each other and working to find common ground and an acceptable way forward.
What are some of the challenges you are seeing in the retail sector today?
The Pandemic forced immediate change in organisations overnight. Everything from how, where and what they did and the tools and technology they used to continue working has shifted. Suddenly managers were having to remotely manage not just performance, but well-being. We’re also seeing that technology has suddenly become an even bigger part of business in a way that perhaps we anticipated would take years to achieve. This rapid change has had an impact on organisations and of course people.
This change means that businesses are having to reshape, reorganise or restructure. What was potentially appropriate pre pandemic isn’t necessarily the best options going forward. Change can often be a difficult thing to manage and feel comfortable with, both from an employer and an employee perspective.
Do you feel that the last few years has upended employee expectations?
Yes, absolutely. Traditional employee experience indicators aren’t showing the whole picture now. Many individuals see work as just one aspect of their lives. This is a huge shift and employees are looking at the holistic and authentic package offered by employers. They are asking themselves; What can this employer offer me? Can I see myself working here? Are they flexible? What are the opportunities to develop and learn? Is there an employee voice in the organisation? Am I going to be represented through my own diversity needs? Are they part of a good work charter?
Reputation is hugely important too. We live in a time where we are inclined to read reviews and then weigh up the positive and negative aspects to help shape our opinion of a brand and make a final decision.
Recruitment is an expensive business and so now more than ever, employers need to ensure they are recruiting the right people so that they will stay.
What will you be sharing at the upcoming HR Summit?
At this year’s HR Summit, I will be talking about why companies need to embed diversity, equity, and inclusion (ED&I) into their daily operation to keep up with the increasingly competitive market. I’ll discuss my perspective on how (ED&I) policies will help to shape a workplace that promotes growth, profitability and well-being. And finally, I will share some of the practical examples of what we have seen work effectively and successfully.
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