Sakina is a People Maestro. After a short spell as an employment solicitor she changed direction and started on our HR Graduate Leadership Programme. Sakina tells us what she has discovered so far.
Goal – Be happy and be myself
After graduating in law, I completed my training at a top 20 corporate law firm and qualified as an employment solicitor. But the aggressive corporate culture didn’t suit me – it wasn’t my dream job at all!
As soon I realised this, I started exploring other options and discovered this HR Graduate Leadership programme with Lloyds Banking Group. I wanted a future where I could be happy and be myself, where people were flexible and caring.
Now, thankfully, I’ve found it.
Getting started – It’s a welcoming environment
During the selection process, I realised that Lloyds Banking Group genuinely values its people, and has an active approach to developing them and providing a work-life balance.
It’s only human to want a reasonable work-life balance, and the team here understands this, which is why I joined.
Once I started my programme, I discovered a lot of support coming from my mentor, my managers and my colleagues. It’s a welcoming environment. You’re treated as an equal member of the team, pretty much from day one.
Surprising news – I became pregnant
Very soon after I started my programme I became pregnant, which was wonderful news but a complete surprise – and not the best timing!
Naturally I was worried about what people at work would think. But they were very supportive, not just my peers but also the senior executives. It was obvious to me that they wanted me to be happy as a professional and as a parent – this was a breath of fresh air compared to my experience with my previous employer.
After giving birth to my beautiful daughter, I returned to my programme on a flexible working arrangement.
Support structure – Very impressive
I’ve been so impressed with the support structure – it’s allowed me to commit to my programme and have a work-life balance so I can get home and be a mum.
My managers really listen and care about my development. We’ve been able to shape my placements so that I can achieve my goals, and they’ve given me expert advice on how to improve, so that I can achieve what I want.
HR – A strong community
The way I see it, HR is about building a strong community of colleagues. We do what we can to enable people to do their jobs well, rewarding them fairly and supporting them in developing their careers and the way they work.
It’s about people, and it’s about business.
But because this is a complex relationship, our people strategy takes understanding on all sides. So I work closely with teams across the organisation to shape thinking and inspire colleagues to perform even better in their jobs.
My approach is collaborative, communicative and flexible.
My work today – Engagement & Insights
As an Assistant Manager, I’ve been working on a survey of all colleagues who work for the Group. There’s been a lot of preparation and ongoing work, and I’ve needed to communicate with a large number of teams.
I’ve also been working closely with our survey partner, IBM, to create the right structures and so on. It’s a very important project for our organisation, because it’s giving us the insights that will shape our entire people strategy moving forward.
Discoveries – I can leave my comfort zone
Over the course of this survey project, I’ve learnt how to draft clear communications for senior leaders. This includes information such as survey dates, response rates, messaging for colleagues, updates and so on.
I’ve also been creating and delivering presentations, which has taken me outside my comfort zone. Leaving your comfort zone can be scary, especially when it comes to me and presenting, but my managers have helped me to discover my confidence in this area.
Now I’m much more willing to try new experiences and have a go. Each time I do, my confidence really grows, and so does my enthusiasm for presenting.
Top tip – Ask lots of questions
Through this programme I’ve learnt how to ask questions, and it’s made a huge difference to the way I work. It’s an easy mistake to make, to accept work and not understand what’s expected from you. This can lead to all kinds of misunderstandings and should be avoided at all costs.
It’s much better to ask lots of questions, to understand from the outset exactly what’s needed, rather than keep going back and forth to seek clarity. By asking questions I’ve been able to deliver the right outcomes for my teams and managers, and to work more efficiently and effectively myself.
Immediate plans – Be a generalist
After my final placement on this programme, I’d like to keep gaining more generalist HR knowledge. I expect at some time in the future I’ll opt to specialise, but right now I’m keeping an open mind.
Obviously, due to my personal circumstances I need to maintain my flexible working arrangement – at least until my daughter’s older. I don’t foresee this being a problem, given the Group’s positive approach to work-life balance.
Balance – You can structure your days
I can’t stress enough how beneficial the work-life balance is here. I can structure my days so that my children get time with me.
I’ve even been able to find time to take on charity challenges, and I’ve discovered that I’m quite a good sales person. By selling sweets and cakes – and even old furniture – I’ve been able to raise quite a bit of money for charity.
And I must say, I’ve rather enjoyed the thrill of it.
Surprises – All good ones
As you’ll have gathered by now, I came to this programme having spent a difficult time in a work culture that didn’t suit me. By contrast, all the surprises I’ve experienced here at Lloyds Banking Group have been good ones.
The thing that may surprise you the most is how informal and inclusive the culture is here. There are any different types of people work here. They’re very supportive, not aggressive or pushy, but you are expected to deliver to a high standard.
The people are genuinely understanding and community-spirited. They look out for you and make sure you have the right support network – be it flexible hours, expert mentors, effective managers, all geared towards helping you reach your potential.
If you have commitments outside of work that are similar to mine, don’t worry. You’ll be hired for your strengths, and it’s very likely that your life circumstances will be accommodated.
Work, life, community – it’s possible to strike the right balance here.
It’s only human to want a reasonable work life balance – the team here understands this.