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My experience of volunteers' week - #HRTogether

View profile for Julie Temple
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My experience of volunteers week - #HRTogether

On 1 June, around 5pm, I finished presenting an online event for the Essex and Ipswich branch of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development rounding up Covid-19 legal issues for HR professionals and managers. 

I checked my phone and accepted requests to ‘Link In’ and when I clicked back to my feed there was a picture of my face staring back at me. It wasn’t entirely surprising. I had been privileged and surprised to be asked by Alexandra Carr, Community Lead for CIPD, to give some details of the branch’s swift reaction to the Covid-19 pandemic, as she recognised we were one of the first to host a dedicated event online, as well as convert one of our face to face events into the online world. Her post celebrated the work of branch volunteers as part of CIPD’s #HRTogether campaign. 

I have been a volunteer and supporter of CIPD since around 2013, and have been a committee member of CIPD Essex and Ipswich branch for almost as long. I am currently co-chair with John Toplis and we are very well assisted by 7 colleagues; Brian England, Suzanne Bolwell-Davies, Jackie Clifford, Amanda Whiteford, Susan Wells, Jennifer Hircock and Ala Byrne. In addition, the branch has two sub-groups with their own committees who, in the past, have organised and run the events in their locality, with the branch hosting an annual event to close the academic year. That all changed, along with so many other things, towards the end of March. 

It seems like an age ago. 16 March the message was to avoid non-essential travel. Certain locations were ordered to close as soon as they reasonably could on 20 March and lockdown was announced on 23 March. 

The branch sprung into action. We put together an online legal update which I presented on 25 March. I, and the branch, presented further legal updates on 1 and 14 April and 1 June. 

Recognising our members needed more than just legal updates, the branch and group committee members hosted two ‘Air N Share’ events, which gave our members an opportunity to talk through their challenges and discuss experiences. The branch has also hosted a unique event, using forum theatre, to look at challenges around working from home. Most recently the branch has explored the use of artificial intelligence in HR and mental toughness, with others being planned. 

Birkett Long has a long history of supporting its local community and, in this instance, it has supported me in supporting a professional community, during what I am sure is the most difficult time to be in the profession. To say it is a time of swift change, uncertainty, pressure and anxiety is an understatement. 

I am so proud that, as at 9 June, the branch will have hosted 10 online events since lockdown and supported over 1600 members and HR Professionals from far and wide. Really not bad for a bunch of volunteers. 

My biggest thanks must, and does, go to all the volunteers that support the Essex and Ipswich branch and in particular those I share the table with. It really is such a privilege to work alongside, to support and have their support in such difficult times.