On 14 March 2015 the Business School celebrated 65 years of Human Resource and Personnel Management at Middlesex University with a reunion for former students and staff. To mark this historic event, we are catching up with alumni from these programmes to ask them about how their time studying at Middlesex has shaped their career and what changes they have seen in HR since they graduated.
In our final feature celebrating 65 years of HR at Middlesex, we speak to Freelance HR Consultant Andy Hall. Looking back at his career of over 20 years in HR, we find out what motivated Andy to set up his own HR consultancy and how his time doing MA Human Resource Management enabled him to succeed.
Andy Hall – Owner and Freelance HR Consultant at Mattix HR
With a portfolio that includes work as HR Project Manager at Euro 96, HR Manager at the Football Association (FA) and Head of HR at The Really Useful Group Ltd, Andy Hall has established himself as a successful HR practitioner in the entertainment industry.
Immediately after leaving Middlesex, Andy went to work as the first ever HR Manager at the FA where he found himself working in a busy company, surrounded by professionals focussed on marketing, merchandise and, of course, the core functions of governing football and managing England's football teams. As a result, Andy discovered that straight out of university he was almost solely responsible for co-ordinating the FA's HR processes.
Each of Andy's roles thereafter were as a consequence of being in such a high profile role at the FA. Finding himself in similar positions, with little other HR resource to work with, Andy became used to operating almost as an internal HR consultant, facilitating an enhanced approach to HR handling in every level.
In 2010 Andy made the decision to leave Andrew Lloyd Webber's Really Useful Group and move into freelance work, setting up his own consultancy, Mattix HR. He has since worked with clients including BAFTA and Jersey Boys UK, among many other names in the entertainment industry.
Speaking about what skills are essential for working in HR, Andy told Middlesex: "Forming great relationships with the management team is key to what I do, as well as making sure you're always being positive and not threatening or creating barriers to business success."
Andy also revealed that good people skills and a level of understanding will make any HR job far more rewarding.
"I empathise with people so I find it easy to engage with them and understand where people are coming from. I've also always been interested in people's motives and how conflicts develop, and I enjoy facilitating situations where these are resolved."
Changes in HR
In looking back over his career in HR, Andy is conscious of the effects of the huge professionalisation that has taken place over the past 20 years. Not only has there been a big shift from administrative and transactional working to more tactical, strategic thinking, but the number of people pursuing a career in HR has risen hugely, as have their expectations.
"There is more expectation now than there has ever been that people's working ambitions will be fulfilled," Andy says. "In the 80s people thought it was great to have a job, and the average person might spend ten or 20 years in the same company. Nowadays there are far more people with freelancing and portfolio careers in HR.
"You also see much more flexible working, as well as more women in the workplace generally, and many more at senior level."
Andy also noted the effect that the introduction of technology, and the ability to constantly communicate, has had on the workplace in general. Emails and instant messages sent directly to our laptops and mobiles often mean that nowadays, and especially at senior levels, you're never really away from work.
"It's impossible to conceive of, if you're under 40 years old, what the lack of technology was like. I was lucky that I worked with an Anderson Consulting team in my early career, and they made me an early adapter, which enormously helped by accelerating my skills at exactly the right moment."
Re-energising a career in HR
Andy's choice to come to Middlesex was made early on in his career when Thames Water, the company he then worked for, decided to downsize, making Andy and his team redundant. Feeling under skilled and dispirited Andy decided it was time to take on further education, and applied directly for a master's at Middlesex.
"The MA I did at Middlesex really re-energised me and brought me up to date, giving me a wider and more analytical perspective on the profession that I was already in. It was like taking a step back and really looking at HR," Andy says.
Andy enjoyed the new challenges that his masters presented him with, and fresh perspectives from both students and lecturers helped him feel invigorated.
"David Lewis' classes were really full on." Andy told Middlesex, "There was no hiding place, and it really made you think. You need to be really comfortable with employment law and almost need to be able to think like a lawyer. David's lectures really helped with that.
"Sue Glycopantis, my Labour Economics lecturer, gave the single most challenging and interesting, yet highly technical and intellectual lectures of my entire master's course." It was great to meet up with Sue again, and finally take the opportunity to thank her, at the recent HR reunion evening.
Reminiscing about his time at Middlesex, and the opportunities that opened up from one another afterwards, Andy told us: "My time at Middlesex was nothing other than pivotal in my career – I'll always be grateful for that."