Behind the scenes in talent management and development: Anthony Haynes’s story

Fiona Wilson writes: Anthony Haynes has been a non-executive director of FJWilson from the outset. He also assists with communications, including the management of this blog. The interview below is the latest in our ‘behind the scenes’ series.

anthony_haynes bnu croppedHow did you come to work for FJWilson Talent Services?

I’ve known the Managing Director, Fiona Wilson, for many years. My first involvement with recruitment services, which was as a client, was through Fiona when she worked at Kelly Services.

At the time, I was Publisher Director at Continuum (now part of Bloomsbury).  Fiona helped me recruit editorial staff. Until that point, I’d always done my own recruitment: I hadn’t outsourced it.

That was a long time ago, but looking back I see that as the starting point for working together.

What skills and experience do you bring to the business that complement the rest of the team?

Paradoxically, perhaps the most important aspect is the skills and experience that I don’t have. Though I’ve now been involved on the talent acquisition business for several years, I don’t specialise in it. My career is more broadly based, straddling publishing, technical communication, and education.

Though this has obvious disadvantages — I don’t contribute at a detailed, operational level —  it also has advantages: as a director, I think my value stems largely from two sources: first, asking questions, challenging conventional wisdom; and, second, keeping an eye on general, rather than purely industry-specific, aspects of good practice.

The contribution I’m most proud of is helping the company to develop a focus on continuity management. We’ve devoted a lot more attention to this issue than is usual for a company of our size.

What do you mean there by ‘continuity management’?

In essence, I mean. first, thinking about what could go wrong and then taking measures to (where possible) prevent them and (where not) to mitigate their effects.

This involves things like contingency planning, financial planning, insurance, working out how to cover in the event of illness, and identifying external threats.

Though that sounds important, but in practice isn’t it also rather dull?

Actually, I find it the opposite. Contrary to expectation, I’ve found continuity management highly creative.

For example, working out how to cover for staff if they were off sick has led us to examine our processes more closely – we wanted to capture each key process in a protocol so that covering staff know how to do things, but this very process has led us to look at the processes themselves and make them more efficient.

Another example: seeking to identify threats has ensured that we keep looking at the outside world, scanning the horizon. (We’ve used the well-known PESTLE model for this: that is, looking for political, economic, social, technical, legal, and ethical and environmental risks.) This has alerted us to opportunities we might not otherwise have identified.

What do you really enjoy doing outside work?

Three things. I like writing – I’ve written several books, some of them about writing.

I enjoy cricket – watching county cricket and playing village cricket.

And I like relaxing at our beach hut on the east coast.

What’s your vision for this blog in the future?

At the outset, we focused the blog on general issues in talent acquisition and management.

We still do that to some extent. But increasingly we focus on those issues specifically through the prism of our target sectors – professional associations and training providers.

The blog’s designed to be outward-looking and collaborative – our favourite posts are guest post and interviews. We like the emphasis on people’s stories – so expect more of that.

What do you find most enjoyable about working for FJWilson?

There’s a commitment to thoroughness – there’s no-one with a “that’ll do” mentality, so things do actually get done properly – and there’s also a real humaneness – we’re mercifully free of meetings for meetings’ sake, bureaucratic processes, managerial jargon, and the jobsworth staff those things often seem to attract.

Much of what we do is based on empathy – I find it weird that other parts of the talent industry don’t pay more attention to that quality.

We’re people helping other people to recruit and develop people – that makes empathy the most important quality, doesn’t it?

 What do you think the future holds for our business?

In the short term, we’re well positioned to benefit from growth in the economy, especially in London. If the current recovery in business confidence continues and companies invest more of the cash that many of them have been stockpiling, that could be very exciting indeed.

Still, that’s a short- or medium-term phenomenon − and also rather beyond our control – so the real challenge is to build a business that prospers at any time, regardless of economic cycles. The fact that we started in, and managed to grow through, a recession augurs well.

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