Evolving HR into a People & Development Team



Our People

In our latest blog, Helen Johnson, Director of People & Development at Mobile Mini, explains how a reorganisation and broadening of Human Resources, including a rebrand, has improved visibility, engagement and communication at all levels within the business.

Over to Helen…

After I graduated from Teesside University in 2009, I took up a couple of short-term roles before joining Mobile Mini, initially as maternity cover. I had already experienced working with multi-national companies like Caterpillar, so I was able to hit the ground running and was delighted when the opportunity arose for me to take up a full-time position as an HR Assistant. We were a team of three back then, which has doubled some 11 years later. During that time, Mobile Mini has supported me in completing my CIPD Qualifications. I have progressed internally to HR Officer, HR Advisor, Senior HR Advisor and HR Manager before my most recent promotion to Director of People & Development.

There has always been a structured and natural progression to my career at Mobile Mini, bolstered by exposure to essential projects like implementing succession plans into the business and integrating SAP into our systems. This project required my secondment but gave me fantastic experience and exposure that furthered my ability to lead people.

My biggest highlight to date was when the HR team won a silver award for the ‘HR team of the year’ at the International Brilliance Awards in London last year. Following the last couple of uncertain years due to the pandemic, the team truly deserved recognition for their hard work and commitment.

I am proud to work for a company that has supported and helped develop my professional career. My recent promotion includes being part of the leadership team, meaning  I can now use my experience and passion to help drive and influence a people-first culture within the company.

Following the pandemic and recent company structure changes, we realised expectations and behaviours had changed. That was one of the driving forces behind restructuring the HR team to reflect modern needs better and realign services and solutions for the best possible outcomes.

More than a name change…

Remaining modern and up to date with communications and perceptions is key for any large employer, and whilst adjusting to the names of solutions or services should never simply be lip service, a subtle change to how something is referenced can significantly improve employees’ willingness to engage. Traditional HR departments have focused on ensuring compliance and decreasing risk to the business, and it has wrongly been portrayed as the team that only ‘deals with problems’.

People & Development best explains what a successful people-focused service aspires to do and who it is designed for. Our team is designed to maximise the value of people and drive business results. We now focus more on being a proactive service rather than a reactive team, with efforts on supporting everybody, whether they have an issue that needs addressing immediately or if there is something that can be done to help make the good even better. We aim to instil that proactivity amongst our people and encourage training and development to be viewed as part of beneficial self-progression rather than a mandatory requirement.

Mobile Mini is at an exciting point in its company history, where change and evolution are standard, building from a position of strength. Change can bring uncertainty, but our structure is well placed to support and foster these needs. Our team was one of the first to adopt a North and South set-up, which most areas have adopted within the business now. Consolidating regions in this way, with specific leaders and points of contact on both sides, has turned an overarching function into more targeted support, reducing overall capacity and allowing for closer relationships, higher visibility and better involvement on-site. Having one centralised solution makes it more challenging to provide a personal service and means less time can be shared amongst branches, resulting in attendance at branches being seen as something out of the ordinary or something to worry about.

By increasing attendance and involvement, the People & Development team is seen more for what they are, an extension of the wider business who are present and able to assist managers. The team are best positioned to have strategic and collaborative discussions with other groups and can help shape future careers for our people, all whilst adding value to the business. Since the team evolved, we have significantly increased site visits and contact, with around 17 individual visits taking place in a given month.

What the future holds… 

We are delighted to have received positive feedback and engagement from employees in all different roles across the business since we changed the focus and the name of the team. We have been told that our presence is highly appreciated and that speaking face to face has encouraged conversations compared to previously calling an unknown colleague at a support centre, potentially miles away.

We ensure that all new recruits are aware of and engage with us from their first day. This helps new and existing employees recognise that we are an educational resource and that our support ranges from offering well-being mechanisms to developing understanding and refreshing skills and knowledge. We are consistently looking at ways to improve, just like Mobile Mini as a business, including reviewing people-related processes and highlighting the benefits of our platforms.

We never lose sight of our fundamental Golden Rules, notably that ‘people are our most valuable asset’. This mantra is directly linked to our principles but has broader implications beyond what is typically considered part of a typical human resources department’s remit. The new structure of our People & Development team makes adhering to these core values more achievable than ever, helping us to focus on attracting the best talent, rewarding our people in meaningful ways and creating an inclusive environment to learn and work.

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