Attracting, Selecting and Retaining the Best Talent

I spoke to Ben Saunders (Head of HR and Learned Society at IMarEST) last week ahead of today’s event ( and he’s up first in the post-lunch slot to talk about his work.

As a member-funded group, people are at the heart of what they do.  They’re a complex organisation with representatives worldwide, which began with their first team member abroad in 2006, but they have only 50 employed staff, considering themselves as the CIPD of the marine world.  Also, like the CIPD, in 2012 they appointed David Lucy as CEO – someone with a commercial rather than marine background.

The organisation faces a challenge of keeping their members engaged, and staying relevant to their needs. One of the key things they heard from members was that the organisation needed greater presence in the locations where the members were working – primarily in Singapore – which has led to a stronger office over there.

Despite the long history of the organisation, the ‘proper’ HR function was only established in 2013.  Personnel was in existence before that – but just as an administrative function with much more to do than just HR.  6 months to get a contract on joining was quite normal, and the first pregnant person was asked to write the maternity policy!  Sometimes evolution to having an HR function is accidental rather than planned.

When Ben took over as Head of HR he recognised the need to align process and procedure to the organisation.  One of the first was to look at appraisal process – which they’ve maintained as not linked to pay – there’s a theme emerging here in the organisations speaking today!

They needed to work on helping line managers realise the value of having HR involved early in conversations about new contracts being won.  A common story – and a great win if HR can be in there from the start to help plan for who’s needed, where, with what skills.

And they’ve moved to a place where they get clear on what they’re recruiting for, and therefore who they need, rather than bringing good people in – even though they couldn’t necessarily do what the org needed at that time.  They’ve now taken that a step further where, for each hire, they consider whether that post is best placed in Singapore or London.  This has become a key part of their attraction process, along with the benefits on offer.  Plus they’ve identified roles that can be good entry points to the organisation which, if everything aligns at the right time, can lead to other positions and careers.

When selecting people they often go for temp to perm options and, along with an application and interview process, there’s a meeting with a senior manger, CEO or member of board of trustees to get buy-in early for that person joining the business.

For retention, they identify opportunities for people to develop, sometimes using secondments and acting up positions.  They fund relevant training and professional membership subscriptions.  And they encourage staff to become mentors to get a different perspective.

But a core part of the institute and maintaining its credibility is their network of associate experts who can be brought in for specific projects when needed.

So the institute has gone through significant change from when it was first implemented, and a lot has been done to bring a greater focus to people and development.

Q from the audience about the appraisal process – IMarEST have introduced an appraisal that recognises what’s gone well, what are you proud of from the past year, and what are you looking for from future development.  It’s then used to identify opportunities to develop and progress career.







Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s