horwich farrelly

Horwich Farrelly at 50: Natalie Arajs shares her #HFhighlight

February, 13, 2019

This week, in the latest of our series celebrating the achievements of our people in our golden jubilee year, HR Business Partner, Natalie Arajs, shares her #HFhighlight.

HR Business Partner, Natalie Arajs

When did you start working at Horwich Farrelly?
October 2015.

Before joining the firm what was your most unusual job?
I worked at the Ann Summers store in Liverpool when I was at university. During my time there I encountered a lot of awkward customers – men, women, young and old!

What does a typical day look like for you at Horwich Farrelly?
It’s hard to say what a typical day looks like in my role. I provide a lot of support to team leaders and managers, so I could be assisting them with engagement plans, reviewing absence levels or succession planning for their department. Or it could be getting involved in project meetings with other departments to progress new initiatives.

How has your career progressed since joining the firm?
It’s my first HR Business Partner position in a law firm, having come from a HR Advisor role. I’ve learnt a lot in the last three years, from initially learning how a law firm operates, having line management responsibility and working on change management projects.

What has been the biggest highlight of your time at Horwich Farrelly?
In 2017 the firm won the HR in Law Award for Excellence in Talent Management, which were hosted by comedian Katherine Ryan.

We entered the awards – for the first time – as we felt the approach we had taken to replace one-off appraisals with a framework for more regular, informal meetings between an employee and their line manager was something quite innovative.

Left: on stage accepting the award for Excellence in Talent Management. Right: Natalie Arajs with Liz Partington, Director of People

The previous process was quite rigid and admin-heavy, and a number of employees told us that they felt their annual appraisal was more of a tick-box exercise than a meaningful opportunity to motivate and engage our workforce. This was borne out by figures showing a little over half of our people had an appraisal in 2015.

Having been tasked with researching HR best practice, reviewing what other firms were doing in this area, and canvassing opinion from partners and colleagues across the business we developed a two-strand initiative called My Career Passport.

Essentially an employee meets their line manager on a quarterly basis for an informal ‘Check-in’ to discuss their performance, their wellbeing and any areas for improvement. This is supplemented with by an optional annual Career Development Meeting to look at longer-term career aspirations.

The approach promotes a culture of regular feedback and stronger relationships between employees and their managers. We know this as employee engagement in this area increased to 80% after introducing the new approach, something which clearly impressed the judges at the awards!

Can you tell us a bit about yourself and outside interests?  
I grew up in Leigh in Wigan, Greater Manchester, which cemented my love for a pie! My unusual surname comes from my grandad who was from Latvia (it’s pronounced the same as garage). I studied Law, Crime and Justice at Liverpool John Moores and ended up moving to Manchester in my mid-twenties.

I love going to music gigs – I’ll be heading to Castlefield Bowl in Manchester to see The National and Kylie in July which will be two very different evenings – spending time with friends and family and enjoying a tipple. The best times are when I get to combine the three, watch a gig with mates, with a beer!

I also like to travel and spend time outdoors, and I’m also keen to learn more about the environment and what we need to do to protect it for future generations. That’s one of the reasons I’ve been a Green Champion since the group was formed, and passionately support our pledge to eliminate single-use plastics by 2020.

What advice would you give to others starting out in their career with the firm?
It’s important that you enjoy what you do and build good relationships with the people you work with. If you’re unsure about something or have a suggestion for an improvement don’t be afraid to ask a question or let your management team know your idea!

To see #HFhighlights from other Horwich Farrelly colleagues please click here.

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