Get to know Donna Bonfield, HR consultant at Reality HR.

Can you tell us more about what you do?

I would describe myself as an HR generalist – so I cover the whole gamut of HR issues from underperforming employees and long-term sickness, through to organisation design and restructuring. It’s a very mixed bag and the variety is something I love!

I developed my skills predominantly working in-house in the finance sector and this knowledge has transferred extremely well into consultancy at Reality HR.

My clients range from the smallest with a headcount of 11 to large companies with more than 150 staff and turning over £48m a year. So, it’s fair to say that no two days are the same in my role!

One of my passions in HR, and something I help many of my clients with, is creating a collaborative work culture and becoming an employer of choice. In my opinion, these are two vital assets for any business in 2019.

Can you explain more about your specialism as an Insights Practitioner and how companies benefit?

I have always been heavily involved in psychometrics, but I took it to the next level two years ago when I qualified as an Insights Practitioner.

Insights is slightly different to other psychometrics in that it’s predominantly about communication. For instance, how are we different from the person who sits next to us in the office? Three people can look at an identical thing and each see something different. Ultimately every employees’ perception is different – and it’s crucial that people managers have a firm understanding of this. For instance, managers may say something to an employee and the staff member may have in fact heard something different. This happens so often in business!

I lead workshops for companies that help people understand how and why they make decisions and what their thought processes are. By understanding this, managers are able to recognise and dial in to where employees are different. The positive impact of this is improving relationships and understanding where there might be conflict. This kind of training is particularly important, for instance, in companies that are going through change as employees will often react differently to that change.

What is the biggest HR challenge currently facing companies?

It’s hard to pinpoint a single one, but there are certainly trends! For companies with lower skilled or semi-skilled employees, we continue to do a lot of consultancy around engagement and performance.

Brexit and uncertainty around recruitment for companies that rely heavily on European workers means there’s a big thing at the moment around stabilising workforces and engagement with staff.

Sickness continues to be a recurring HR issue – either genuine sickness or casual absence. We do a lot of work around employers being really forensic on return-to-work interviews, training and relationship building. This goes hand in hand with our focus on developing a wellness culture in the workplace that promotes the well-being of employees.

There’s also issues around recruitment and staff retention – and this is a difficult balancing act in today’s era where Millennials, Generation Z and “Baby Boomers” often value aspects of work life very differently.

What are the benefits of consultancy to businesses?

A consultant is able to have that objective, pragmatic view that an HR person working in isolation often does not have. The problem is that in HR there often isn’t a right or wrong answer – there’s a lot of grey areas!

If you just have one person in isolation, it’s quite lonely – you don’t have anyone to bounce ideas off. By employing a consultancy, you have a whole team.

Rarely in HR does one size fit all! So as consultants, we are able to share so many different perspectives to ensure the client gets the right solution. For instance, I have just had two issues land on my desk which are almost identical in very different clients – and the advice they are going to get is completely different.

Often clients will call me up just because they want a sounding board to get a pragmatic approach. Consultancy is really about looking at the problem holistically rather than just fixing.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

Talking to people – I’m naturally inquisitive! It’s that curiosity and getting to the root of the problem that I find really interesting. What we find with some SMEs in particular is time and management constraints means they can struggle to get to the root cause. For me it’s getting in there and finding a solution which I find hugely rewarding.

What made you choose HR as a career?

The letter R!  At 22, I wanted to do PR or HR – something to do with influencing.  An HR role came up within my employer where I started dealing with employee benefits and it grew from there.

When you’re not HR consulting, what do you like to do in your spare time?

I enjoy cooking for my family and like to bake cakes which I often bring into the office for people to try! I enjoy being mum to a teenage daughter – most of the time! I also try and get to the gym two or three times a week. Our flexible working arrangements certainly help with achieving a great work/life balance.