HR and Training


Human Resources (HR) is a bit of a strange department. On the one hand, they’re supposed to look after the best interest of the working population, but on the other hand their allegiance lies with senior management. Another characteristic (and I don’t know whether this is typical of the British Steel set-up or not) is that there is a lot of people moving jobs, with very few old hands, and many new faces trying to learn on the job.

This can lead to some awkward, and fortunately the change of responsibility for retirees was not upset by just such a personnel change. It did, however, lead to two instances when I was sent on a training course, and things went wrong.

The second time was merely silly, in that I was sent to e-Academy in Cardiff Bay (actually housed in AS&W’s old conference centre) to attend an ASP.NET course, and as soon as I entered the room and had an initial chat with the lecturer it became clear that the course was an advanced ASP course. Not only was this not the course that I had selected, but to make matters worse, I had already attended this course on a previous occasion.

Fortunately I managed to get hold of my boss, who had wanted to attend just such a course, and since the distance between Port Talbot and Cardiff is easily done in an hour, he took my place, and no major damage was done. Far worse with far more loss of face was the first time things went wrong, when I attended a Matlab taster course in Cambridge.

I had been given all the instructions of where to stay (a Travelodge on the A14 north of Cambridge) and how to join the course which was in a business park on the outskirts of Cambridge. So when I turned up at the course, I was the second one there, which was fine, since two attendees were expected. We were in the preliminaries of the course proceedings when a third person turned up.

This caused some consternation, and after some discussion and comparing of records, it turned out that there was no Corus name on the list of attendees. I was allowed to stay, on the proviso that should be sorted during the lunch break. When I rang my boss in Llanwern, it became clear after a while that HR had made a boo-boo: they had booked the hotel, bot for some reason or another had not actually paid for my attendance on the course!

In the end everything was sorted out to everyone’s satisfaction, but I must admit to feeling some deep shame that the company I was working for could make such an excruciatingly embarrassing mistake. It makes you wonder what other, more costly mistakes were made in the British Steel / Corus / Tata Steel days, and whether we ever learned from them.

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