Emma Norris – Your contribution is valuable

Hi, I’m Emma, I live in Buckinghamshire with my Husband Alex and our fur baby, Peggy (our very own sassy diva of a retired greyhound). My story of how I got to where I am today is a bit different. 

I can still remember it like it was yesterday. I was sitting in my living room with my parents as a 17-year-old terrified to tell them that I didn’t want to go to university to study teaching, I knew it just wasn’t for me and didn’t feel ready for it. I had no reason to worry, as they told me that if I didn’t want to go then it was my choice, they would not be disappointed in me as they knew I would do great things no matter what. So, I left sixth form with my couple of A-Levels and went to college to study floristry! I loved it, I got a part time job in a flower shop whilst I was studying and then once I qualified, I became a fully-fledged florist. I was 19 and loved being creative with my designs, helping brides choose their flowers for their special day, supporting a grieving family in putting together a final bouquet for their loved one, or helping that last customer (sorry but it was usually a man!) on Valentine’s Day at 5pm panicking to buy his wife flowers because he had “forgotten” Valentines was today! I worked with some amazing ladies who really helped me find my way in the working world. 

Then in 2008 I was made redundant and whilst I was still very young, and loved being creative, I re-evaluated what I wanted to do in life, and a job as a receptionist at the local Premier Inn was advertised so I went for it, and was very shocked that I got the job! I worked with a really great team there, we worked hard but we certainly played hard too, making some fantastic memories! After 18 months I was then offered a job at a care home as a HR Administrator, and the journey started! I absolutely loved it, working with and getting to know people from many different cultures, learning about caring for those living with dementia as well as broadening my HR knowledge and skills. After nearly 10 years there I left to join B&M Care where I work today, and this is really where my career has kicked off.

I have worked in HR for a total of 14 years so far! And here I am today, still working within Social Care, having completed my CIPD Level 3 and Level 5, now the Head of Human Resources for an organisation with over 1500 employees working towards completing my CIPD Level 7 and I couldn’t be happier. I am so grateful to now be in a position where I can make a positive change to the care industry, by encouraging people to view this sector as a career path open to them and not “just a job” and to be part of a fantastic group who are trying to change the culture and reputation of social care especially for young people who may not see this as a rewarding or attractive career, when actually it is really quite the opposite; it is an industry which brings fulfilment, endless rewards and sky’s the limit with opportunities.  

A typical day in my career is varied to say the least! One moment I can be conducting an interview with a prospective candidate, then taking part in a senior management meeting followed by hearing a disciplinary case.

Working within social care, I am not always 100% office based, I am usually out and about within one of our 26 residential care homes meeting with staff, supporting Home Managers with employee queries and situations. I always encourage the Home Managers to speak to me and we talk through situations together to work out the appropriate outcome, and so a lot of my time during the day is spent on the phone. 

Anyone who knows me knows my own confidence and self-belief has always been my biggest barrier. This is something I am working on constantly, even doing this blog is putting myself way outside of my comfort zone! What I have come to realise is that I am the only person who can get me to where I want to be – through hard work, determination, tears, laughter and every emotion under the sun! No one else is going to do it for me, only me. 

I am very privileged within my role, as not only do I oversee the HR function within B&M Care, but I also lead on our employee wellbeing programme, something I am extremely passionate about. It is so easy for us to forget within the workplace that people have lives outside and that life is not always a calm one all of the time, and to then come to work and pretend all is OK in the world is not simple to do and certainly isn’t realistic. All jobs bring their own stress, but within the care sector, our staff are caring for and supporting people 24/7 and it is a very emotive profession. Part of the wellbeing support we offer at B&M Care, is to recognise that staff can’t always leave their problems at the door and provide different outlets and safe spaces for staff to simply talk to someone. Part of the wellbeing initiative we have introduced has been a wellbeing support line which staff can call completely anonymously, plus taking the ‘B&M Care Wellbeing Roadshow’ on tour which allows staff to talk to someone face to face, as well as access resources which can help them gain further support if needed. 

I was brought up by parents who instilled a very strong work ethic in me. I have always known that nothing in life is free and hard work is just that, hard! But I have always been shown what great things can come from the hard work you put in. 

I always laugh with people and tell them that I’m one of life’s true geeks, and I love working and learning. I’m not just saying that, I really do. I love having a purpose and feeling like I am part of something, and I can honestly say that is something I feel every day at B&M Care. Yes, naturally some days are harder than others, but all in all I get up each morning ready to face the world and see what this day has in store.

As someone who was an average student at best in school, to being doing the job I do now, to have completed my CIPD Level 3 & 5 and to be studying for my Level 7 Masters whilst working has to be considered one of my biggest achievements! Whilst I am a very modest person and don’t always like to shout out about what I have achieved, my qualifications are something I tend to be more vocal about simply because I never thought doing these would have been something possible for me! 

Mistakes happen! One thing I always do when carrying out wellbeing training is to ask the group by a show of hands who has never made a mistake in their life, and obviously no one can raise their hands. I have found that by trying to be 110% perfect, whilst admirable, is not possible, mistakes are going to happen, but what I learnt is how I take accountability for these and what I learn from them. 

Aside from my studies, I love spending time with my husband, and taking our dog out for walks in the fields near to where we live. I’m also an avid Watford FC fan, and depending on how well they are doing in that season, I enjoy going to watch live home games with my dad, brother & nephew. 

I believe that “Everything happens for a reason”, whilst this is a common one for a lot of people, for me this really helps me cope with situations when I may feel sad or disappointed, I look at the situation and tell myself there is a reason for this; and usually after some time a light bulb moment will happen and I will realise what that reason was. “Just keep smiling!” because sometimes that is all we can do! 

Three tips I would give to young females starting their careers would be:

  1. Never give up! Only you can forge your own path, so get out there and get going.
  2. Remember that regardless of the role you play, your contribution is still valuable! A clock can’t work even when the smallest mechanism breaks. 
  3. Enjoy every moment and make memories! 

A previous manager of mine told me that I must remember in order to get up the stairs you have to walk across the step to get up to the next one, and so sometimes you may feel that you are not progressing as fast as you would like or may feel you have stepped sideways, but if stair cases were a smooth incline up, there is only one very quick way back down. 

One woman who has impacted my life would be my best friend Holly! We have been friends since we were 11 years old, and she has been there for me through thick and thin. She has always been one of my biggest supporters of my career and is always ready to give me the kick I need when I start doubting myself. We have seen each other through a lot over the many, many years we have been friends and I can honestly say she has impacted my life in more ways than she will probably ever realise. 

You have earnt this so take it and run with it, never stop being proud of what you have achieved but always remember where you came from and how you got to this point, as there will be people now looking up to you as inspiration. To follow the 3 ‘Fs’ – be firm, as the team need a leader to take charge; be fair, as by showing favouritism you will not gain respect, and be friendly – if you’re not approachable your team will not work effectively and unnecessary mistakes can occur due to the team not feeling comfortable to ask for help.  

In 3 words, describe what feminism is to you?

Respect for all. 

If there is anything you could do differently – What would this be?

To never have doubted myself so much and to enjoy the journey I was on, as it really does go so quickly! Make as many memories as you can, and don’t let your fear of failure stop you from reaching your full potential.  

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