Magalie Cooper, Director of HR
Magalie Cooper has joined Trinity Hall as its new Director of Human Resources. Her previous roles have included the Bursar’s position at Westminster College. She lives near Cambridge with her family, having come to England after growing up in the idyllic surroundings of Île de Ré, La Rochelle, France.
What do you see as the main objective of your role as Director of Human Resources?
It’s really early days and my priority is to meet people, Staff, Fellows and Head of Departments. The answer really depends on where the organisation is but generally HR include five main objectives and I can see one already maybe taking the lead, with the importance of Onboarding new Staff members effectively. It is really important for a new employee to have a good idea of the College values and culture, and to understand the policies and procedures in their new organisation as this will reduce their anxiety and, for the employer, it is a key time to express our expectations for the role and job holder.
Then of course there is Recruitment: the right people for the right job! This includes talent management and learning and development for the current workforce. Can we recruit within? Are we a place of learning for all?
That leads to the next objective – Staff Retention: Trinity Hall has a good team with long-service members, we do this well at various levels and we want to continue this pattern as since the pandemic and Brexit we operate in a very competitive labour market, especially in hospitality and catering sector.
Additionally, health and safety in the workplace is crucial to retain staff, we want to provide a safe space not just safe as in “Here’s a risk assessment on those steps over there” but also considering physical and mental health. Wellbeing is key these days, we want a positive and healthy community and take a holistic approach.
Finally, many people refer to HR when there is an issue so we do to manage and administer effectively all Employees relations and cycles at Trinity Hall. It important that all relations are positive, and people thrive at work.
Which one of these is the most important is yet to be known!
Why did you choose to specialise in HR?
For most organisations the human capital is the largest expenditure so managing it makes sense, no? And, quite rightly, the last 10 years have seen Acts re-defining HR practices and priorities such as GDPR 2018 Act and the Equality 2010 Act, meaning we must take responsibility as the liability is greater these days. People are more aware of their rights thankfully, we have to be accountable and that feels right. That was something I took very seriously as Bursar at Westminster College. In my roles as a line manager from an early stage in my career, I wanted to learn about and implement correctly. When I do something, I want to know everything about it and I want to support the people who are trusting me to do it well. I’m a bit of a sponge when it comes to learning new things and I was lucky with the support of my then employer and most importantly, my husband, to have designated learning time to be able to just do that so I “overindulged” in my learning!
What’s the best thing about your career so far?
People! I’ve met so many people from various paths. I love meeting new people and working with people. I love to see them thrive and develop and to give people a chance, especially to the ones who might have been overlooked. Giving them the boost, they need to achieve is incredibly rewarding. In 2009, I went on a FISH! Training course and this changed my management style completely, it taught me 4 attitudes that have ever left me since, it taught me to – Be there, Play, Make their Day and Choose your attitude. It is rare when I don’t want to go work!
Tell us something about yourself that you’re proud of outside of work.
I am proud of my family and the life we have managed to build. Really proud of them. I was quite young when I came to England with £35 in my pocket and freshly graduated. I come from an idyllic place, but it was very seasonal, and I wanted more than the tourism industry could offer me there so I took the flight to the UK thinking I will be there for one year and this year, I will celebrate my 20th year in the UK. Now we are a family of five with my beloved Beagle, Monty.
Wellbeing has always been important but the pandemic has made it even more so – what do you do for your own wellbeing and do you have any helpful tips for everyone else?
Mindfulness is at the centre of my life. I discovered it in 2017. I do regular breathing exercises and meditate. I try to meditate three times a day for short periods. Regular exercises (including walking Monty) and a positive attitude are so important to me. Pets give a tactile relationship and unconditional love. Though they can cause worry: Monty went missing and became a minor celebrity in the village. I should add he was found, but I’m still asked 6 months later “How’s my dog?”
When I recognise something in my life, I feel very lucky about, I automatically develop gratitude for the things I have rather than always thriving for what I don’t have, and this was for me a big shift in my thinking process and attitude to life.
Also: remembering that we can only control what is around and depending on us. A trick I have when I struggle with time is mindful eating; I slow down and eat mindfully.
Finding a balance is important; especially with COVID. Anxiety has played a big part in this sorry episode of our history and in society, it has put people against one another as well as bringing us together. It will take time; we have to be gentle and kind with ourselves and each other.
What are your top tips for being both good at your job and enjoying it?
For me in this role it is to listen actively. I have got to do something about what I am hearing and understanding. Especially as I speak a lot! Also remembering that HR must remain neutral and objective. Finally, when working hard, recovery time is crucial and finding a way to let all the stresses out.