Sheila Jones was one of the founders of the HR Network. We find out a bit more about the Network, it's history and it's work.

Tell us a little about yourself.

I worked with the Evangelical Alliance as associate director (head of HR) for around 15 years and started the HR department from scratch. I mentored and coached three HR officers during that time and together we took responsibility for all the recruitment, selection, training and development across the organisation. I felt really motivated to ensure that we became an excellent organisation in our HR practice and culture so that be a model for member organisations. Also my own personal motivation was infused by Colossians 3:23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.” 

During my time at the Evangelical Alliance we were the first charity in south London to achieve the Investors in People Award. We also set up a Staff Association, embraced flexitime, instituted staff information meetings and staff retreat away days among other things.

I now run my own HR and coaching consultancy to the Christian charity sector.

I am married to Paul, have four daughters and three grandchildren. I trained as a spiritual accompanier in 2007 and love to walk with people on their journey of faith. In my spare time I love to create so sewing, making quilts, crocheting, knitting, and mixed media art are all happy pastimes.

Why did you start the HR Network?

Newly into the role of HR, having transferred from another role in the Evangelical Alliance, I met Sue Jutsum (head of HR at Youth for Christ) and we decided to swap some policies and procedures we were working on. We were committed to doing an excellent job in our two organisations and wanted to see the sector improve its people management practices. We recognised that if sharing helped us and then it probably would help a lot of other people. And the rest is history as we say! Sue and I talked about running a conference at the Evangelical Alliance and inviting those in HR positions in member organisations. We made it happen in the late 1990s and have continued to run annual conferences ever since.

Unfortunately, Sue passed away in 2012 after a battle with cancer.

What does the Network do?

Soon after that first conference Sue and I set out some terms of reference’ for the Network and these are still true today:

At the Evangelical Alliance, we want to equip Christians to serve God excellently — including in our HR practice. The HR Network exists to bring together those responsible for HR or Personnel in Christian organisations and others in the field to maximise effectiveness and minimise duplication.

The network seeks to provide opportunities for:

  • Sharing expertise
  • Support and encouragement 
  • Learning from one another

There are more than 500 members of the HR Network.

We now normally run three conferences a year – in March, July and October. Our July conference is a regular feature on essential employment law, drawing in those new to a role in HR or those needing a refresher on the basics. Once every 18 months or 2 years we meet at the offices of Anthony Collins Solicitors in Birmingham, where we have an employment law update and workshops on topical legal matters of the moment. Other conference subjects are drawn from members’ suggestions.

We also have an HR forum on LinkedIn where we can post questions and receive answers from those in the group and I send a quarterly newsletter to the Network providing information on the up and coming conferences and other information and links that maybe useful.

The feedback I receive from people consistently says they appreciate the opportunity to get together with others at the conferences and clearly the networking is just as valuable as the information from the front.

"“Thank you for all the hard work that went in to making this event a success. It was my first experience of EA HR network, and it was great to meet other HR professionals who are not just "doing a job" but seeking to serve the Lord within it.""

People have formed relationships with others in similar roles to themselves and connect regularly outside of the events.

In the early years the Network spawned another successful group – Christian Distinctives – looking at how we can be increasingly distinctive in our churches and organisations in how we work together. This group (of which I have been a part) was very involved in advising organisations on ethos and occupational requirements when the original religion and belief legislation came into being in 2003. It continues to work with Christian organisations and churches using a tool created by the group called Aspire.

Also in the past, we have run overnight conferences where we had more time to engage with one another and also introduced the idea of Action Sets.

How can people(members) get involved in the Network?

It’s easy! Membership is free and all you need to do is to go to this link and you will find a page to sign up.

How can Christians be praying for people involved in HR?

I think, as in any profession, we need God’s grace and wisdom in all that we do. For those in HR often straddling between leadership and the rest of the staff team, we need to be able to model those attributes to others. We need resilience, great self-awareness, diplomacy and to be deeply patient and wise in our counsel.

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