A talent executive tells his tale of the rewards that come with CR initiatives.
By Debbie Bolla
Passion is a driving force behind David Heath’s professional and personal life. It’s one of the main reasons he joined Alexander Mann Solutions (AMS) five years ago. The director of international business and people capital says he wanted to wake up in the morning and actually look forward to going to work.
“I’m very passionate about what I do. I don’t think there is any point to coming to work unless you enjoy what you are doing,” he says. “I wanted to work in a company that offered the ability to influence the future.”
It was the values of AMS that first attracted the HR executive, who has a long track record in the industry. Heath left a position after 10 years to join the growing U.K.-based recruitment process outsourcing organization. He credits CEO Rosaleen Blair with articulating the company’s value proposition.
“Rosaleen set up a vision for the company, and I bought into that vision,” he recalls. “Everyone I met were people that have a shared set of values. Values are very important to me, I live my life by clear values, and I would not work for a company that didn’t share those values.”
A hallmark of the company is its commitment to corporate responsibility (CR). Fittingly, one of its philanthropies of choice works in the talent sector. Tomorrow’s People is a charitable organization committed to helping unemployed people land and keep sustainable jobs. From climbing mountains to interview training, AMS encourages employees to give back in ways that work for them.
Taking that to heart, Heath says he was inspired to take that zest for volunteering outside of work and combine it with a long-time hobby: cycling.
“My brother’s wife died a couple of years ago from cancer, and I wanted to do something outside of work for a major cancer charity,” he explains. “So it was obvious to me to do something with cycling to raise money.”
For Heath, that meant go big, or go home. He chose the Skyride London to Paris Challenge, a charity bike race spanning four days and nearly 500 kilometres. His charity of choice was CLIC Sargent, a U.K.-based cancer charity that provides clinical, financial, and emotional support to children and their families.
Heath would be the first to say that he is no Lance Armstrong. “For me, this was about challenging myself at a point in my life where I think I had become a little bit lazy and I wasn’t doing much exercise,” he says. “But I would like to say whatever I do, I do to my best ability and throw myself in. There was no way I was going to fail or not complete it. I was so passionate about doing it and completing it. It was very, very tough and right at the edge of my capability.”
Heath says that the amount of riding per day that he was required to train was a huge jump from what he was used to. “I couldn’t ride five miles without feeling absolutely shattered when I started,” he says. He trained gradually, building up from five to 10 to 20 to 50 miles per day to be prepared for the 100-mile per day journey. To get in shape for this event required five months of training. So he turned to his colleagues for their support and even persuaded a fellow cycling enthusiast to join—a much younger and fitter gentleman, Heath points out.
The four-day trek was exactly that: a trek through the hilly countrysides of England and France. And the weather was no friend, lending its share of wind and rain on the nearly 130 bikers. But the elements made the ride to the finish at the Eiffel Tower even more rewarding.
“At the end of the ride, people were clapping for us, and there was a lot of emotion,” Heath says. “For me and my colleague, in typical British fashion, we shook hands and went for a drink.”
Proud of his accomplishment—finishing the race and raising $4000£— Heath was encouraged to do another race, next time in South Africa. Heath points to AMS as a guiding factor behind his decision to take it on.
“From day one, I knew that AMS would support me. It’s just that type of company,” he says. “As a company, we encourage individuals to give back, and we try to make it the backbone of our ethos.”
Support was shown in numerous ways, including financial donations, training tips, and most importantly time to train. “AMS is not about specific hours like 9 to 5, but is more focussed about getting the job done. I could manage my diary around training.”
An organization like AMS assumes that allowing its employees to “do good” does “well” for the company. In an uncertain economic environment, it’s becoming more and more common for top talent to seek companies that fulfill more than just career goals.