Cake & Chat with Karen Moran

Our spotlight feature, Cake & Chat, welcomes Karen Moran, Director at Disruptive HR. With over 20 years of diverse HR expertise Karen has extensive hands-on experience of leading and implementing fresh thinking HR initiatives.

Thanks for taking the time to chat with us Karen, we are really excited to get to know you a little better over cake.

Tell us about yourself…

I’ve been in HR for over 20 years and I’m a Director of Disruptive HR – an agency we started 8 years ago with a mission to change outdated HR and people leadership practices for good! I’m married to Matt, and we have two awesome ‘grown-ups’ Lewis and Scarlett. I find joy in the simple pleasures of life. I love pottering about at home, keeping fit, spending time with my family and friends and exploring new places – European city breaks are my favourite.

Tell us about how you got into HR? What was the driving force?

I had no idea what I wanted to do and stumbled into HR through a temp job and never looked back.  I can’t think of anything more satisfying than enabling people to do their best work.

What’s your career highlight?

The career highlight that stands out is setting up Disruptive HR with my former boss and best friend Lucy. Starting a business was always something I hoped to do but it wasn’t a risk I felt I could take when I had young kids and a big mortgage. I feel out of my comfort zone daily, but it’s also incredibly exciting watching our business grow.    

What are your top three tips for a successful HR leader?

Empower your team, always challenge the status quo and be a decent person.

What’s the best advice you can give for keeping on top of the ever-changing world of HR?

Always ‘look up and out’ for inspiration, be open to change and listen to your employees so you can understand their real needs and wants.

Where do you go to keep on top of the changes happening in HR?

I read and listen to a lot of podcasts about anything and everything and at Disruptive HR we make it our business to always look at what progressive and successful organisations are doing differently.  We also look to other disciplines like marketing as so many of the trends there can be applied to HR.

What do you feel are the benefits of being part of a membership or community with other HR professionals?

By connecting with peers in the HR community, we open ourselves up to valuable opportunities to gain fresh perspectives, share our successes and challenges and recognise that we are not alone!

What do you do to keep your mental wellbeing in check?

Having control over my diary is a big deal for me. Knowing I can balance errands, family, friends, and fitness alongside work keeps my my mental well-being in check.

What’s your favourite life or work related quote that inspires you or keeps you pushing on?

“Show me your friends and I’ll show you your future” I think this is true in life and also at work. I’m very lucky to have good people in all areas of my life.

Lastly…what’s your favourite cake?

Lemon drizzle  – always!

A big thank you to Karen for the great chat.

Join us for an evening of discussion on HR in a Disruptive world with Karen Moran on 20th June, 6:30pm-9pm at David Attenborough Building in Central Cambridge. Tickets can be reserved here. 

If you would like to learn more about Cake & HR and the community membership opportunities we offer for HR professionals working in an SME environment, please reach out to [email protected].

Employee Engagement Surveys – how to action feedback?

Employee Engagement Surveys (EES) are one of the best ways to understand your employees motivation and engagement in the workplace. Gauging wellbeing and happiness in their environment means they are more likely to perform their best and achieve desired results. They also give you the data to respond to issues that the business may not be aware of. 

Regular surveys give an ‘over time’ insight into the effectiveness of key metrics put in place to resolve any problem areas. Not only are all these crucial points covered by an EES, but it also sends the message to employees that their wellbeing is of high importance. 

So, what are the right questions to ask to get to the bottom of any pain points? And how do you action the feedback? We have collated some tips below:

    1. The objective of the questions put to employees, is to understand if they are energised and engaged to put their best into their work. Questions can be split into individual satisfaction, alignment and future view themes. Example questions below:
      • Satisfaction questions: Do you believe the organisation has your best interests in mind when making business decisions?
      • Do you feel excited about coming in to work?
      • Do you enjoy working with your team?
      • Would you recommend working for [business] to your friends?
      • Alignment questions: Do the businesses visions and values inspire you?
      • Do you believe you receive regular adequate communication with all employees?
      • Do you feel your manager / leadership team are invested in your success?
      • Does you receive appropriate recognition for your work?
      • Does the company culture offer a comfortable and supportive work environment?
      • Future view: Do you see a path for career progression?
      • Do you feel supported by your manager in your career aspirations?
      • Do you know how you fit into the organisations future plans?
    1.  Open ended questions also make up an important part of an EES. Being direct about possible pain points and asking for open feedback allows the business to ensure that they are aware of any key focus areas:
      •  What do we do well?
      • What could we improve on?
      • What do you enjoy most / least about your role?
      • Is there anything preventing you from doing your job well?
      • What changes have you seen since the last survey? (if applicable)
    2.  Work-Life balance is an important consideration in our fast paced world, featuring some questions on this will show employees that you consider this as an important factor in their wellbeing:
      • Do you get enough time to do your job well?
      • Do you find yourself working at evenings or weekends?
      • Are you often stressed with deadlines or workload?
    3.  Collating and actioning the feedback is possibly the most important part of the EES. Employees will only feel connected to the feedback process if they are going to see action or acknowledgement of their views. Some of the best ways of taking action are:
      • Create a transparancy report – showing the findings of the survey for the company to review will show that the feedback has been extensively reviewed and is being taken seriously
      • Employee led reviews – Ask all managers to review their anonymous feedback with their teams and hold a company wide meeting or call to cover off any key themes
      • Maintain communication – Regular comms on changes that have been actioned
      • Collaboration methods and continuous improvement – ensure leadership teams are promoting continuous workplace improvement and excellence with employee feedback in mind. Or look at creating employee led learning programmes. Encouraging collaboration and inspiration can be a great step to actioning feedback. 

The process of Employee Engagement is a continuous one that should evolve and grow with the company. Taking it seriously could have a great impact on employee performance, retention and ultimately results for your business. 

We hope you found this short guide useful. To learn more about our HR membership and how we can guide HR professionals with a safe and consistent network to learn and share these kinds of insights, please email [email protected]

Cake & Chat with Katie Allen

Our spotlight feature, Cake & Chat, welcomes our existing Cake & HR Member Katie Allen. Katie is a Specialist DEI Leadership coach, TEDx speaker, Workplace Culture Consultant and overall HR powerhouse. We really enjoyed getting to know Katie a little better over Cake…

Tell us a little about yourself.

Hello! I’m Katie Allen and I’m the Founding Director of Katie Allen Consulting. I’m a specialist Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) consultant and coach, and my business supports small to medium sized companies who want to take their cultures of inclusion to the next level. I also work with teams and individuals who want to get to grips with the basics of DEI and become confident talking about some of the more challenging topics in this space. I’m also pretty well known for having 4 cats (2 of which are hairless), who regularly try to make cameo appearances in my online meetings!

Tell us about how you got into HR?

As with a lot of HR professionals, I never actually set out to get into this industry. As a natural entrepreneur, my background has been in commercial management and leadership, but I pivoted into HR due to my desire to want to be more focused on the people side of business leadership. This seemed to naturally lead me into becoming more of a specialist in DEI over the years, and in 2020 I set up my own company to focus exclusively on that.

What’s your career highlight?

Delivering my first TEDx talk in September 2022. This was such a huge moment for me as a developing public speaker, and definitely a ‘bucket list’ item. It was a real privilege to be able to craft my speech on my specialist topic of allyship, and deliver it on one of the most well-known stages in the world. It was so much fun I’m already writing my next one.

What are your top three tips for leading a HR team?

1. Listen more. It wasn’t until I qualified as a coach that I realised the true power of listening (and I mean the active kind, not just listening for my turn to speak next!). I now make so much more effort to listen more than I speak, and it helps me to better to connect with and understand my clients and team members.

2. Don’t feel like you have to know or do everything yourself. In the same way I listen better now, I also feel much less like I always need to have the answer or be able to do everything myself. Delegation and being vulnerable enough to share what I don’t know has been a superpower when it comes to creating the best solutions and getting things done. HR is hard enough without also trying to be all things to all people.

3. Trust yourself. You’re brilliant at what you do, even when you might not feel it, and even when things don’t go to plan. You are good enough.

What’s the best advice you can give for keeping on top of the ever changing world of HR?

Stay curious and be challenging. Be open to new ideas and perspectives and don’t be afraid to experiment. We can often get really bogged down in traditional approaches and so called “best practice” and forget to question if there’s a better or easier way. People are the heart of every business, and HR are the people people. We’re leaders too and we are just as innovative and creative as other functions, and arguably our work has potentially the biggest impact. We need to be asking the tough questions of our businesses just as much as our businesses asks them of us.

What do you do to keep your mental wellbeing in check?

As with many other people in HR, I’m not always the best at putting my own needs first. I’m hugely fortunate to be my own boss, so I do try to make sure I schedule in regular “consolidation time” for me gather my thoughts and offload tasks that don’t need to be done by me. I’m also very strict about not work during holidays (this means not checking emails too!). That time is for my family and myself, and I commit to being as present as possible.

How long have you been a member of Cake & HR?

I joined Cake & HR in early 2019 as I was looking to build my network locally with other HR professionals.

What do you find most valuable about being a member of Cake & HR?

The mix of people that you get to meet is invaluable! The wealth of knowledge, expertise, and experience is truly brilliant, and you can always find someone who is either experiencing the same challenge or has already been through it and has wisdom to share.  Plus we have a real laugh which makes it super welcoming, even when you’ve had a rubbish day or feel a bit flat.

What’s your favourite life or work related quote that inspires you or keeps you pushing on?

“Everything is figure-out-able” from the book of the same name by Marie Forleo. And this has become my rock-solid go-to mantra. Because it really is. Everything is figure-out-able!

Finally…what’s your favourite cake?

Does anyone really only have one favourite cake…? I think at the moment I would choose a Battenburg cake, as you get a good mix of flavours and it’s super bright and cheery (but if I can have a side order of sticky toffee pudding I’ll take that too please!).

Thank you Katie! We loved chatting all things HR with you. If you’d like to feature in our Cake & Chat, email your interest to [email protected]

AI is talk of the town at the moment – how does it play a role in HR?

From Chat GPT to Feedback AI, there seems to be an artificial intelligence (AI) system developing for a multitude of purposes. The adoption of AI has occurred at a rapid pace, leaving humans playing catch up to efficiently integrate AI in a process-driven and cost-effective way. So, how does AI play a role in HR?

The late Stephen Hawking wrote: “The real risk with AI isn’t malice but competence.” He urged business leaders to pursue AI with purpose and prudence but to embrace the coming changes.

We’re entering an age where AI is becoming a serious proposition at an executive leadership level, preparing us for a future where humans and machines can work together, cooperatively, and harmoniously. It is too early to know the precise impact AI leadership will have on organisations.

Examples of AI include activities like a search engine tailoring search results based on our past searches. A GPS navigation system can incorporate live traffic updates to avoid suggesting busy routes. By capturing and analysing data, a learning experience platform can recommend courses based on an individual’s learning interests and what other people with similar interests have done. Some spreadsheet software can analyse a data table in just a few clicks and you can let it know which automatically generated charts were useful for your report. Meanwhile, some modern HRIS can proactively highlight key insights from your people data, going beyond the key performance indicators on your people analytics dashboard. All these are examples of specific cognitive tasks that have been automated – examples of AI in action.

Where AI impacts people and particularly when it comes to the sphere of people management, it’s important to consider what uses are acceptable, and how to increase awareness of AI’s potential use and safeguard against misuse.

A survey carried out by CIPD in partnership with HiBob found that bosses were uncomfortable with letting AI do tasks that might disadvantage people’s job prospects and risk the organisation’s reputation. The greater the negative impact, the more uncomfortable bosses were with delegating the task to AI. Indeed, where automated decisions have significant effects on individuals, the UK General Data Protection Regulation limits its use to certain scenarios and allows affected individuals to challenge those decisions. So, bosses’ discomfort about certain AI uses could also stem from concern around regulatory compliance.

Among the examples of people management activities, dismissing underperforming employees was most cited as something bosses were uncomfortable with letting AI do, whether the performance criteria were clear (net 87.1%) or not (net 84.1%). In fact, most said they were extremely uncomfortable with letting AI do this.

And what about letting AI identify underperforming employees? Bosses’ opinions were split where performance criteria were clear, with just over half saying they were uncomfortable with letting AI identify underperformers (net 54.1%). Where performance criteria were unclear, more bosses were uncomfortable with letting AI do this (net 77.3%). Undoubtedly, it’s unhelpful to give the task to AI if there aren’t clear criteria to let it to do so accurately.

What does this all mean? AI isn’t going to lead HR strategy or replace people any time soon. Businesses need human discernment and knowledge to manage teams in the best way possible. AI can however enhance the ability for HR professionals to lead with streamlined processes and intuitive data. AI is developing at a rapid pace, who knows where it will lead in the next five years but as Stephen Hawking said, we can adopt it with purpose to help shape ways of working going forward.

Sources: CIPD – Using AI Responsibly in People Management –

People Management – How AI will change Leadership –