My top tips: Anne Patterson, head of HR, Phoenix Futures

Keep talking, no matter how difficult or entrenched the situation is.

In HR it does get very difficult, and it can be so easy to retreat. I've had difficult employee relation problems in the past, and it was through talking that they were resolved.

Make sure people don't leave under a cloud It's important that, no matter what their reasons for leaving, employees are still able to recognise their contribution and value what the organisation does. Even if things don't work out, it doesn't help anyone if people leave feeling that their whole experience is negative.

Learn from outside experience HR is a second career for me. I originally trained as a probation officer and spent 14 years working with offenders, which was immensely challenging and taught me a huge amount. Having now moved to an organisation that supports people dependent on drugs and alcohol, I feel I have a real appreciation of the difficult work our front-line staff undertake. This has helped hugely in all areas - not just in recruitment, but also in understanding the support and development needs of the staff.

Take control For me it's been very much about making my own career. I believe I can control its direction, but you have to sit down and spend time planning it. I always wanted to work in the charity sector, and it's great to work alongside people who are really committed to what we do and do want to make a difference.

Get organised We have just purchased and installed a new database, and for us it's been an excellent management tool for providing clear and useful information. Diversity is a great example: we can proactively monitor all of our staff and look to see that we are truly representative. We just didn't have this data before.

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