At HRW, we actively encourage and give people the opportunity to go on secondment, whether it be to an office at the other side of the Atlantic, or indeed to another department within the business. As part of this initiative, two of our recent Research Executive graduate intake, Abi Graham and Greg Hyatt, recently spent two weeks with our Operations Team.

Here, Abi explains what they learned, and why they have a deeper appreciation for the Operations Team and all they do to keep our business moving…

In April and May this year, Greg and I had the opportunity to take part in an Operations secondment for two weeks. During this time, we were involved in all aspects of HRW’s operations, working as a member of the Field Team, costing up proposals with Finance, and working with Business Support to ensure our internal processes ran smoothly.

Everything kicked off with a placement within the Field Team, shadowing Hannah Smith (Field Manager) and taking over several of her projects; taking on the various fieldwork tasks involved with single market, multi-market, qualitative and quantitative studies. Each day presented us with new challenges, from keeping on top of emails and relaying updates back to the Research Team, to ensuring full recruitment for focus groups.

In this role, we were also part of the proposal development process for our clients- which was particularly interesting to approach from a different angle. No longer were we involved in writing the proposal documents, but instead we managed the costing and the Request for Quote (RFQ) process. We came to appreciate the different tasks required in order to provide our Research Team with costs and local recommendations for proposals: putting ourselves into our Field Team’s shoes certainly opened our eyes to the challenges they face on a regular basis, and gave us a greater understanding of what they do to meet our client’s budgets without compromising on quality or local expertise.

Surprisingly, the process of creating a cost sheet is oddly satisfying. Navigating complex project costs may be daunting at first, but two days with Mat, our Business Intelligence Manager, gave us all a better understanding of project financials, which has since helped each of us to manage the finances on our own projects more easily now that we are back on the “other side”.

The final day of our secondment was spent with our Business Support Manager. Spending a day within this department allowed each of us to see behind the scenes of supplier management; numerous spreadsheets, negotiations, and emails. When we weren’t busy managing suppliers, we carried out internal audits: ensuring all our projects are ISO compliant (and of course they are!).

We thoroughly enjoyed our two weeks and took away the following key learnings from the experience:

1. Communication is key: Good and effective communication ensures a successful project from start to finish. As we work across different offices and time zones, the ability for communication to be clear and concise is paramount to project success.

2. Understanding the role of others: Getting first-hand experience and taking on the job responsibilities and day-to-day tasks of our colleagues allowed us to gain a new understanding and appreciation of their supportive role throughout the project process. This has resulted in us being more empathetic to their requests and tuned-in to their needs to get their job done quickly and effectively.

3. Flexibility: By gaining training and experience in various roles, we can now, with confidence, step up and help our Operations colleagues if they ever need a helping hand. This helps lighten their load and allows us to reinforce skills we learnt while on our secondment.

Our secondment developed into a great experience that allowed us to gain a better appreciation for what the Operations Team do “behind the scenes” and deepened our working relationships and understanding of their role- ultimately helping us to be better researchers and colleagues.


By Abigail Graham

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