Head of People Services
Published: 10th August 2017
What made you choose a career in HR?
The short answer is that I didn’t! I gradually moved into a HR role through a series of job role changes where my remit moved from an operational role into more of a traditional HR role.
I was working as a Project Manager in the logistics division of a national grocery retailer. As part of this role I was involved in the creation of advanced technical operational guidance documents. As these documents were launched and well received, I began to widen the scope to include basic information guides and eventually wrote a new starter training document. At this point I made the official move from operations to HR and continued my work on creating training documentation, but not just limited to logistics.
I then had the opportunity to move from a training role into a more HR generalist role. I have since left the company, but have remained as a HR generalist.
What experiences or lessons have shaped your view of what good people practices should look like?
Part of the HR role is to ensure that the obligations set out in an employee’s contract are met by both the company and the employee; HR has a responsibility to protect both the company and the employee. Due to my background in operations management, I am able to view situations from a HR and a line management perspective which is a huge advantage.
What’s the best thing about your job?
Working for a company that is concerned with making difference rather than a dividend.
What do you think are the key strengths that make an outstanding HR professional?
- Approachable and consistent.
- Strong internal moral compass with a sense of honesty, fairness and equality.
- Experiences working in areas outside of HR will give invaluable experience, but will also bring credibility.
- Ability to stand up to operations colleagues if required – HR is a service provider to operations, but that does not make it subservient!
How much has technology changed HR over the last five years?
Increases in technology have meant that ‘HR data’ is now easily available to line managers and employees. This has allowed HR to move away from being data custodians and a data entry/filing facility. This will continue to allow the HR department to become facilitators for good HR practice, acting as coaches and guides for line managers.
What is the biggest challenge facing HR?
Perception. There is clearly a place in HR for an employee welfare officer type role; somebody that can build empathetic relationships with employees to understand, resolve and/or de-escalate issues. However, it is wrong to think that the skills needed for this particular role are those that are universally required throughout HR.
A comparison is the finance department; with its stereotypical back office, shy, data-crunching, spreadsheet guru. Whilst there may be a few finance individuals that conform to this stereotype, nobody would expect a successful FD/CFO to strongly display these characteristics.
For HR to be taken seriously at c-suite level, HR professionals need to show they can act as business leaders and move away from the perception of HR being about hugs and hand-holding.
What advice would you give somebody starting in HR?
Two pieces of advice;
- Try to get experience outside of HR in an operational role. It will make you more rounded and it will give you credibility.
- Get CIPD qualified. Employers want the security of knowing that your practical experience is underpinned with a good understanding of theory.