BT aims to make HR central to strategy

BT is aiming to consolidate its business as it enters 2003 following a
period of market volatility, board and executive changes and shareholder
pressures, according to the company’s new group HR director, Alex Wilson.

Wilson, who joined BT last July from ICI, sees part of his mission as
"lifting the vision of his HR team" to enable them to play a full
part in this consolidation process.

In an exclusive interview with Personnel Today, he described the existing BT
HR team as high-performing, professional and skilled.

Wilson said he intends to work with his senior team over the next few
months, however, to develop ways of increasing HR’s strategic sense. This will
include organisational analyses and subsequently leading change to improve
effectiveness across the company.

"We just need to stretch our horizons, see what we can aspire to, and
go for it," he said.

"For a true competitive advantage, we have got to get skilled enough to
understand the emerging market, what the strategy is, and create these
organisational interventions."

His concept of HR is three-tiered, with ‘value for money’ at its most basic
level, ‘added value’ in the middle and and most critical level ‘value creation’
at its peak.

He said HR must move beyond the comfort zone of focusing solely on its most
basic services, if it is to tackle the top-level tier.

One hundred days into his job at BT, Wilson conceded that his organisation
was still operating "more in the comfort zone than I would like".

He told delegates at the IoD HR Directors’ Forum that as a profession:
"We’ve got to have the confidence to fill this space.

"Stop asking for permission to play, stop acting like victims, and stop
using phrases such as ‘I am a partner to’, ‘I am in support of’, and ‘I am an
adviser to’."

By DeeDee Doke

Consult Oracle for advice on people power

Oracle vice-president, Europe, Vance
Kearney, told IoD delegates how businesses can find competitive advantage
through their people as the economic climate gets increasingly chilly. Here are
his top 12 tips:

– Get a reputation as the best
employer in your field

– Hire only the absolute best talent – if in doubt, don’t hire

– Provide demanding work and set unreasonable goals and expectations.
("I mean ‘ambitious’ goals. Make them wince," Kearney clarifies)

– Provide your workforce with the best training and drive rapid internal
career progression

– Pay top rates and employ fewer people

– Regularly review and replace low performance and outdated skills.
("It’s one of the most regularly refreshing things you can do," says
Kearney. "You have to encourage some change in the organisation, and then
morale improves.")

– Fire the manager who can’t attract, keep or motivate their staff

– Drive reward linked to hard growth and profit, not soft objectives

– Keep your HR function to a minimum. ("Make your managers
manage," says Kearney)

– Let managers learn from their errors. ("Let’s get great managers – to
do that, let them make mistakes," he says)

– HR must lead by example by adopting modern HR technology, standardising
business practices, spending no more than 0.25 per cent of revenue or 1 per
cent of profit on HR

– Business must be realistic about HR costs and ratios – 1:100 for small
enterprises of less than 500 employees; 1:300 for medium ones of less than
10,000 and 1:500 for large enterprises of more than 10,000

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