Business big wigs heap praise on motivational role of HR in tough times

A trio of business leaders have spoken of the crucial role HR professionals have to play in keeping employees motivated during the economic crisis.

Paul Walsh, group chief executive at drinks giant Diageo, told Personnel Today he relied on his HR team during difficult times to make sure staff were fully briefed about company decisions, and to encourage employees to suggest new ways of working.

Walsh said: “HR’s role is inclusion and communication: getting everyone in the firm to understand what’s going on and the role they can play as we navigate through these troubled times. Usually it is from the broad base of employees that you’ll get the best ideas.”

Speaking at the CBI annual conference in London last week, Walsh urged employers to be open to new growth areas.

“We will be very alert to where opportunities are, what price points should be and where we can exert growth,” he said. “We will expect more of our employees [in terms of] nimbleness, creativeness and agility.” He later told Personnel Today, HR was the “vanguard of talent development”.

John McDonough, chief executive of construction company Carillion, said HR departments should keep staff focused on their jobs by giving them appropriate training.

“In recessions, we find it more important to invest in our people to train and develop them to [[be ready to] take advantage of the upturn when it does come,” he said.

And Charlie Mayfield, chairman of the John Lewis Partnership, said the retailer needed its HR team to help staff focus on the importance of the Christmas period.

“Staff must be flexible and able to work in different areas wherever the demand may be,” he said.

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