Emotional toughness is key to HR success

HR
professionals need to have "emotional toughness" to succeed in their
job, according to one of the UK’s
leading people experts.

Tesco’s group HR director Clare
Chapman said people working in the industry needed to be resilient and have an
inner belief that what they are doing is right.

Tesco is the UK’s
largest private sector employer and is recognised for its innovative people
policies, serving about 235,000 staff.

Chapman
told Personnel Today that if people
really believe in what they are doing, they tend to be better at doing it.

"There
is an increasing belief among personnel managers at the company that, by
listening to staff and responding, we are doing the right things," she
said.

One
of the keys to Tesco’s
success, she said, was its obsession with listening to customers and staff.
"We use that information to distil down what really matters. That drives
our innovations."

Recent
figures show that Tesco has
continued to power ahead of its rivals in the retailing sector. In the past
quarter it had a 28.1 per cent share of the market, compared to 26.8 per cent
this time last year. The company posted pre-tax profits of £1.6bn this year.

But
Chapman insists there is still room for improvement.

"The
HR team tries to stay quite humble," she said. "Every time we go out
and benchmark we find someone doing something that is really innovative.

"We
do try and push the envelope in being first, but there’s no doubt we have more to do."

Staying
true to a core set of beliefs also helps, said Chapman.

"It’s
difficult to keep innovating when you’ve not got great clarity around what you
are trying to do. By keeping it simple we are able to keep ourselves focused."

By
Mike Berry

Feedback from the profession

Bruce Robertson, director of HR, Granada
Television

"Are
HR professionals strong enough? Emotional resilience varies greatly from person
to person, and the level depends more on upbringing and background than
previous experience. However, therein lies
the problem. It is an essential part of the role of HR and one that is
absolutely necessary to perform much of what we do. It is a competence that is
rarely measured when recruiting or developing HR professionals. This is
something that should be addressed."

Debra Baker, HR corporate services manager,
Unum

"With
the increase in privatisation over the past few years and the power of
shareholders, the bottom line is increasingly becoming the focus.
Organisational change and expense control is becoming business as usual, but it
is HR that has to deal with the people affected by the resulting decision and
the whole wave of emotional reactions that goes with it. HR professionals need
a certain amount of emotional toughness. Organisations feel that HR people with
a broader background of experience are better equipped to deal with the current
business climate, but it’s important this is balanced with the expertise and
experience of long-standing HR professionals."

Alan Warner, corporate director (people
& property), Hertfordshire County Council and president of Socpo

"The
dilemma is the fine line between being emotionally tough and appearing hard.
Tough decisions can be made in a proper and humane way, but you have to avoid
getting too emotionally connected or you will either shy away from the decision
or turn yourself into a wreck. Young [HR professionals] are coming into my
organisation with the resilience needed." 

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