I believe the HR function can really only add value when it’s aware of what is going on in every aspect of the business, so the HR director should sit on the board.
HR needs to have the insight that comes with seeing what is happening on the board.
Our HR function is very well aligned with the business strategy. I see HR as providing three main functions. First, driving procedural efficiencies, and working closely with IT and finance, to understand what the business needs in terms of procedures and best practices. Second, representing the views of the people on the front line. HR needs to have a good relationship with the operational side of the business. They need to be part and parcel of what is going on. A business is going to run as well as it can when all functions, including finance and HR, are working together to find solutions. All solutions will have different elements – a people element or an IT element – but HR is quite good at seeing both the needs of the business and the confines that we have to operate in. And finally, HR needs to have a view on the day-to-day operational challenges, but also fully understand and develop the business’s long-term strategy. It needs to spot the skills gaps.
What excites me most about my own HR department is its willingness to embrace change. I’m very much a believer in the highest performance possible.
The difference between going through the motions and putting in some extra effort to yield the highest possible results is not huge, but the payback is significantly higher. A little extra effort goes a long way. If there was one single thing that could improve HR’s role within the company, it would be becoming better at pre-empting people’s needs, and being more proactive.
If I were seeking a new HR director, I would look for someone with diversity of experience – particularly in dealing with people from different backgrounds.
We employ consultants of 12 or 13 nationalities here in London, so having someone who has experience of cultural diversity is important.
I would want somebody who is clearly able to function at an operational level, to understand the nuts and bolts and the nitty gritty of HR, but who also has a desire to understand the strategic challenges of the business.
I would want to see intellectual curiosity and the desire to ask questions, to find out more, and someone motivated by having a deeper understanding of the organisation.