My best and worst decisions: Huw Davies, HR director, Aliaxis UK

Best decision

Before I was in HR, I was a company secretary for about 12 years, but to say that I was dreadful at it was a bit of an understatement.

I had done a business qualification, then extended that to doing the chartered secretary qualifications – I fell into the function. Unfortunately, my attention to detail is really poor and I ended up, as company secretary, sending a non-executive director into the City for a board meeting – on the wrong day. He was Bristol-based, and not best pleased. That error eventually resulted in me leaving the organisation.

I ended up working in the dispatch department of food manufacturer Ginsters, in Cornwall, where I was living at the time. They were advertising for an HR officer, and I got the job, without any previous HR experience. On reflection, that was the best thing that ever happened to me.

As a company secretary, I ran insurance portfolios, car fleets, and managed property – it was really varied, but the minute-taking, checking share certificates and liaising with the stock market wasn’t for me.

At the end of the day, people are much more interesting than share certificates.

Worst decision

Early in my career, I encountered a very aggressive, assertive operations director. He wanted to do a 360-degree appraisal, which I facilitated.

When I’d gathered the information, he was very keen to see the feedback – but with people’s names on it. I let him see it. As soon as he got the information, he took issue with anyone who’d given him negative feedback.

That was a real lesson to me about the integrity of HR, and that part of the role was to do with the advocacy of people.

I grew up in HR that day. I realised I’d been taken for an idiot, and steamrollered. I had to face my colleagues, to tell them that it was me who’d given the operations director the names, and to apologise to them. I did so willingly, as I would never have given him the information if I’d known that he would use it in that way.

He retired soon afterwards – he was due to retire anyway – but it wasn’t his fault. It was my fault for not standing up to him. It was about toughening up and growing up, from an HR point of view – and understanding that not everyone has the same values base as I do.

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