How did you get into HR?
After completing a degree in marketing with business psychology, I wanted to pursue a career in sales and marketing. After various roles within this field in different companies and sectors, I decided to take on some temporary assignments while I figured out where I wanted to go next. I ended up as an administrator on a workforce development team within Business Link, which had a remit to support organisations to achieve the Investors in People accreditation.
It was clear very quickly to me that this was something I would love to do and that all of my skills were completely transferable, particularly all the knowledge I had built from studying psychology throughout my education. I convinced the head of the department to giving me a shot, and I became qualified within six months. I was afforded lots of training in key skills and a lot of exposure to different businesses and their people, both good and bad. This helped me immensely in being able to make the most of the opportunities ahead of me, which led to the role I now hold.
What do you enjoy most about HR?
There are no limits to HR – everything has something to do with HR in business, which makes the opportunities to have an impact immense. You are also dealing with people, which adds another level of diversity to the role. I love to understand why people as systems and teams are not operating at maximum potential and then working with the business to shape them for success; it’s incredibly interesting and rewarding.
What do you find difficult about HR?
HR often has a poor reputation or there is a perception that it’s just a transactional or policing function. I enjoy the challenge of showing leaders what value HR can have. What I find difficult are the businesses that put individuals in HR posts with neither the understanding nor the capability to show this value, thereby perpetuating the poor perception of HR.
What is your greatest career achievement so far?
It has to be building a well-respected, fit-for-purpose, award-winning team that makes a real difference to the commercial success of the business. I ensure that I understand the business and take part in how to make it a success, and then structure and nurture the team to meet the needs to achieve our business goals. In the games industry things change quickly, so you have to be primed for change all of the time – and I believe my team are.
What is the most important lesson you have learnt?
It’s all about timing, and working with the business to agree on the best way forward. You may believe that something needs to happen or change at a certain time or in a certain way, but you have to work with the business to understand how we can all move forward in a way the business will buy into at a time when the business is ready. You have to be intelligent enough, know your audience and your business well enough to be able to navigate this – and accept that your original vision may not be the vision you end up pursuing, but a joint vision as crafted by you as part of the business leadership team. It is all about achieving the end goal; you have to be flexible in how you get to that to be successful.
What has your biggest career challenge been?
Overcoming my inferiority complex! I was given a great opportunity to take on my role as head of HR, but I have only done this role at Jagex, so my concern was that I wouldn’t have the required credibility among my peers. Through smart working and applying all of my skills and strengths, I now understand that it is about what you can deliver to your customers that makes you credible. I now feel very comfortable with my abilities and what I can achieve, which I think really helps when you have to influence those difficult decisions. You need to be confident in what you believe in and stand by that.
What is the next big thing in HR?
The focus on developing talent seems to becoming a priority again for many organisations. Through the recession businesses have had to push people hard – driven by either cost savings or the need to do more with the same resource and budgets – to be competitive in a tough economic environment. At the same time, the focus on development, talent management and succession planning has taken a back seat. This, coupled with pushing people harder, is leading to a possible retention issue if the focus is not put back to this in a timely and effective way.
Who do you most look up to in the industry?
I don’t really have a HR pin-up as such, I search out HR professionals to network with, do business with and even act as mentor and coach based on their background and attitude. Business people interest me the most if they have done other things than just HR. Also, HR professionals that have been involved in revolutionary change, where a complete paradigm shift has occurred and they have been instrumental in changing the business to compete within this new environment.
If you didn’t work in HR, what would you be doing instead?
Leading people, teams or business operations – who knows where!