Bupa HR chief stresses need for taking responsibility

Making HR departments face up to their strategic responsibilities is tougher than improving line managers, according to Bob Watson, group HR director at private healthcare service provider Bupa.

Watson told delegates how his company had undergone a major change exercise to reposition HR as a more strategic value-added function.
He described the “evolution” of his HR function from being firefighting, problem-solving personnel officers to become HR consultants who are now strategists and business partners.

“The HR strategy can’t be separate from the business strategy,” he said. “This may sound obvious, but everything we’ve done is totally integrated with what the company is doing.”

“You’ve got to ask yourself: Where is the business going and what is HR’s contribution to that? How can we create competitive advantage for business?”

He admitted that, at times, his organisation had made the mistake of trying to implement strategy faster than the organisation could cope with it.

“Don’t make this mistake,” he warned, “You need to assess how far you can push the organisation without it becoming disconnected – you need to make a judgement call at every stage”.

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