Jackie Orme has boldly pledged to win over her doubters in the HR profession using actions rather than words.
The new chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development also told HR practitioners to stop wasting time trying to justify their own worth.
But in her first formal media appearance since taking the £300,000 top job in late March, Orme told Personnel Today: “I’m here, and I’m focused on doing the job. Results speak for themselves, and my aim is to let results talk.”
Orme insisted that her 13 years at food and drinks giant PepsiCo would stand her in good stead for her mission to help HR evolve.
“PepsiCo is an incredibly successful commercial organisation,” she said. “You would be hard pressed to find anything higher performing.
“HR there does what HR can really do – it is not held back by having to prove its worth. As we get into discussions on how HR can evolve, the PepsiCo experience will prove very important.”
Orme said the firm had two vital beliefs about people management: that staff were a competitive advantage and that HR had a significant role to play in maximising it.
Jackie O: Our guide to the CIPD’s new boss
Why I got into HR: Because of a belief that it is focused on the development of people for the benefit on the organisation and the individual.
My biggest success in HR: Building an HR team at PepsiCo to rival any and being a leader with a business agenda.
My biggest mistake in HR: Realising while undertaking a downsizing exercise in the steel industry that it is impossible to communicate too much when people are making big decisions about their lives.
Most recent holiday: I’ve just come back from six weeks’ in the US, which was fantastic because of the variety. We were ski-ing, going to Disney, sitting on the beach…
Desert Island disc: If I could take one album it would be Raising Sand by Robert Plant and Alison Krauss.
Favourite meal: Anything Asian
“So we didn’t spend time proving our value. There’s an ongoing debate about proving the value of HR, and I think it is a waste of time. It is pushing water up hill. Prove your value by results,” she said.
Orme revealed that she was attracted to the CIPD top job as soon as she saw it advertised in the Sunday Times.
“I was approached by the headhunters a couple of days later, and I was interested because it sounded like a neat combination of what I’d been doing for 17 years, and a chance to leave a legacy, which doesn’t come about very often,” she added.
Asked what sort of legacy she’d like to leave, Orme said: “After 10 weeks I’m still waiting to get that clearer. But I want the CIPD to be a credible voice for a credible and confident profession, and to lead the debate on the evolution of the HR profession.”
Still in the process of using her first 100 days to get to know the CIPD, its people and processes, Orme said she would use the rest of her first year to build a clear plan for the Institute to follow for the next three to five years.
Her goals in her first year centre on “identifying the killer issues that will define the UK workplace over the next five to 10 years”.
Working out how to improve talent management to drive better productivity and help the UK compete in the global economy is a major aim, she added.
After five years in HR at ASW (formerly British Steel), Orme spent an incredible eight years at snack food giant Walkers, during which time she rose from HR manager to vice-president of HR.
She was then vice-president of HR at PepsiCo UK & Ireland from 2003 until she started at the CIPD this year.
In the spirit of Personnel Today’s 20-year anniversary theme of looking back 20 years and forward 20 years, Orme said the role of HR had changed during her career from a job keeping people out of trouble into one of adding value.
“Chief executives now want HR people who know how to pull the levers of competitive advantage.
“The future will mean pulling those levers even harder in a more technologically enabled, globalised context. HR needs to build capability for today and for tomorrow.”