Google, Vodafone, McDonald’s HR directors share their 2009 challenges

Leading HR experts from Google, Vodafone and McDonald’s, among others, have warned employers not to “lock themselves away” from staff when making tough decisions in the current financial climate.

At a Personnel Today’s HR Directors Club debate in London yesterday, five of Personnel Today’s Power Players stressed the importance of regular communications with workers to keep them engaged in the company despite decisions being made around redundancy or pay freezes.

Speaking to 35 HR practitioners who attended the event, Liane Hornsey, people organisations director at Google, said: “There is a real danger that people [employers] keep their heads down. There is a danger we can lock ourselves away in darkened rooms – when employees need us more than ever walking the floors.”

Earlier this week Google admitted to a string of mistakes which have forced the company to make another 200 redundancies globally in its third round of job cuts. The company has already made 100 recruiters redundant this year and cut 40 jobs after closing its radio advertising department, although no positions have yet gone in the UK.

Hornsey added she was spending a lot of time making sure the senior team were out and about visiting offices and meeting staff face-to-face.

Matthew Brearley, the UK HR director at Vodafone, which also announced 500 job cuts earlier this year, agreed the economic downturn and resulting cost efficiencies presented “challenges” around brand engagement.

“We’ve just gone through a big organisational review. We have announced 500 redundancies, and have taken a ruthless look at organisational effectiveness,” he said. However, he added: “Even in the tough times how you reposition your brand, and stay true to your brand and true to your organisation is very critical.”

The HR chiefs added that organisational talent, leadership and performance as top items on their agendas this year.

The five Power Players speaking at today’s event were: David Fairhurst, chief people officer, McDonald’s; Liane Hornsey, people operations director, Google; David Smith, former people director, Asda; Helen Giles, HR director, Broadway; and Matthew Brearley, UK, HR, comms and property director, Vodafone UK.

The next HR Directors’ Club event is a summer networking BBQ on 10 June.

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