How I made a difference: Sandy Begbie, UK HR director, Aegon

As HR director at Scottish Power, I took the function through a transformation programme, introducing a new HR model on the back of the implementation of Oracle HR and payroll systems.

It was a holistic change programme, rather than focusing on the systems or the people structure, and was run over almost three years.

I had inherited an HR function that had been devolved across the business units, but which a good friend and colleague had just spent a year bringing together. There was no model to the function, and no delivery mechanism, and the business insisted that we change. In addition to that, I had to make ongoing savings of about £1m a year.

I immediately removed some of the inherited administration people and brought in a couple of new faces, appointing younger people from within the function. I created an HR administrative team, and together we established a longer-term vision for the function.

First, we put in place a picture of what HR could contribute to the company, and how HR could get itself fit.

Second, we had undertaken a full review and we needed funding for an HR system. What was interesting about that project was our approach – the only way we could get the approval for an HR system was for it to be self-funding, out of savings made within the HR function.

We introduced a new delivery model, with a head of HR in each of the main business units, with their consultants sitting alongside them.

Next, we created an HR career framework, defining what skills, qualifications and experience people would need if they wished to continue to develop a career internally. That provided clarity of career path, but it also allowed us to start to make what were, in some cases, quite bold moves across the function.

Finally, we focused on style and culture. I’m a firm believer that leadership plays a big part in that. We spent a lot of time developing HR as a concept and what it meant to be part of a single professional function. When I took over, fewer than 20% of HR employees believed there was any strategy or direction to the function. Within two years that had risen to just under 90%.

If you’re properly implementing change, you’re going to disorientate a certain percentage of your staff. The key is to understand the people that you want to keep, and to help them through it.

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