How I see HR: Alwyn Welch, chief executive, Parity

I run a people-centric business, so HR is vital to what we do. Our HR director sits on the executive board. This should always be the case where people are a company’s main asset, but I’m not sure in the case of non-people-centric businesses. Our HR director reports to me. I meet her formally once a month, and informally, on an ad hoc basis, at least every other day.

The HR strategy is very closely aligned with Parity’s goals. If you ignore the administrative aspect of HR, our goals require us to have the right people, at the right time, motivated in the right way. There are always changes around hiring and recruitment. HR is responsible for all of this.

With regard to expenditure – particularly with the economy as it is – I would agree that HR costs need to be minimised, but they need to be reviewed each year. We’ve just done the budgeting. This year is going to be very different compared to last year. We’re not going to hire as many people as in previous years, so the recruitment costs should be minimised.

I think I would apply that statement to every ‘service’ department – management, finance, HR, the lot. I’m not picking on HR, but I think it’s the same for all overheads in the current economic climate.

Too politically correct

Overall, I would agree that HR is too politically correct and too risk averse for its own good, but I don’t feel this is the case in this company. I’d like to see HR be prepared to take more, balanced, risks.

If I were looking for a new HR director, I would want someone who has worked in a people-centric business. It doesn’t have to be IT, as long as it’s somewhere where people have been the main asset. I want somebody who can bridge the gap between what’s right for the people who work for the company, and what’s right for the company.

Levels to reach

There are three levels that the HR function needs to reach. The first, lowest level is what I call ‘personal management’ – the administration that every HR team has to do. Then there’s the ‘adding value around people’ level – for instance finding, motivating and keeping the right people. Over the past decade, I’ve seen many HR teams establish themselves well at this level.

Third is the ‘nirvana’ level, where HR adds real value to the business, perhaps by being a key element in a business change, by suggesting or helping to drive change from a people perspective.

Looking ahead, it’s crucial that my HR team hires the people who are right both for the role involved and for the company culture. The culture here is friendly and open. We need people able to do a good job without being overly processed.

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