How I see HR: Jim Burrell, senior vice-president, European operations, Enterprise Rent-A-Car

Should HR be on the board? Absolutely – any time you’re making a big business decision, it’s going to affect people – from an everyday cultural standpoint and a legal standpoint. If you don’t have HR involved from the beginning, you’ll find yourself in places you don’t want to be.

I meet my HR director, Donna Miller, on a formal basis two or three times a month. Informally, we meet every day we’re both in the office.

We’re a people business, and HR is critical to what we do. They’re involved from the very beginning, from recruitment to training and retention.

Today I’ve got a great business partner as my HR director. That hasn’t always been the case – the lesson I learnt then was that it’s really critical to have someone who is an HR business partner. They need to understand the underlying business, the culture of who we are as a company and what we’re trying to accomplish strategically. If you don’t have someone like that, you tend to end up with frustrations on the HR front.

This is a family-owned company. We’re privately held, based in the middle of the US, which is a pretty conservative place. One of the most exciting things that my HR team did was convince me that I’m wrong about our recruitment brand. They convinced me that it needed to be different in the UK to in the US, where it is, quite frankly, a little boring. Ours here is a lot more fun. It took me a while to get there, but when you trust your HR team, they can even get old guys like me to think differently.

HR completely transformed the brand aspect of our recruitment. It has helped us attract more of the kind of people we want to help us drive the business forward.

We promote almost entirely from within, so it’s important that we hire the best possible talent, and that our talent base reflects the world in which we operate. The better HR gets at ensuring that we have a broad and diverse talent, the better we will be as a company. So bringing in the right people, from all different kinds of backgrounds, is one of the biggest things we’re working on. We get better at it every year – it’s pretty exciting to watch.

If I were looking for a new HR director, I would look internally for someone who could think strategically, was open to change (partly because I’m not always), and could convince me why we needed to change. I’d want someone smart, who cared about people.

If I was looking outside the company, I would want someone bright, engaging, and with the right level of experience. They’d also need to be able to get on with all levels of people. In this company, to be an effective HR director, you have to be able to reach into all parts of the business.

My key points

  • The HR director must be a true business partner
  • They must understand the business
  • They must be able to think strategically.

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