HR should without a doubt be represented on the board. It has a very important strategic role to play – increasingly so. It’s incumbent on people like me to develop a greater sense of confidence in the HR function as a strategic player.
When I’m convening a meeting, I need to intentionally involve a representative of HR, rather than just expecting them to pipe up with what they think. It tends to be the finance director or the head of business development who has a lot to say, and people tend to listen to them because of the perception that they’re at the cutting edge of the business. In fact, it’s the HR director who understands what the workforce is feeling, and what employees’ capabilities are. We really need to create that climate of encouragement for HR people to speak up.
Amanda Humphrey is our director of resources and company secretary – but if she didn’t have that title, she’d be the HR director. We meet formally twice a week, and often lunch together – that can be a good opportunity to discuss what’s happening. These days, one of the key tasks for HR is to help people stay resilient. Another is to enhance team work. And thirdly, they need to really turn up the volume on communications with staff about what’s happening in the business environment. For example, if we’re required to make savings of any description, the staff have to understand why. To be able to say: “We’re consulting very closely with people at all levels of the organisation”, and to have that actually mean something, is a big thing – and Amanda does a wonderful job of that.
I’d like to think that we could smudge the functional boundaries between people – explore rotating people within the organisation, taking into account their skills and knowledge. I’d love to see an even more integrated organisation, with staff who could communicate regularly and frequently across functional areas. It would enhance the community spirit – at times like these, we need to be looking out for each other. I think HR would be an excellent sponsor of that kind of work.