How I see HR: Nick Jenkins, founder and chief executive, Moonpig

HR is such an integral part of running a business that it should be a core part of every director’s job. We don’t have just one person who ‘does HR’ – we all do HR. Every one of our board directors is well aware of what matters in HR. I see my own job has having a strategy and hiring the right people to carry it out. HR is not something I see as a simple role within a company.

Our finance director is responsible for crossing the Ts and dotting the Is of HR, in terms of following procedures and staying up-to-date with employment law. We see hiring and retaining people – and HR strategy – as being as fundamental to the business as breathing.

We have 78 employees, and in terms of HR staffing, it’s very much a case of ‘horses for courses’. For example, we need to recruit seasonally for customer services staff, so we need someone who specialises in that type of recruitment. And we’re taking on someone in Guernsey whose sole responsibility will be to maintain a roster of all the people on the island able to take on casual work, stay in touch with them and keep them up-to-date with our systems.

We have a very clear HR strategy. For instance, when we recruit people, it’s not just about finding the person best qualified for the job, but about what we can offer them in terms of their growth. And we’re looking for people with a personality that would fit with our friendly, collaborative ethos. We’re very clear about the kind of company we are, and how we want to work.

My big frustration with HR is the legal requirements caused by employment law. They mean it’s very difficult to have a sensible conversation with somebody who isn’t working out. It would be much easier if you could just take them to one side and say “It’s not quite working out. It’s in your best interests to start looking for another job – we’ll give you the time to do that”.

But you can’t do that. You have to enter into this very legalistic process, which changes the tone. It’s almost like introducing divorce lawyers into an amicable divorce. It sets people on edge and creates tension. You have to arrange to have a meeting. It’s a bit like saying “I’m going to punch you in the face at some point in the next week, and it’s going to really hurt”. As opposed to just punching them. The anticipation is the worst part. When you tell someone you’re going to have a meeting, they know what’s coming.

It would help to be allowed to be human about it. I understand why these rules exist, but they mean a lot of good employers end up creating unnecessary tension and upset.

What I want from HR

  • To understand what sort of people we need
  • To be part of the culture, not just a function
  • Not to allow employment law to take over.

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