HR should be out there with the people

Top
UK entrepreneur, Tim Waterstone, speaking at Personnel Today’s HR Directors
Club at the Tower of London, said there was nothing more important than HR, but
the function should be ‘out there with the people doing the job’ and not bogged
down in bureaucracy.

Waterstone,
one of the UK’s most determined businessmen, founded Waterstone’s bookshops in
1982 with a £6,000 redundancy payout. He was chairman of HMV Media Group until
March, and is now concentrating on his latest venture, Daisy & Tom – a
chain of children’s department stores offering everything for children up to
the age of eight. He also holds a number of non-executive directorships.

Waterstone
said HR should be decentralised to develop managers and staff, and ensure that
employees are given responsibility and are excited by their jobs.

He
said that Waterstone’s books had only ever needed to place one recruitment
advert as the chain’s standing as a fun and relaxed place to work and its
reputation for having an intense desire to win, attracted staff.

This
environment encouraged newcomers to be driven and filled them with a need to
win, he said.

"You
should make it clear to staff that working life can be an extraordinary
experience," Waterstone said. "I believe intensely it is a privilege
to empower people to take responsibility."

He
warned that leadership should be characterised by lightness of touch to avoid
staff being over-managed and under-led, and said a secure financial system
would protect the company and its workers, while encouraging them to innovate.

Even
the top management should strive to be personal in their interaction with
staff, Waterstone added. If leaders offer congratulations on specific acts
rather generic achievements, employee will become proud and will ‘be with you
forever’.

Conversely,
if a person is unhappy at work, businesses simply have to let them go, because
keeping people in jobs they don’t enjoy would be detrimental to a business,
stated Waterstone.

To
keep the entrepreneurial spirit and innovation alive, Waterstone advocated that
companies encourage staff to enjoy their jobs. But he said staff should move on
in four or five years.

He
told HR directors that the world was becoming looser and freer, and companies
were becoming less like the old model of IBM, with 26 layers of management.
Instead, he said, companies were becoming ‘more like the mafia’, who only had
two management layers.

"The
comfort of corporations is going," he said. "Even huge global
corporations are breaking management down to create drive and creativity."

Tim
Waterstone is non-executive director of Yale University Press, National Gallery
Publications and FutureStart Venture Capital Fund of BT. He is also an occasional
guest lecturer at INSEAD in France, and the London Business School. To date he
has had three of his own novels published.

The
HR Directors Club provides business inspiration and networking for HR directors
in organisations with 1,000-plus employees. Members can join by registering at www.hrdirectorsclub.com

The
club is supported by six sponsors offering quality services to the HR
profession. The sponsors are: Arinso, DDI, DBM, PeopleSoft,
PricewatershouseCoopers and Xchanging.

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