Gabrielle de Wardener reveals the secrets of excellent people management and how to rebuff accusations of "needless bureaucracy" from HR.
1. How strategic is your current role and what does it involve?
My role is to interpret our business strategy in people terms and translate that via innovative ideas into practical solutions. That means hiring the best people, rewarding them fairly, and giving them a really satisfying working experience. There can be a tendency for HR to become mired in administration and lose track of the big stuff which we aim not to do at LMG.
2. How is the HR function perceived within your organisation?
Very well! Our staff are our clients; if they don’t get excellent personal service they’re unlikely to buy into our HR initiatives. We try to put ourselves constantly in their shoes and only launch ideas that will make a positive difference to them – flexible benefits, for instance, or high quality training opportunities.
My team is very responsive; our goal is for admin to be slick, quick and accurate with the minimum of bureaucracy. We’ve also set up an employee forum to make sure everyone can get together and give their point of view and air ideas via their representatives.
3. How does your business use HR practices to get ahead?
Good management practices are essential to retaining good people, so we put a lot of effort into working with our managers to enable them to develop and capitalise on their people skills, rather than just ‘dealing’ with them. We’ve also leveraged our technological know how to automate much of the transactional HR activity: an intranet, an online HR information system and a flexible benefits platform.
4. Why is your company such a great place to work?
Success breeds success! LMUK has been a fantastic success story since it launched Nectar over three years ago and our surveys show that staff are proud to be associated with the brand. On top of that, we employ a group of extremely smart, friendly people and invest a great deal of energy into the social aspects of company life. Everything is posted on the intranet. We regularly host events and every Friday suggest a venue where people can congregate after work. Finally, staff love our offices – we’re located a stone’s throw from Covent Garden overlooking the Thames.
5. How does HR win hearts and minds in your business?
You’ve got to be commercial and understand costs and business imperatives. It’s important to get under the skin of the business and really learn how it works because there’s no point in trying to implement schemes that don’t fit the culture or are overly complex – they’ll never take on. You won’t get compliance and people will resent first the schemes, then you. At the same time, you need to be approachable and able to explain and communicate change to employees during key development phases.
6. Will HR survive outsourcing and changes to service delivery?
Yes, I think it will survive – and in-house HR will move further up the value chain.
7. What's the new skill set of HR?
It’s the same for everyone in the 21st century, and it’s predominantly about flexibility. You need to be able to keep up with constant change – technological, economic, social, political – and take it in your stride. The best, and probably only, way to do that is to grasp every opportunity to learn something new, find out what’s going on and be prepared to adapt.