Tom Russell, Director of Strategic Resourcing and Reward at Cancer Research UK, talks “fluffy” personnel, liaising with world class scientists … and 1980s pop.
1. How strategic is your current role and what does it involve?
My role is responsible for leading the organisation’s strategy for attracting and retaining high quality people. This primarily involves the development of our reward and resourcing strategies, which include a number of areas such as understanding the psychological contract within our organisation and developing a total reward approach.
2. How is the HR function perceived within your organisation?
HR is part of the People and Organisational Development Directorate within Cancer Research UK, and is otherwise known as POD. When people ask me what area I work in I always emphasise that I work in POD, as good HR should be an integration of strong people processes, communication, engagement, learning and organisational development.
3. How does your business use HR practices to get ahead?
We continue to develop our processes in all kinds of ways. One current example is using engagement and communication processes to strengthen awareness of our new Vision and Purpose, which was launched in April. We have also launched a new HR and Payroll database, which will provide us with versatile management information and, in the future, help us to develop employee and manager self-service.
4. Why is your company such a great place to work?
In my opinion there is no other organisation where one works closely with world-class scientists, retailers, fundraisers, plus a host of many others on a daily basis. The diversity is huge, which makes for a challenging and rewarding place to work, and for a worthwhile cause.
5. How does HR win hearts and minds in your business?
Without sounding pompous, Cancer Research UK is quite an intellectual organisation, which means that my team are regularly challenged and questioned about our activities.
As a result POD needs to ensure that its initiatives are rigorously researched and developed, including the involvement of customers at a very early stage, so as to ensure we have their full support rather than giving them something we think they need.
6. Will HR survive outsourcing and changes to service delivery?
Yes. In my opinion outsourcing can be a great solution for some organisations, but not for others. In Cancer Research UK there is so much valuable knowledge about the organisation that outsourcing could be a barrier to developing a true understanding of our customers. In terms of change, the POD Directorate is continuously changing and improving our service. Change is part of the furniture.
7. What's the new skill set of HR?
Truly understanding customers and their operating environment, and translating this knowledge into measurable strategy to generate real business improvement.
8. What's the worst thing about working in HR and the best?
Worst, being perceived as fluffy personnel without any real business understanding. At best, being recognised for the valuable contribution that best practice HR can bring.