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Janine Milne

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In a Nutshell: Five ways to ensure that HR works effectively with the business


Susie Robinson is well used to dealing with a large and complex workforce in her role as senior vice president of HR for DHL Supply Chain in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

As head of HR for EMEA at the world’s largest logistics company, she offers her advice on how the function can best keep in step with the business and anticipate its needs – no matter what the size of your organisation.

1. Keep things simple

In a company as big as DHL, it’s vital to keep things simple. But doing so is an art – it’s very difficult to make complexity simple. When you do get it right, however, it speeds up people’s ability to perform massively.

For example, we have a global talent strategy. But we break it down into a simple, clear format, with four simple themes to give focus. When it’s explained to people, they get it and business leaders love it. It’s very practical and integrated.

2. Craft your communications carefully
I spend a lot of time on communications to ensure that things are digestible and have an impact. But it does take work to be able to get the board and workers to act.
I am crafting messages the whole time, working out how to present them, who they should be targeted at and what needs to be said. It’s an incredibly important part of what I do. As an HR expert, you also have to become a communications expert.

3. Anticipate change

It is important to anticipate change and have the courage of your convictions to go with something and make it happen. You have to create a vision for change as well as the provide the necessary evidence to make that change happen.

4. Make time for people

I spend a vast amount of time on a one-to-one basis with senior executives, advising them on career planning issues. It gives me an understanding of the issues that are faced in different countries.

5. Always follow through

I believe that every interaction I have with anybody should be a good one. It doesn’t necessarily have to be pleasant, but it should leave an impression. For example, if you receive an email but don’t reply, it leaves people with a bad impression.
As a result, it’s important to communicate and give as good an impression as possible – even if you are imparting bad news. Although very difficult to do, it’s very important in a role such as HR director.

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