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Q: What do you see is the greatest challenge for HR over the next year?
A: To lead integration in the business. Having just returned from a HR conference I was surprised about how little discussion there was on the business agenda as a whole. The best HR team see themselves as fully integrated with the business and the corporate team have a united and comprehensive view of what they want to achieve. It’s not good enough now to be a specialist in people: there needs to be a real understanding of what will ensure the business or organisation needs to be successful.
Q: How important is effective change management for businesses to grow?
A: It is absolutely critical, as the only organisations that can succeed are those that are agile in every way. This includes agility in thinking, in understanding customer perceptions, and in knowing which technologies can drive improvement. I am seeing in the organisations that we connect with often a theoretical understanding of change but less practical application that is tailored to the local context. Too many are falling for the identification of 'best practice' models and applying them without thought to how they might or might not apply in their particular context – it's all about tailoring.
Q: In your view, what effect does continual change have in the working environment?
A: In those organisations where turnover is low, service is long and there has been little change over the years, the effects can be to increase anxiety and uncertainty in staff that can have a negative effect on productivity and morale. However, where change is handled well and where staff are more mobile and have worked in a variety of organisations, it can have a positive impact. Personally, I would be bored rigid if everything stayed the same, and many organisations understand how to use the dynamics of change to create positive outcomes.
Q: What are the foundations of good team management?
A: For me it has always been about trust and respect. It's important that people are treated as the responsible adults they are rather than naughty children that need to be parented. Giving clear direction and letting people be free to get on with what they do well and having some meaning in their working lives is critical. The principle of cabinet management is also important – if you have an argument to have, do it in the team and don't take it outside. It all goes back to trust.
Q: Are there key differences between management teams in the public and private sectors?
A: I'm not sure I am seeing a difference in the sectors; I am seeing a difference between good and poor teams irrespective of the sectors they are in. In generic terms I would like to see a little more commercial understanding in the public sector and more focus on values in the private sector, but a great team is a great team wherever they are. The public sector has taken such a bashing I am concerned about the impact on talent management, and I do think there is far too much negative talk about senior salaries in the public sector; you have to pay a good market rate to get good people, particularly as the deal has changed and the security that was there has disappeared. I would also like to see more encouragement all round for building the economy in the UK. Every organisation has a part to play.
Read Part Two of the interview here.