HR Special Guest Feature by Bill Gregory

This week, we invited Bill Gregory, Interim HR Director, to talk about his top tips for HR professionals who have or who are looking to progress to roles with strategic and decision making responsibility. Bill has an impressive track record with well known and local government entities such as the NHS, the BBC, Argos, Yodel, London Underground, HS2, Barclays, HSBC, and, most recently, Aston Martin. Here’s what Bill had to say:

The Key to HR Strategy

In my professional life as an interim, I move from client to client frequently. One of the consequences is that, with each new assignment, I must get to grips with the “How we do things around here” issues really quickly.

Discovery

I have found that a key question to discover and understand is ‘what is the absolute point of reference to use for decision making and creating strategy?’

For example, one client referred all important decisions to money. If a proposed action made money, then it was likely to be endorsed. Another client’s guiding principle was its reputation. It would rather spend to resolve issues than publicly fight and risk its reputation, as a stable and long-term business, being damaged.

If you stop and think, you will discover that your organisation has such a guiding principle. It governs most of how your employer operates; from whether to wear a suit and tie or casual dress, to what the offices are like – be that trendy and bursting with table football and espresso machines or workaday spaces carved from the factory floor.

This point of reference is incredibly influential. It guides, for example, how staff are treated and how to interact with clients. So, understanding it in your own company and, as importantly, how it operates in partner and rival companies is essential. It is part of making sense of the world and, honestly, I’d urge you to devote some time to thinking about it, including asking those outside the organisation for their views.

Reviewing your guiding principle

Once you have ascertained your star principle, a sensible question to ask is whether it is still appropriate. For example, if the organisation ultimately makes decisions on squeezing every penny out of human and other assets, how will that fit with recruiting people for hard to fill posts?

Maybe the answer is to make the inputs and outputs of posts much, much simpler so that people can be easily trained to carry out simple tasks. This will allow lower recruitment costs and greater ease in replacing leavers. Or maybe you should look at reward and retention policies.

This line of questioning also works beyond HR. Imagine buying items that cost £2 for a £1 discount store – that is to say, if your point of reference is at odds with how you behave, you simply cannot be successful for any length of time.

Transition and Change

Equally disastrous is when the organisation is divided. Typically, this occurs between an old guard, that acts on traditions where time taken is subordinate to agreement, and a group of young Turks for whom turning the organisation around is supreme, regardless of history etc. It’s a recipe for disaster and for this reason I urge managers to reflect on this.

The key thing is this; knowing what your organisation is based on and holds dear enables its managers to design appropriately. I especially invite those involved in transition and change to think about this. Many a much-needed project has foundered on this rock.