Eight leaders on their top tip for how HR can be prepared for the future

3 minute read

We asked eight leaders for their top tip on how HR can go beyond the immediate and prepare for different eventualities. Here’s what they said:

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Meet the Human-Focused Leaders of 2021 And Beyond leaders

1. Learn to listen to the signals that matter most

Start with context not content. Context means focusing on the changing settings for work (we call it outside in) and make sure to adapt your content (style, behaviours etc) to that context. It’s Marshall Goldsmith’s what got you here, won’t get you there. Separate signal from noise. There are innumerable messages in the context of business – learn to listen to the signals that matter most. Leadership is not what you do but how what you do helps others do what they need to do better. Use your power to empower others; your strengths to strengthen others.

Dave Ulrich, Rensis Likert professor, Ross School of Business, University of Michigan

2. Be open to change

The world, technology and people change and so must HR. Some policies that were in place 20 years ago no longer apply and some that are in place now will no longer apply 20 years down the line. As HR professionals we are rule enforcers; however, we must also be ok with the rules changing and adapting. While we do not know what the various eventualities will be, having a culture that is not stuck in its ways and is open to change will make you ready to take on what they might be.

Anjali Tumrukota, chief of staff, Taulia

3. Be consistently people-centric

HR must show that every situation that affects an organisation is a ‘people’ issue and not a work issue. If HR can move the function, and the company, to be consistently people-centric then they will be positioned to respond and not react. We must reposition how we work to be proactive instead of reactive. Doing this will keep HR in a leadership role because we are the function that is best equipped to work with people through any circumstance. Time to reshape how HR works all the time to perform and not just in response to a crisis.

Steve Browne, chief people officer, LaRosa’s Inc

4. Have a diverse and inclusive leadership

My top tip is to accept that there is no one person or one team that can give us the answers to the `what if’ questions. Our best chance of looking beyond the here and now is to ensure that the business has a diverse and inclusive leadership team that drives a highly collaborative culture. Our leaders need to be able to think away from the norm and with the support of their teams be able to take us to the moon. We have to look outside the business and engage with our clients, our suppliers and our competitors to be sure we don’t miss a trick and indeed on some occasions get there first so we can really portray ourselves as that employer of choice.

Ellie Armour, human resources and transformation director, Speedy Hire

5. Acknowledge you don’t have all the answers

A major disruption brings greater focus on what really matters; priorities come into sharp relief. When there is no playbook, leaders are required to acknowledge something that some leaders prefer people not to know – no leader has all the answers. Being able to adapt and learn quickly is key. Being willing to rely on others for inputs, ideas and answers is crucial. Not everyone is willing to do this. It takes strength of character to allow people to see your weaknesses. But opening up to other influences does not equate to abdicating responsibility – it should be a prerequisite of that responsibility.

Ian O’Doherty, chief executive officer, Appreciate Group plc

6. Give your people practical wellbeing training

People are learning to navigate rapid change in their workplaces and the future outlook is still so uncertain. Hybrid working has really challenged people and brought those challenges into their homes. With all the uncertainty around, it makes sense to enable your people with the skills to lean into that uncertainty while maintaining balance and perspective. Train them in wellbeing concepts that are practical and usable to help them stay healthy. Communicate why wellbeing is important and how it links to the bigger picture. Use group conversations where senior executives can join and share their own doubts and concerns. Translate caring into practical help to show people ‘we’re facing this change together’”.

Wayne Gwilym, head of organisation development, Tai Tarian

7. Be purpose driven and use EQ

Any futureproof leader or manager will have to have a higher EQ than they've had in the past. It's probably the first thing to look for in leadership and I think this should accelerate the growth of female leaders. The days of macho leadership are over, hopefully. Be purpose driven. I don’t think that culture beats strategy but it is vital. We always start with our values of trust and care; be better. That makes decision-making easier to always do the right thing. It means we are all in it together, thinking of our future and everyone having a voice.

Donald Moore, chair, Rowlinson Knitwear (watch our interview with Donald here)

8. Look for the connections others might be missing

HR leaders are in a perfect position to demonstrate And Beyond leadership and to encourage others to do so. Make time regularly to review what you are hearing and seeing internally and externally. Take a step back and consider the future trends and issues you are noticing. Look for the connections others might be missing. Organise sessions with your own and other business teams to have ‘what if’ discussions. Create a plan that is adaptable. Take early action on the things that keep catching your attention or start causing you concern. Keep the plan alive in people’s minds. Give this activity the same importance as the current priorities. Call things out when others aren’t.

Joan O’Connor​, head of leadership practice, 10Eighty

This article is part of The People Space's Meet the Human-Focused Leaders of 2021 series in partnership with management consultancy 10Eighty. Join Speedy Hire's Ellie Armour and Appreciate's Ian O'Doherty as they share more thoughts on being an And Beyond leader with 10Eighty's Joan O'Connor on 10 June at 13.030-14.00 BST. To register for this free LinkedIn Live event please click here

Leaders pictured in order left to right on each row

Published 2 June 2021
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