Quick fire with HR interim director Bill Nuttall
HR and non executive director Bill Nuttall has an extensive interim HR and organisation development career in the UK's National Health Service and third sector, including stints at a number of NHS Trusts, Action for Children and Migrant Help UK. He is passionate about the future of work and this week joins The People Space as a contributor. We caught up with him to find out what our readers can expect from his contributions.
You’ve been an interim and consultant since 2005. Why did you choose to go down that path?
In an altruistic sense I guess I wanted to leave a ‘footprint’, ‘write pages’ in the history organisations as they evolved and see tangible results of the work that I produced for clients. In a commercial sense I wanted to prove that I could run my own HR business and not fall flat on my face. To be honest, it was more basic than that. I am passionate about people services and the impact it has on individuals, teams and organisations. I have a mixed HR portfolio supported by a broader range of qualifications that most senior contemporary HR practitioners have, that cover areas such as HR project and programme management, the management of risk and change, ITIL, lean six sigma, NLP and workplace mediation. Being a Fellow of both the Chartered institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) and Chartered Management Institute (CMI) was also a great quality assurance badge to display on the CV when going out into the marketplace bidding to win contracts from clients. Going down this path has also afforded me the opportunity to explore and advise clients on the impact of technology on the way people work now and in the future.
Much of your career has been spent in the healthcare sector. What do you see as the main issues for HR in that sector?
In my opinion, the main issues will be around shaping the new norms of future working in the healthcare sector once financial paralysis has dissipated. HR will need to influence strategies that will retain and grow talent, reduce turnover of highly motivated staff and invest in development and training. This won’t be easy as the constant organisational change, demands on expenditure and competing areas of investment will mean that HR directors in the healthcare sector will need to ‘hone‘ their political and stakeholder management skills. The new healthcare working environment is definitely going to change and transform the post-pandemic era. It is most likely to be clinically led and ‘service transformation’ will be the watch words. HR directors will need to help steer healthcare provider organisations to emerge from the responses we have all seen on our TV screens to find the new purpose, vision and mission. They will need to signal to the board what 'True North' will mean – has anybody got a compass?
We’ve discussed the changing nature of work in the past. Is the pandemic a catalyst for the acceleration of this change in organisations in your view?
Most certainly! We have seen innovative responses to the impact of the pandemic in terms of a whole new approach to the ability of people to work remotely; where automation can help maintain quality and responsiveness in frontline customer services, a reconsideration of the skills and training that employees need for the future and the new mindsets that management will need to embed new business values, an inclusive work culture, the regaining of trust and motivation. The pandemic has been the fulcrum for new leaders to emerge who can push others to move on from austerity and invest in a future work environment that will bring a better work life balance. The pandemic will be the change agent that will enable many organisations to find a new purpose before they can say "Who moved my cheese?"
What do you think are the five most important capabilities today’s HR director should have?
- Not being afraid to challenge and question the board and c-suite executives at meetings when crucial people matters are being discussed. HR has traditionally been seen as the 'the loyal opposition party' during fierce organisational debates on strategy, policy, investment and change.
- Being able to take people with you by being the senior leader you are meant to be.
- Being capable of supporting others in the teams you manage, the teams you are a member of and sometimes your fiercest critics – as sometimes they will remember this act and repay you with support when you need it most – this can also be a good negotiating ploy.
- Being able to change one’s own mind, because when minds change, change happens.
- History has shown that it is often better to be a kingmaker than a king. The average tenure of office for a company CEO (or equivalent) in most sectors has dramatically reduced since the late 1980s, but the influence of the HR director has continued to gain much currency and is a vital member of the senior team.
What have you missed most during lockdown and why?
Not being able to see my father and talk to him in person. My father has been my coach and mentor, confidant and best buddy for a long time. He has had a huge impact on shaping my values, my approach to people, decision making, change management and managing teams. He taught me about office politics. about working up and down an organisation’s food chain, influencing, negotiating and consulting. I loved hearing about his experiences with trade unions in the late 1960s and early 1970s – I think this is where I began to understand what really works when it comes to informing, consulting and engaging with people during periods of change and working in large, complex, diverse organisations
What can The People Space audience expect from your contributions?
A mix of perspectives viewed from different lenses made from personal and anecdotal experience, collaborations, disappointments and achievements. More importantly, my contributions will be based on my horizon scanning of the impending changes to the way we shall work in the future – partly as a result of coronavirus, partly because of the impact of technology and innovation but, more importantly, as a result of the our natural response to change that results in continuous service improvement from board performance to delivering a fantastic customer experience. Oh, by the way, there will be some humour and quirkiness thrown in along the way. You know what they say: “If you don’t have a sense of humour, it’s time to get out of HR”.
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