What we listened to this week...what HR should be focusing on in 2018

3 minute read

ThePeopleSpace editorial director Siân Harrington listens to the HR podcasts so you don't have to. This week: HR has a role to play in lifting the organisation’s gaze and looking further into the future, says Fiona Ryland, executive HR director of University College London

Sian Harrington

HR can put business understand how best to deploy human resource

What will be the big issues for people leaders in 2018? Well, in the UK Brexit will certainly be front of mind in terms of its potential impact on the talent pipeline and employee experience is still right up there. But executive HR director at University College London (UCL), Fiona Ryland, sees 2018 as the year when the focus will be on productivity, developing great line managers, data and analytics and ensuring HR has a bigger role in the business.

In a discussion with Andi Roberts, senior consultant at HR consultancy Tap’d Solutions, Ryland, who joined UCL from hospitality giant Compass, picks up on the UK Government’s new Industrial Strategy. This, she says, focuses on future technology and hi-tech when many UK jobs are in sectors such as retail and hospitality. HR has a role to play to help organisations identify where technology can have an impact.

“HR can help organisations understand what the business strategy is, who our customers are and what are we doing for these customers. Out of this, what can be automated and how can technology help – and in light of this how can we best deploy human resource to add value,” she says.

In hospitality she points to McDonald’s, which has taken cost out of the business by installing self-service tills but at the same time improved the customer journey as, having ordered on the self-service pod, customers can sit down rather than wait in long line to pick up their food and drink.

Data analytics is another area Ryland expects to take centre-stage in 2018. But she warns businesses not to wait until they have perfect data.

“We can overwhelm managers with data. We need the analytical ability to translate data into actionable insights. My experience is we don’t always have the data we want but you can start with little data.

“Get the data you have and turn it into those insights, then go to the business and say: ‘If you carry on like this, this is what the organisation is going to look like’. Don’t wait for the best data.”

One issue Ryland and Roberts identify is the focus on today’s business and lack of mindspace to look to the future. A lot of businesses are training people for today and not looking at what the future business looks like and what skills will be needed for this.

Taking an evidence-based approach and demonstrating value are key for people leaders and in the shadow of the economic uncertainty of Brexit, they will be more of a focus than ever.

At Compass, Ryland says she ripped up the rulebook on employee engagement to enable line managers to deliver better value. A two-year, 60 question corporate engagement survey was scrapped and instead the business went out to speak to managers and team at the best performing units. The result was a ‘managers blueprint’ based on what the most successful managers do.

Eight behaviours were identified in these best managers and this formed the basis of a training programme and new survey, based around 14 questions related to line managers. This was piloted and individual training programmes were developed based on each manager’s result.

“We did this three times a year so managers could try something different and get immediate feedback on what worked and didn’t,” explains Ryland. “Top quartile managers delivered better growth, profitability and much less absence and turnover, so we were able to demonstrate pound notes to the business.”

You need to give managers and employees ammunition if you want them to tell the organisation’s story, she adds. Telling this story will be important in 2018 as companies vie for talent.

According to the webinar’s audience, improving the impact of HR and obtaining the right leaders and behaviours for great teams are the biggest challenges for 2018 (both receiving 29% of the votes), with 21% saying improving productivity across all parts of the business.

Get the data you have and turn it into those insights, then go to the business and say: ‘If you carry on like this, this is what the organisation is going to look like’. Don’t wait for the best data

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