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Meet the Boss: Karen Richardson, Head HR Thomas Eggar LLP

Written by: Ashley Kate HR
Published on: 9 Jul 2015

Karen Richardson_200Karen was keen to explain that HR professionals are acutely aware that that developing and retaining talent is key to businesses remaining competitive.  As the economy recovers we are already experiencing a candidate driven market within some key areas with individuals receiving three or four job offers when switching roles.  Given the growing shortage of candidates and the wider availability of vacant roles, the critical issue we all therefore face is how to engage develop and reward our people fairly so that as a business they can retain essential talent.

She goes on to say that on a practical level, the HR team can implement as many programmes and initiatives as it likes, but if managers on the ground don’t understand fully understand and wholeheartedly support such initiatives when implemented, the benefit to the business will be minimal.  In order to bring about this understanding, the solution can be as simple as revisiting some of the basics. As HR teams we should, of course, continue to implement new initiatives to make our organisations better places to work, but we should also not overlook the impact that could be demonstrated by focusing on management capability.

Much can be achieved by being clear about how we expect managers to lead and develop their teams – they must be accountable for defining behaviours and measuring success against them.  You may think this is an obvious statement to make but it is often an area that is overlooked within organisations.  Facilitating a culture of real accountability amongst middle managers is key. 

How many times as an HR professional have you had managers in the business call you and say ‘morale amongst the staff is low and HR need to do something about it’.  I am sure I am not the only one who has alarm bells ring in her head when such a call comes through.  Of course it is never nice to hear that kind of sentiment exists within the business but more importantly, it concerns me that a manager believes they are tackling the issue by devolving responsibility to the HR team.  My first response to calls of this nature is to always ask what is driving the mood of team and then to ask the manager what they suggest can be done about it.  Too often managers believe everything to do with people is the responsibility of HR as they ‘do the people bit’.  Making them responsibility for all aspects of the performance of their team will go some way to addressing that perception. 

Of course we all see the benefit of investing in management development programmes, and they do play a valuable part. However I believe we often have as much impact, at a more cost effective return, by focusing our managers on understanding themselves, and how they are perceived by others. Only when our managers have a better understanding of their own leadership style is it relevant to introduce tips and techniques for their toolkit to support them with the day to day running of their team. 

We all recognise the evolution taking place in the workplace and the rapid pace of change irrespective of the industry or size of organisation we work within.  We now have five different generations in the workplace all of whom have different levels of expectations of their employers.  Developing managers who are nimble and flexible enough to get the best out of each team member will have a direct impact on how motivated that person feels about working for your business.

It is, of course, vital that HR teams give managers relevant tools to help them develop and retain talent and these should always be underpinned by the principals of fairness and transparency.  Introducing bureaucracy for the sake of bureaucracy in HR systems and processes simply undermines an organisations view of the HR team and does more to disengage everyone in the business rather than motivate them.    

Fundamentally, for me a successful strategy which develops and retains people is one which is focused on the development of those in the business who have the most interaction with your people every day, their manager.    HR must ensure they work with managers to understand what they need to achieve and design straightforward and simple solutions which are relevant to the issue at hand. It is my belief that by tackling these two areas in tandem we will see a demonstrable impact on making our organisations better places to work.

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