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Charlie Champions Breakfast 1 - London

17 September 2019

Topic brought by Ginni Lisk at Unleashed. Chaired by Ben Gateley, CEO of CharlieHR.

Theme: ‘What are the most important skills 'People' people need in order to champion People & Culture?’

Key takeaways:

  • It's difficult but important to build the right precedent, especially as a woman in HR that you are the people person, but not the person to clean up after them
  • Boundaries need to be established so people don’t feel like they can ask about other people’s salaries
  • Transparent, company-wide comms are important to avoid gossiping from happening  and being in control of the narrative of the company’s growth (especially firing)
  • It’s difficult but important to champion your own L&D, not just that of the company
  • Leading by example is a great way to get people to engage with their L&D budgets, be empathetic, be emotionally intelligent at work and empower people to do things themselves
  • Building a culture of L&D and a workspace where people enjoy and want to work is important to them, they want to champion it
  • Old HR (admin-y and legal-y stuff) is the backbone of HR, but overall, HR is dead and long may ‘People’ reign supreme
  • People want to get out of reactive HR and be a champion of positive change in their workplaces

Full Notes:

The workforce today expect opportunities for learning and development, and support from their companies and HR in pursuing those goals. Today, even small companies need to offer both opportunities and support for L&D pursuits, or retention will become an issue very quickly. As Ben likes to say, ‘If you don’t grow them, you’ll lose them’. This is a good thing! You don’t want to be hiring people with no ambition to become better at their jobs. The key to not losing them as a result of their ambitions is to help them grow.

What skills are most vital as a ‘People person’? (round-up)

  • Relationship building
  • Filtering information
  • Coaching
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Approachability
  • Calmness
  • Boundaries - set them up from the start

What is the 'Future of Work'?

  • HR is dead, long live ‘People’ - Ginni Lisk
  • Retroactive HR is a trap that prevents someone in a traditional HR role from progressing into a ‘People’ role - championing the effort to build places where people are happy to work
  • Developing an empathy, people-first work environment/company culture is important
  • There should be almost a UX/customer experience-driven approach to developing company culture and employee on-boarding
  • HR people need more headspace to move from reactive to proactive HR
  • People people have to be internal, people need to be able to come to them with issues
  • Empathy and people first
  • Performance improvement process should be in place

Most important communication elements for HR to get right

  • Speaking to people face to face, rather than over email all the time can be key to avoiding conflicts driven by information travelling in the form of gossip
  • Company-wide, cross-team communication whenever there is a large team change - such as someone being fired.
  • People feel entitled to a lot of information, and if you don’t disseminate that information as transparently and as fully as possible on your own terms, most of it will get out anyway through word-of-mouth
  • Better to be in control of the facts and the narrative, and avoid miscommunications and possible negative feelings in the company
  • Information can become currency, especially in small/medium-sized companies where there may be numerous personal as well as professional relationships (ie. siblings, close friends, spouses and partners)
  • Blind vs un-blind approach to information

How HR can get positioning and boundaries right

  • Balancing wanting to solve their problems and feeling good about helping them, and being HR rather than only a problem sweeper
  • Using all the tools at your disposal as a leader and a ‘People’ person
  • Making people happy
  • Don’t create a precedent for a cycle of tidying up after people
  • Delegate
  • Mentor people and managers, so they can solve and manage their own team issues where possible
  • Direct people to the right person for the issue - to the appropriate help
  • Coaching element for managers especially
  • All key to getting out of reactive HR
  • Otherwise, it becomes a case of just putting out fires - ‘can only see the trees coming at you, you can’t see the woods’
  • Leading by example
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Empathy
  • Be approachable
  • Respect for you and your role is the key to being able to be closer to each individual (pub sessions etc.), where you draw a clear line of not talking about work at all at any point

Managing quickly scaling companies, as the first HR/People person is tough. Remember :

  • Culture on-boarding, as well as practical on-boarding important, especially when scaling fast (10-20 people per quarter)
  • Show & tell
  • CEO run sessions weekly around culture
  • Identified key issues and built sessions around them

How to prioritise your own development, as well as that of your team:

  • Only tend to really focus on other people’s L&D
  • Prioritising own L&D will help the business, and also lead by example and get other people to engage with their own L&D pursuits and budgets
  • Can feel guilty about doing it, but important not to
  • Even when a company has no budget, culturally make them aware that it’s ok to leave to go to a talk or a workshop or networking event a little early from work by doing it yourself
  • One person worked somewhere where they paid people £50 to read a book and make notes to then share
  • Not everyone has time to read every book
  • Force their hand into engaging with L&D, and also:
  • Important to have guidelines on how they can spend their L&D budgets, and what other people have spent theirs own - like our unlimited holiday fix, sometimes more rules/guidelines and info makes it easier for people to engage
  • Build a culture of L&D
  • Self care is important
  • Be pushy with your own development

Being a woman in HR can be tough.

  • Important to be assertive from the start
  • Can’t set the precedent of letting people think you’ll clean up after them (literally)
  • Falling into the care-taker role can be dangerous
  • Defining and building relationships
  • Important to have personal relationships where people feel they can open up to you, but not so much so that you’re fetching milk when it runs out, or clearing away cups in the kitchen for them
  • Cultivating people to clean up after themselves before older staff become passive-aggressive, sending pictures of mugs left out over slack etc.
  • Sarcasm can be a useful tool when people start behaving like children, waiting for the 'parent figure' to clean up after them
  • Empower people to do things themselves