HRs rapid response

HR’s rapid pandemic response

In the latest LACE Partners blog we’re featuring a summary of our latest podcast where Aaron Alburey and Annette Andrews from the Guild of HR Professionals  who talk with Maire Sloman, Vice President of Global HR Operations at Colt, about her career in HR and how the industry has evolved.

How did you make your way into HR?

I think I had a portfolio career before that became a ‘thing’! I graduated with a law degree and a Master of Business Studies, where I then joined a corporate bank on a graduate programme. I loved the buzz of working in banking, but in banking if you wanted to develop your career at that time it was looked at favourably that you had an accounting qualification. This was interesting because that enabled me to move in my next direction into management consulting. Originally my focus was with finance transformation, but quite out of the blue a role became available for a business adoption lead on a HR transformation programme. From then on, I was hooked on HR!

It was in 2012 that I joined an HR team in the banking sector, having worked on numerous HR projects - in that respect I consider myself a relative newcomer in HR. The energy and passion I have in HR is huge and is supported by the mindset of my current CEO who talks about HR being critical to realising business strategy; if you cannot change people’s behaviour, mindset and skillsets, then you will not succeed as a business.

The evolution of HR

This is an exciting time to be working in HR. We have been at the forefront of responding to the pandemic, which required us to cut through bureaucracy, roll out new policies at breakneck speed and deliver an uptick in engagement levels for our people. I am convinced that the response of HR teams across many businesses that has been the key driver in successfully navigating out of the crisis from one year ago.

HR has evolved far beyond anything I could have imagined. As a function – and certainly at Colt – we are leading on developing future ways of working as a business; how we embrace flexibility in the workplace, how we build or buy new skills for the future, diversity and inclusion, as well as automation and machine learning. HR has never been more relevant.

What are the biggest challenges for 2021?

HR is often being asked to ‘look into its crystal ball’ to assess what evolution we will see in people strategy but at this time I think it is very difficult to accurately predict. In the last 12 months we have surveyed our people twice to get a gauge on where they were at in terms of working patterns. The results showed that almost all our employees were interested in a hybrid model of working (office and remote), but I do think it is difficult for people to decouple themselves from what we have experienced in the last year, where we are at now, and imagine what life might be like in the future.

There are many advantages to flexible working – larger access to talent pools, for one – but there are also challenges that businesses will need to overcome. For example, collaboration amongst teams, and social interaction. People are more creative when they can collaborate more effectively, and it is difficult to put a price on that human face-to-face interaction. Forecasting people’s working patterns for the future feels like a big challenge many HR teams will face in the next six to 12 months but is a challenge that HR teams across all industries will embrace I feel.

Skills for the future is a big area for us, as is mental health and wellbeing, and ensuring that engagement is maintained when these hybrid models of working emerge as people can go back to the office.

With all of the positive behaviours that we have seen from businesses in response to the crisis, I do believe that success for many businesses will be about replicating these experiences and behaviours in the future when we are out of the pandemic.

If you have a story to tell in your HR career, then please feel free to reach out to us, as we’d love to hear from you. Get in touch – info@lacepartners.co.uk. You can also find out about the Guild of HR Professionals or the ‘In The Spotlight Series’ via their website.