Variety and choice: why I enjoy being an Associate at LACE Partners

We caught up with Ian Williams, HR Operations expert and Senior Associate at LACE to find out more about his experience and what it’s like to be a part of our team. Read on to learn what issues Ian has seen HR teams face and what pieces of advice he would give to any HR team looking at implementing a new technology, delivering change or transformation programmes relating to people functions within a business.

Tell us a bit of background on yourself, the nature of the work that you do?

I’ve been in HR for 20 odd years working in every HR discipline possible, and have ended up specialising in Operations, Technology and M&A. I’ve worked for a major global food retailer in the UK, a major global bank and then a large charity overseas. Following this, 12 months ago I became an independent.

That’s great, what made you decide to go independent?

I like variety of work. If I get into a day job and I’m in it for too long I can get a bit bored; so for me consulting is an ideal way to have multiple clients at once and get involved in multiple sectors. Having done retail, charity and financial services I was keen to understand what HR operations looks like in new industries and apply that knowledge to help other organisations be the best they can be. It’s also great to be your own boss.

Does being your own boss make your work/life balance any better?

You have more control. Although I work similar hours, I choose when and how I work. If I want to work in the evenings or a Saturday morning I can, and if I need to take a Tuesday off I can. It’s just much more flexible.

What kinds of projects do you particularly like to be involved in?

Probably projects which are in the early stages of strategy. Whether that’s defining a new tech or shared services strategy or potentially doing an acquisition or divestment as you get an adrenaline rush from those last two.

I think probably strategy around shared services and tech would be my favourite as you need to understand more about the company and what drives it. You need to understand the direction of the HR team and what they are trying to achieve.

I’m a big fan of simplicity; if you have a policy, write it in two pages, rather than forty pages. Use Lean as a process methodology because it’s about customer focus and don’t get too hung up on that ‘we’ve always done it’ approach. I like the strategic stuff because you hopefully get an opportunity to influence the direction rather than the nitty gritty of project plans.

If you could give three pieces of advice to all businesses what would it be?

  1. Simplify HR process and policy
  2. Focus on the employee as a customer
  3. Be realistic about what you can do

What are common mistakes you see organisations make time and time again?

HR try and do too much

HR finds it a real challenge in terms of underestimating the time the day job requires. The fact is, things come out of leftfield and completely blow your day out and there’s also an overly ambitious plan of what you need to do over the next twelve months. Which you rarely get to do, which leads to frustration for the HR team and for the business as you’ve over promised and under delivered. In my last role as an HR Director I never had a day planned which went the way I had planned it to, as there would be a grievance, or issue or crisis that you needed to step into.

HR don’t listen to the business enough

If you listen to line managers you will understand that they might accept what we wouldn’t accept. We want it to be perfect all the time, but quite frankly the 80/20 rule applies to most scenarios. Not all, but many of them, so if it’s good enough then go with it.

How long have you known LACE for and how did you find out about us?

I was building an HR tech business case at a large charity organisation, looking for a new HR platform, when I was introduced to one of the LACE associates through one of the consultants we were using. They brought Aaron Alburey into a discussion we were having about systems selection. From there I commissioned LACE to do a payroll strategy project for my organisation. I’ve known Aaron and LACE now for about five years.

What are the best bits about being part of the LACE team?

One of the best parts of running your own business is that you get to choose what you work on, where you work, how you work. But what you miss is the team.

You’re in and out of organisations all the time so you don’t necessarily build the rapport with everyone else. Whereas when you associate with LACE, in comparison to some of the other consultancies I work with, the associates really feel like part of the family. You’re very much brought in to the events, blogs, discussions, and social events. It gives you a quasi-team to be part of, which was especially helpful during lockdown. Joining all the Friday calls when you’re stuck at home on your own was really helpful. You get the family sense, you get the team sense, then they work hard but play harder which I really like.

 We definitely ramped up our engagement strategies over the last six months! What has stood out most to you?

Friday quizzes. Everyone at LACE is very competitive so that’s always interesting to watch. I like that they’re themed, like how the Pride quiz coincided with London Pride not running this year which was great. It’s a nice way to finish the week off!

What advice would you give to someone else starting a career in HR?

HR is one of those areas where you can use your skills globally, so my advice to coming into HR; if you get access to international opportunities seize them with both hands. It really helps you to understand HR. When you’re dealing with UK vs. South Africa vs. Singapore you get an amazing amount of experience by having a global focus.

 We are looking for Associates to join #TeamLACE so if you like what you’ve read, then reach out to our Recruitment Manager Danielle Fitzsimmons-Elliott for a chat.