Date: 02/10/18 | Duration: 00:23:55
As the people profession evolves to meet the needs of a changing business landscape, HR and L&D teams are becoming far more integrated throughout their organisations, working closely with different functions and using their professional skills and knowledge to improve business performance.
In this episode we talk to CIPD’s own Director of people, Brad Taylor, as well as Kate Griffiths-Lambeth, HRD at Charles Stanley, along with her CEO and COO, to find out how their teams go about working with a range of different business areas and the importance they place on integrating the HR and L&D functions throughout the organisation.
View the full podcast transcript
Brad Taylor: HR and L&D can so much better add value to the business if they're integrated within the business, not seen as a separate function and sitting on the side, putting together its own agendas, the sorts of initiatives that it thinks should be going on, but actually working with managers, understanding the business, understanding the issues that they’re facing, where do they want their business to be, and then developing those range of solutions around that to help them achieve that.
PL: It sounds like common sense doesn’t it but it’s still by no means mainstream really is it?
BT: That's right it does sound like common sense and I think there's a need for conversation and debate to take place on both sides as to what sort of things does HR and L&D need to stop doing in order that they can get much more closer to the business, working with the business and really add value to them.
PL: So how does it work here?
BT: So here we have evolved a partnering model, so we have HR business partners, but we also have Learning and Development partners as well and their role is, as much as possible, to be out with the business, talking with directors, heads of department, line managers, understanding the issues that they’re trying to tackle and then developing strategic or tactical solutions that they can deploy that will enable them to achieve those objectives.
So we’re moving away from a historic HR function that tells line managers here’s what you need to do, or, you did that wrong let me tell you what you should have done, to much more what are the frameworks that we need to put in place that means that those line managers can use those frameworks as effectively as possible.
PL: And how do you arrive at the overarching strategy that makes all that possible, because obviously these are individual relationships between various HR partners and their opposite numbers but clearly there's a direction of travel for the CIPD so what happens at the start of that?
BT: So we start with the overall organisational strategy, what is it that the organisation is trying to achieve and then we speak with directors and with heads of department and with line managers and people to really understand what are the issues that they’re facing, what things are working really well for them, but where are the challenges.
We have an internal staff consultation group, a sounding board, which we have trained specifically on how to have strategic conversations with directors to understand those issues and we also have a regular, always on, employee pulse survey, so that people can tell us what are the areas that they are satisfied in, what are the areas that are most important to them.
And from all of that we then constructed our people strategy around three core areas. So those areas are effectively the CIPD experience, what does it feel like to work here with us? And so therefore what's the culture in the leadership that's supporting that.
Secondly what does the future capability of the organisation need to look like to help people understand where we’re going and giving them the development opportunities to go into those roles.
And then the third area is how we have a strategically aligned outcomes-focussed business. So how do we make it as easy as possible for people to get things done.
PL: So that's how they do it at the CIPD. But how about a very different organisation with very different challenges. Charles Stanley is an investment management company with roots going back to 1792. It’s one of the oldest firms on the London Stock Exchange but it operates in a business environment that is fiercely competitive, tech-reliant and constantly evolving. And while Charles Stanley does treasure its history there is nothing old fashioned about the way it drives performance.
Kate Griffiths-Lambeth, a lawyer by training, is group director of human resources. Paul Abberley is the CEO and Michael Bennett the chief operating officer. Now we all sat down together in their Bishopsgate HQ to talk about how they believe HR and L&D can drive business objectives. Here’s Kate.
Kate Griffiths-Lambeth: It’s impossible to my mind to do a good job in HR if you don't understand what the business is trying to do and to work with it to achieve those objectives. So it’s not, you know HR for years has said we need a voice at the table, actually step forward, have a voice, talk with people, learn and work with the areas to achieve what needs to be done. So we have here in Charles Stanley HR business partners who work directly and very, very closely with each of the divisional heads. I work very closely with Paul and with the rest of the executive team. I view myself as part of the team, I don't view myself as slightly distanced and I think that's where the nub of change needs to be.
PL: And that is the change isn’t it, recently. Paul I'm interested, obviously you've worked at other organisations how has it been there, I imagine quite different?
Paul Abberley: Well I've been working in finance for about 35 years so I've seen the complete trend and I see sort of three phases: in the old days it was personnel.
PL: This is Paul Abberley, the CEO.
PA: The move towards HR was a recognition that the impact of good HR practice on your staff would make a big difference to profitability. I think what’s new nowadays is if we’ve gone from personnel to HR where HR is seen to be supporting the business, the third stage, which I think we’re still in the early stages of in most companies, is viewing HR as a way of powering performance, so actually putting it front and centre and saying, can you use HR insiders to drive performance as opposed to just support performance that's driven by their executives.
PL: Back at CIPD HQ in Wimbledon I put some of the points from the Charles Stanley team to Brad Taylor. Does he agree that HR and L&D should be doing more than simply supporting the business?
BT: I agree with that. I think that the role of HR should be to understand business as much as it possibly can. What are the things that are going on within the organisation that's making it easy to be effective and what are the things that are getting in the way or restricting the organisation from evolving and developing? And the only way to achieve that is to be close to the business and working with its leaders, working with its people, putting the things in place, the channels in place for that information to come back in so that it can go away and think about these things and then work with the business to develop solutions.
PL: Now of course a shift like that doesn’t happen overnight, at Charles Stanley integrating HR and L&D into the business is an ongoing process and it began several years ago.
PA: Well from my viewpoint learning and development, when I joined the company, was very much around technical skills. It belonged more under the heading of personnel frankly than HR. I think the change in the last few years is that we’ve said learning and development is not just about what you need to be able to do but how would you go about doing it? So bringing the behaviours and the values closer to the technical skills, which can have a bigger impact on productivity than simply giving people better technical skills.
PL: Brad agrees. L&D isn’t just about skills, values and behaviours they're critical.
BT: Skills can be taught. Values and behaviours is something that I think organisations need to be good at, first of all understanding what matters to them and then secondly how does it identify those within people, both within talent that it’s looking to bring into the organisation but also existing talent across the organisation as well. What sort of signals is it sending out to say, this matters to us and this is important, versus this doesn’t.
And I think sometimes organisations can fall into the trap of trying to be everything to everyone and that sends an unclear message because people will draw different conclusions as to what’s good and I think HR has a role in helping leadership have that bigger view, that sort of high level view as to what’s going on across the organisation and where’s the climate of the organisation going.
PL: Here’s Kate again.
KG-L: You can also use L&D as a way of helping transform a business. So we founded a group leadership development programme very shortly after Paul became CEO. We deliberately had high performing stars from across the organisation on it. That gave an opportunity to reduce the silo mentality, for people to have a shared attitude about what we’re trying to do. It’s almost like using it as a communication channel.
PL: So this group leadership development programme is a joint venture that's breaking down barriers right across the business and generating useful strategy ideas.
KG-L: Paul set those individuals on the first cohort and we’re now on to cohort four actually and every single cohort has had a CEO challenge for them to go away and come back to and present either to the board or the executive committee, that is a business-related issue that we needed to resolve.
PL: What sort of things?
KG-L: We've looked at flexible working. We’ve looked at how do we enhance collaboration and communication across different areas.
PL: Yeah, do they enjoy it, it sounds fun?
KG-L: I think they love it.
PL: So I mean obviously they get to the end, this is over the course of a year?
KG-L: People have said it’s life-changing. People have actually said that it’s really made me think about things in a different way.
PL: So everything they do, not just stuff that might be affected by regulatory issues but the way they operate in the entirety of their job role changes?
Michael Bennett: And if a number of people have worked in an organisation for a long time this is absolutely the first experience of this type of training that they’ve ever had.
PL: This is Michael Bennett, Charles Stanley’s COO.
MB: No intervention at all and so from that point of view it is completely different. For some of them it is a shock.
PL: So from your point of view what sort of behavioural changes are you seeing, not just in the general employers but amongst line managers I suppose is the most interesting?
MB: It’s very much the way that the managers are leading their teams and actually challenging their teams to become more productive, to become more effective.
PL: And you’re getting better outcomes?
MB: Yeah, significantly better outcomes in terms of that breadth of thinking and the extension of what they’re doing, and how it fits into the bigger picture.
KG-L: We also see it in things like Paul runs an Ask Expert session on the last Friday of the month which is filmed and anybody across the company, anywhere can ask questions but the kind of questions that people are asking now it’s not, why doesn’t the lift work?
PL: What are they asking?
KG-L: They're much more, what are our competitors up to; when are we going to do it? So people are thinking more strategically. They are interested in where the business is going toward and why. They want to know why we’re changing the pricing on something or what’s happening with the launch of the CSD app, or which are the market sectors that we now think we ought to be going into, what does an ideal client look like? I don't think three years ago people would have asked you those questions?
PA: They certainly wouldn’t have asked any of those sort of questions. It’s been a profound change.
PL: These shifts are also producing wins by encouraging employees to be more curious about the business and they’re also generating some unexpected career moves.
KG-L: It’s good for people to see that you can progress and that you’re not always going to automatically look for someone externally to step into a role. And I really appreciate the fact that Charles Stanley is prepared to give people opportunities outside their immediate level.
PL: What sort of things?
KG-L: So people have moved from IT into front office areas. People have moved from compliance to work directly into client-facing roles. Our head of strategy was originally in the finance department.
PA: Absolutely and I would add to that that when you encourage mobility internally clearly there are frictional costs because there’s disruption if someone leaves Department A, Department A’s got to backfill, but it’s paid off many fold in terms of improved productivity because you have people that have worked in more than one department and that helps break down the silo mentality.
PL: Indeed. They ((0:12:21?)) with them.
PA: …so that the productivity impact is profound, well worth the frictional cost.
KG-L: It also sometimes enables you to understand the organisation better. So we’ve got another chap called Eliot who’s moved from finance to work for a while in an operational role in the investment management area. When he was in finance, I mentor Eliot so I have a fair amount of discussion with him, he was sort of, ‘I don't understand why they don't just do this, on paper it’s blindingly obvious. We should just do this, this and this and then we’d get that.’ And it’s only having sat in the operational area he's said to me, rather ruefully, ‘I now understand why…’
PL: Why they don't.
KG-L: But at the same time he's able to discuss, ‘Well if we could sort this and this out we would be able to do that, and that would be obviously better for everybody.’ So because of both his knowledge from the first area where he was working and where he is now he's much better positioned to help carry the business forwards.
PL: So this effort to mesh L&D and HR with the business means that people are moving sideways or diagonally in a way they never used to do. Now does Brad see that at the CIPD too?
They mentioned that with this more inclusive approach to everything the organisation does in HR, L&D in driving performance, they had seen people move in completely unexpected directions in terms of their career paths within the organisation because the whole thing had become more transparent and they'd seen routes that they hadn’t thought of before. Have you found that at all? Has that happened here at all?
BT: Yes we’ve tried this at the CIPD and what I've found that the HR business partners have been able to do is to challenge line managers in their thinking either about the career paths where they think their people could go but also where they might perceive limitations or restrictions because the HR business partners are very well placed to look at the organisation much more holistically and see where there's opportunities for certain strengths to be better deployed. And what we’re also keen to do, as part of our evolving approach with this, is to help people tell us more about the skills and capabilities that they have that don't directly relate to their day job, so the sort of hobbies and activities they like to do perhaps outside of work that we might have opportunity to use on certain projects and programmes that we're doing within the CIPD.
So an example would be we have someone in my own HR team who works on payroll who has a very keen interest in photography and videography, so we’ve been able to give her opportunities to get involved in that, in putting videos together for the CIPD, or working on some of the photography that we need with part of our collateral.
PL: Back with Charles Stanley they explained how vital it is to explain these new ideas to everyone and that is where head of comms, Joanne Higginson is making a really big contribution.
KG-L: A lot of it comes down to communication and in a funny kind of way L&D is communication.
PL: Well it is indeed but how do you handle the comms end of it?
KG-L: When Paul first became CEO and we did our first engagement survey one of the things that came out was that people felt that communication was dire.
PL: All right, not unusually.
KG-L: We have appointed an excellent head of PR and Comms and Jo has taken us from a rating on the engagement survey of being poor to now being excellent and it’s things like the Ask Ex Co, the creation of various magazines, publications, some of it perhaps slightly gimmicky so when we launched our values we printed the values on M&Ms and put M&Ms round on everybody’s desk, but it’s a way of getting the message across.
PL: To get people talking about it.
KG-L: Using things like screensavers, so actually when you come in and you log on in the morning there's a message there for you, it might be at the moment the message about risk but we’ve used that again with the values, with conduct outcomes, lots of different ways of getting messages across.
PL: So you're road-testing various routes of disseminating these ideas and what, cherry-picking the ones you feel are working best, the ones that are going down best?
PA: Yes absolutely. some of them work better than others and if they don't work you drop them and that's absolutely fine. I think the key element in this is to ensure that the L&D related comms are wrapped up in broader commercial comms. It’s dangerous to separate them and you don't want people thinking okay this is an HR thing. So if they get something from the CEO which talks in very quantitative terms about the latest monthly P&L and then seamlessly moves into something around a challenge you might be having with a particular value then that really emphasises to staff, even if subliminally, that actually these things are very much bound together.
PL: So they're thinking creatively about how to communicate this stuff to the employees and the CIPD also think hard about how to communicate their new ideas to their people.
BT: Posters down in the main reception when people come in that talk about our strategy or the sort of initiatives that we’re working on, through to working with our employee consultation group, talking about the strategic inspirations and what we’re doing, through to blogs, the director’s blog about the individual strategies that they’re working on to try and encourage people to get involved and take part in contributing to those but also then relaying back here’s the progress that we’ve made, through to news articles on the intranet and then to help people find those articles on the intranet we have a weekly email that goes out every Thursday that highlights the key stories and things that took place that week.
We’ve even started, over the last few months, doing a blog after every senior leadership team meeting where one of the directors will take turns to just blog – here are the things that we spoke about in the meeting – so that people get a sense of what’s on our minds and the direction that we’re taking the business in.
PL: Yes and what went on in the meeting room that they weren’t party to.
PL: How nice. But nothing printed on M&Ms for you?
BT: We’ve not done the M&Ms yet although it sounds like a good idea. I think we could look at that.
PL: And that is the thought that's running through all of this as far as I can see this idea that you have completely moved away from the idea that there is HR, there is learning, there are courses, there are things you'll need to do and it’s all hung off this skeleton of business performance and driving the business.
BT: Very much so.
PL: Are you finding Kate that you’re getting much more buy-in from people when they don't think, this is something I've got to do, it’s some box-ticking exercise, they understand where it might take them career-wise, where they might contribute to the business.
KG-L: I think people are actually seeing the tangible difference both for individuals and for the business as a whole.
PL: That is encouraging isn’t it because I mean it’s an issue for lots of organisations this, you know pushing that stuff to the bottom of the pile for a lot of people, senior and junior, it’s not their day job but it sounds as if you’re trying to enforce the message this is your day job, or at least it’s part of your day job.
KG-L: It’s part of it yeah.
PA: And again a cautionary note because the path is never entirely smooth with these things, to the extent that you’re successful in improving the awareness you also make a rod for your own back because the expectations of the staff go up, so they say, ‘Yeah we get this now let's do more of it,’ and to some degree the staff’s expectations can run ahead of the executive function’s ability to deliver some of this stuff so they say, ‘Let’s run faster.’
PA: I think the pace of change and restructuring so there's still quite a lot that needs to be done in terms of transforming the firm, when you’re looking at it from my perspective I can see risks and rewards in terms of the path we would take and if it’s restructuring a particular division then the staff in that division, or even outside that division, might say, ‘Well let’s just go ahead and do it. Let’s crack on, why wait?’ I'm looking at it from a risk-adjusted perspective and I'm thinking, well there's a few things that could go wrong here but the staff would say, ‘No, just do it for goodness sake. Why are you prevaricating?’
PL: The final thing I wanted to ask you really is for people listening to this, your advice for people who are still living in the usual world where these things are less integrated, more siloed, still slightly the old model of HR sitting in one corner, L&D sitting in the other and the business being somewhere over there, what would your tips be, pitfalls, advice?
PA: Well the first thing I’d say is you need at least one person in the organisation that’s experienced this elsewhere. I think a second point is lots of communications before you even start because you have to prepare your staff for what you’re going to be doing next otherwise you'll just race ahead of them and they’ll just be left bewildered by all the change. So I think experience and comms before you start are the two key things.
MB: It’s getting the right person. So if you’re going to embed a business partner in an area they really have to be the right person, both from the point of view of knowing what we’re trying achieve as a company but also being able to appreciate and understand the people they're representing, the people they’re working with.
PL: What was the hardest part?
KG-L: The change here so far, educating people that it was possible so that they would make the stab to do the change because I've got a person in my team who joined in 1969, he's never worked anywhere else, why would he know there's a different way of doing things? And there are a lot of people across the company but it did mean that for many people doing something different it just hadn’t been on their horizon.
PA: And I think firms also need to be aware that there's no reverse gear. That's another cautionary note, once you go down this path it’s no good in 18 months saying either, ‘Well we’re bored with that,’ or alternatively saying, ‘Well this is all too difficult we’re going to go back to the old days.’ There is no reverse gear, once you open up this approach to staff they will embrace it inevitably and then you have to have that long-term commitment to see it through. So if you’re not really committed, you know, don't start unless you’re really committed to doing this properly.
PL: As you probably already know the CIPD is drawing up a new professional standards framework reflecting the themes we’ve been talking about. Here’s HR chief Brad, he's been very involved right from the start.
BT: Yes so the new professional standards framework is coming, a lot of work has gone into this including speaking with our members to understand how they use their skills at the moment as HR and L&D professionals but it’s looking at what does it mean to be a modern HR or L&D professional? What is it that the CEO, the leadership teams, would expect of the people profession to really be able to help the business to understand why things are happening in a certain way? Why are people behaving in a certain way? What are their expectations of work? How can the organisations think about how work can be done differently given the way that the world of work is moving?
And I think that’s what will really demonstrate HR and L&D’s value at the table in being able to articulate these things. We understand people, we understand why they behave the way they do and we understand what things need to be put in place to make the organisation as professional as possible and all things will be coming out in the New Year.
PL: So not long to wait. Feel free to share this pod with anyone involved in driving performance at your own organisation, or indeed anywhere else, it might be useful. It may be called the CIPD Podcast but it’s not just for CIPD members. Thanks for listening. Catch the next episode on the first Tuesday of every month.