Warning! What do assumptions make?


HR professionals have a unique opportunity to make work a better place to be. In over a decade in this profession I have realised that the old cliche is correct – no two days are ever the same. Its this variety that often leads to the excitement. Yes thats right, excitement, for those who prescribe to the incorrect stereotype that it isn’t an exciting career choice. I thoroughly enjoy what i do and get a lot out of it.

We come across new ideas often and the literature thats easily accessible to us in this profession is fantastic for sharing these new ideas along with innovative thinking, and the plethora of interesting blogs and discussion forums allow us to delve deeper into these topics along with other contributors.

This is great when we come back to work and we come across new challenges and opportunities that we are required to help address.

It’s connecting our thinking and enthusiasm for new ideas with the task in hand that inspired me to write this piece.

I often wonder if the reason People Programmes fail, is because the solution that is being applied has not been selected because it is the best possible process to resolve a specific matter, but because it has yielded fantastic results in other businesses that had a similar, yet not identical matter to resolve.

This short blog is just a cautionary reminder. We must choose our processes with two questions in mind;- What is the real issue I need to address, and is this the best solution to solve that issue?

We must not think ‘this is a great process, it has to be what this company needs’. It still might work, but alternatively, it might cause organisational damage.

We must be careful not to have enthusiasm fuelled tunnel-vision that leads us along the wrong path but need to take time to reflect. Bank the great ideas, learn as much as possible, use them when its right to use them, but stop. Pause. And put the problem, not the solution, first.

Econo-Me! A Skills Gap In HR

Your Managing Director has called an emergency board meeting brought on by a sudden contract withdrawal. She is deeply concerned in how this will affect the business but she has been engaging with this customer for some time and so it was not entirely unsuspected.

Your Finance Director has been planning for this eventuality. She realised a while back that the contract was at risk and so she has ensured that the correct reserves were in place to cope with every eventuality.

Your Sales Director is ok about this. He had heard the customer was shopping around and so he was looking for a replacement customer which he is confident he already has lined up.

Your Ops Director is also ok about this. He realised the customer had been slowly reducing the volume of their orders and so spent down time ensuring the workforce received training to be better suited to create new products for when a new customer was on board.

You’re the Head of HR, and this is all news to you.

OK, i’m being facetious but this does happen and often shows up, in my opinion, a specific area in which HR can often fall short – awareness of the outside world and the PESTLE factors which affect the businesses in which we operate.

It’s been mentioned a lot in recent years that HR must become intrinsic in understanding other business areas, with finance and the business ‘numbers’ being particularly important. I get that, and I agree with that, but we must also become more externally aware.

Throughout my career thus far, I have realised how easy it can become to focus on the challenges within the boundaries of the company that employs us. Sometimes this can be even more isolated, where we become focussed on only our set of ‘customers’, which could be one department out of a number of departments within the same company, which is unhealthy. If we don’t know whats going on in other departments, other sites, other divisions, then how can we possibly know whats facing the business as a whole.

“It’s vital to be externally aware”

It’s vital to be externally aware. For a start, almost all of our business partners and heads of other departments live the external environment every day and without doing so they would probably be ineffective in their roles, so why should HR be any different?

The people agenda has always been shaped by external factors but this has arguably accelerated due to recent political changes. The Brexit is having a demonstrable impact on employee relations and recruitment, the UK economy generally in recent times has posed various sets of challenges, and the effect of newly introduced environmental regulations caused huge question marks over the confidence that Tata has in its UK operations, all of which are external factors requiring HR to be a critical leader in response.

So it is my view that we must make the ability to look broader, beyond the usual emerging HR practices and employment law and the usual external engagement for recruitment etc, a basic element of how we operate.

I’d like to share with you at this stage a model that i’ve been playing around with which I aim to use as a benchmark for developing future HR talent, as has been a key task for me in my last few positions. It’s pretty basic, but outlines my point above about looking externally, along with being financially aware, utilising appropriate and trusted organisational psychology and underpinning our work with an evidence-based approach.

I’d be interested to hear any feedback on this so please do drop me an email mark.hendy@southwaleshrforum.co.uk with any thoughts.

Future HR Model

How becoming a parent changed my HR attitude


I’ve been thinking about writing this blog for a while but I wasn’t sure about whether to write something this personal. I was also apprehensive out of concern that this might be misconstrued in an Andrea Leadstrom/Theresa May kind of way.

But here goes anyway.

Huge disclaimer before you read on due to my apprehension. This should not be viewed as me saying ‘being a parent has made me a better HR pro than someone who isn’t a parent’ or ‘Only a parent can have these skills’. Thats rubbish and I don’t think that way. This is about my very own experience and what i’ve noticed in me and me alone.

For those who follow me on Twitter (if you aren’t you should be, @MarkSWHRF – I’ll know if you haven’t followed me!) you will know I have this ‘open book’ policy. I don’t have 1 twitter account for ‘personal’ use and 1 for ‘work’ purposes, I have one account that is a fair representation of me generally. If you follow me you will see a fairly equal distribution of tweets about;- HR, leadership, boxing, movies, music, the West Wing/Aaron Sorkin (the genius), Swansea City FC, miscellaneous and last but certainly not least, my wife and son.

My son, Oscar, is 2 and a half. The old cliche is correct;- he absolutely, has taught me just as much as i’ve taught him. He’s amazing. He blows my mind, every day. Becoming a parent has changed me in many ways, but before I start blubbering like a wreck, i’ll get back to the point.

I’ve noticed that in the last couple of years, since becoming a father, i’ve been able to look at things in a different way. For example, I often can’t display sympathy even if I tried really hard, its just one of those things. It’s not to say i’m unsympathetic, it’s just that I occasionally struggle to display that sympathy. But since becoming a parent, i’ve been able to replace that with a stronger ability to empathise which has undoubtedly allowed me to act more effectively when dealing with that particular situation. I believe this improved ability is because i am empathic of how my son is feeling in accordance with the situations he encounters and i’m now actively and consciously doing the same in my work.

Another way my attitude has changed is with active listening. I truly want to listen more and better understand what i’m being asked or told, rather than what I want to say. Watching how my son has learned from whats going on around him, has made me understand how important it is to really pay attention to what is being asked of me and what is needed of me as the listener.

Finally, I have become more ambitious and I encourage others to be more ambitious, more so when I can see that they aren’t realising their full potential. I want to reach the top of my game in what I do and I want my son to be proud of me, and when I am coaching or guiding others which is a vital part of my role, I want the same for those I am working with so that they can better themselves and be as brilliant as they can be.

I don’t think I used to be like this so much before.

Our life and the experiences we have change us in many different ways, as has been written many times before. So naturally, my attitude towards how I practice HR has been changed by my experiences too. Experiences of those i’ve worked with and learned from. Things i’ve experienced due to situations i’ve found myself in. And bad experiences as well as learning opportunities. So I guess becoming a parent was going to change me in almost every way, including having an impact on my attitude to my work.

I like this change.