Why HR Shared Service Centres fail

HR Shared Services

HR Shared Services are set up to streamline HR activities, which reduces costs, increases the efficiency of business processes and frees up time to concentrate on strategy.

HR Shared Services functions can add a lot of value if you do it right. If you get it wrong, it can have a negative effect on employee experience and relationships throughout the business with HR can be damaged.

Technology plays a big part in making HR Shared Services effective, but the exact structure and scope of HRSS really depends on the company and various other factors.

Why does HR Shared Services go wrong?

Organisations use shared services as a way of streamlining their HR activities, typically concentrating transactional activities into a centralised and commonly shared function. The shared service model can help businesses reduce costs and increase the efficiency of processes and allow a greater focus on HR strategy.

When done well, HR Shared Service Centres (HRSSC) add untold value to an organisation. However, get it wrong and it can ruin employee experience and destroy the relationship between HR and the wider business. But why does it fail?

You haven’t engaged the business in the change

When you implement an HRSSC, two groups of people need properly consulting. The people working in the shared service centre and those who will be using it. Both of these groups are equally important. You need to take your customers on the journey with you and engage and influence, in order for them to understand how you’re changing the way they currently do things. If either of these groups of people aren’t engaged, the SSC simply won’t work.

You have rushed it

Delivering an HRSSC into a business takes time. It isn’t something you can decide to do and then implement within 2 weeks. You cannot do it half-arsed. There are a lot of things to consider – from mapping out processes and ensuring you have the right technology, right down to hiring and onboarding the right talent. All of these things take time. If you rush any areas and don’t give them the time and attention they need, the chances are they will fail.

You don’t use analytics to measure success and continuously improve

Establishing the right metrics to analyse in an HRSSC is the key to success. By monitoring data, you can see how your teams are performing and highlight inefficiencies and potential problem areas, that may need investigation.

Measuring results and data enables informed decisions to be made that drive your HRSSC to continually develop and run better. This gives your HR teams the resources they need to be successful, provides employees with a better experience and ultimately gets the business results you want.

Poor leadership

Having the right leader is important for any team, particularly in a shared service environment. If you have the wrong leaders in a shared service centre, the wheels can fall off the entire operation, leaving you with an unhappy, disengaged team who lose their passion for delivering excellence. When this happens, the knock-on effect across the business can be immense.

A good shared service leader should be able to look beyond the SSC and understand the impact it has on employees, as well as customers and clients.

You don’t have the right technology

Technology is a fundamental component of any HRSSC. If you don’t have the right technology, then the SSC just won’t work. So, you need to check that your current HR systems are fit for purpose. Take time looking at your current systems and processes and what you need them to do. HR tech is a big investment, so make sure you choose the right one. Meet multiple vendors, get demonstrations – and challenge them, to make sure the system does everything you need it to. Modern HR technology allows HR to manage incoming requests, review case histories and related employee files, provide consistent responses and escalate a case when necessary.

You are probably reading this and wondering why I am writing all of this, because it all seems like common sense, right?

You would be amazed at how often people miss out one of the key elements to ensure their HR Shared Service Centre is a success.

So, do you agree? Have you had a Shared Service function which is been fantastic or failed spectacularly? Share your experiences!

If you would like to find out more about re:find and how we can support you and your business then please get in touch.

James Cumming is our MD, Interim and Transformation Search specialist. If you’ve got a hard-to-fill role and need some help, get in touch. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

Restructure in retail – will the changes prove counter-productive?

Restructure in retail

Tesco has launched a consultation with 9,000 workers as it ramps up efforts to build a “simpler, more sustainable business”. 

The supermarket giant is proposing a raft of changes that will affect staff working on in-store counters and in stock management, merchandising, staff canteens and head office operations. 

It has been a constant theme during Dave Lewis’ four years in charge of Tesco – building a simpler, more sustainable business, focused on serving customers better. 

On Monday, Tesco revealed the latest phase of that long and arduous journey during a series of emotionally charged meetings with staff. 

The grocer is streamlining its operations across a number of areas, which will impact 9,000 staff. Around half of them are expected to lose their jobs

Service counters such as fishmonger’s, butcher’s and delicatessens will close in 90 Tesco stores. The number of hours required on merchandising will be slashed as the grocery giant reduces the number of layout changes it makes in its supermarkets. 

Similarly, there will be a “significantly reduced workload” for those working on stock management as new technologies track gaps on shelves. Staff canteens will no longer have a hot food service – negating the need to employ third-party caterers – and 500 jobs will be axed at head office as the retailer moves to a “simpler and leaner structure” at Welwyn Garden City. 

Basic economics 

Bernstein analyst Bruno Monteyne, a former Tesco director, also understands the motivations behind the grocer’s sweeping changes. 

He believes they would have been “planned and executed over several years”, rather than being a knee-jerk reaction to the “competitive and challenging market’”. 

Those challenges have been born out much more than the changing shopper habits Tarry alludes to. A perfect storm of rising rents, ballooning business rates, the increasing popularity of online shopping and the relentless onslaught of the discounters has forced Tesco – and its big four rivals – to radically rethink operations. 

“The increased wage costs, National Insurance contributions, business rates and the like will all contribute to the basic economics of the counter operation making little sense in many stores,” Grocery Insight director Steve Dresser says. 

The emergence of the discounters as a mainstay of British food shopping has also played a big part in Tesco’s streamlining. The supermarket giant is bidding to regain a group margin of 3.5% to 4% by 2020, and so operating in a more efficient fashion – in the way that Aldi and Lidl so famously do – has been a central driver. 

But the growth of the German duo has had some potentially unforeseen consequences. As Tesco ploughed investment into its entry-level ranges – creating the successful stable of ‘Exclusively at Tesco’ brands – shoppers have been slowly lured away from the service counters that were so long seen as a crucial differentiator between big-four operators and their discount counterparts. 

“The irony with this strategy is that chasing discounters in meat, fish and cooked meats has led to a strengthening of the value tier in terms of price points and range, designed to stop discounters establishing a price gap,” Dresser explains. 

“However, if you make your aisle of product cheaper and certainly equivalent to discounters’, then there are fewer reasons to visit the service counters unless you are a real die-hard shopper.” 

Beware the pitfalls 

The finances, then, seem to stack up. But could the changes have an adverse effect on the store experience? It is a pitfall that both Sainsbury’s and Asda have fallen into in the not-too-distant past. 

Both grocers made radical changes to store teams over the past few years, most recently Sainsbury’s when it “reset” its shopfloor structure in 2018. The business “streamlined” the number of in-store roles, creating five “broader” positions – down from the 22 it used to offer. 

But availability in its stores suffered during a hectic summer of trading, as its supermarkets struggled to keep up with demand heightened by the heatwave and England’s surprise progression in the World Cup. Those issues were not fully addressed ahead of the crucial Christmas period, despite the protestations of boss Mike Coupe. 

Similar fears may well be raised among analysts and Tesco investors after it said it had “found a simpler way to conduct store routines”, which would be rolled out to all its shops. 

Clive Black, head of research at M&S and Morrisons house broker Shore Capital, is among those who admits he will be “watching with heightened interest to see overall availability in the estate over time” as the new model filters through. 

Roberts, however, has few concerns and suggests some of the hours freed up from the service counters could be used to make sure customer service and availability do not deteriorate in a similar fashion. 

“You can tell that counter staff aren’t all rushed off their feet. If they can be redeployed elsewhere to contribute a lot more to customer service, or to improve availability, then arguably that’s a better use of their time and Tesco’s money than standing behind a quiet service counter. I wouldn’t read too much into it in terms of the impact it will have on the broader offer,” he argues. 

Minor risk 

But could the loss of those counters – and the expert knowledge that employees working on them are supposed to provide – ultimately lead to a loss of customers? After all, Morrisons sees its market street proposition of butchers, bakers and fishmongers as a key USP – and that could leave it well-positioned to reap the rewards of Tesco’s move. 

“To some shoppers, at least, counters are an important part of how they shop. It might be the case that this is a deal-breaker for them and they will shop elsewhere,” Roberts says. 

“The obvious choice for those shoppers would be Morrisons and, to a lesser extent, Waitrose. Indies as well might be able to step up to the plate on meat and fish in particular. But ultimately, fresh fish in the UK is such a microscopic part of our way of life that not many people are going to miss those counters. 

“So the overall risk of Tesco losing customers is minor. It doesn’t appear that a lot of shoppers are habitually frequenting the counters and spending a lot of money through them.” 

Echoing Roberts’ views, Monteyne concludes that “the plan reassures us in many ways” and insists the impact on Tesco’s quality credentials “should be minimal”. 

But the effect on costs should be more visible. Monteyne estimates Tesco will save between £150m and £170m a year as a result of the latest structural changes. About 70% of those benefits will be felt in 2019/20 – the year Tesco is aiming to return group margins to that magic figure of almost 4%. 

Monteyne’s ultimate conclusion should ring in the ears of Tesco’s critics and rivals: “Anybody doubting the Tesco margin recovery should think again.” 

Click here to read the full article by Retail Week 

To discuss this further, you can email me on danny@refind.co.uk

re:find help businesses find the talent they need to deliver transformational change.  Clients call us when they need change to happen quickly and effectively. We are Executive Search and Interim Search specialists. 

Click here to read about what we do specifically in the retail sector.

AI in action – the transformation of retail

Artificial Intelligence and how it's transforming retail
AI in action – the transformation of retail

The opportunities presented by artificial intelligence are potentially transformative. And far from it being a technology of tomorrow, many retailers are already exploiting it. And the reasons are clear: a survey carried out by Vista Retail Support in August 2018, shows that 77% of UK consumers feel that artificial intelligence (AI) can “transform their shopping experiences”. More than two-thirds believe retailers should be doing more to bring the technology into their stores. 

But what does that mean in practice? The emergence of new tech tools – and an accompanying lexicon of new words and phrases – means there is a lot that 21st century retail boards need to get to grips with. 

So where is the retail industry at with this futuristic technology? Click here to read the full article by Retail Week, as we take a look at some of the most exciting examples of AI in action. 

1. AI-powered visual search 

Shoppers don’t want to spend hours searching for clothes online, especially on a touchscreen. As Aubrey-Cound points out, how people like to browse is – “visually – they don’t want to do it with text”. 

Cue one of the most important developments in ecommerce to date: visual search. 

Instead of suggesting products that are similar only on paper, visual search presents shoppers with clothes that look and feel like the ones they are browsing. Instead of size and colour alone, they can find items with the same style or detail. Big name retailers are committing to the AI tech that drives it.

In the UK John Lewis has permanently installed ‘Cortexica’s Find Similar’ technology on its iPad app, after a six-month trial.

2. Stock optimisation 

There is nothing new about the need to keep shelves stacked and stock up to date. But with stores and warehouses hooked up to increasingly busy and complex ecommerce sites, there has never before been such a need for speed. 

With 491 stores, Morrisons decided it needed to get on board with the technology. The solution highlighted one of the most important and potentially valuable uses of AI – replenishment optimisation. 

The grocer’s partnership with AI specialist Blue Yonder led to a 30% reduction in shelf gaps for starters. 

Taking into account a whole range of factors, including weather forecasts and public holidays, as well as automatically analysing sales and stock data from stores, the system Morrisons uses now makes 13 million stock ordering decisions per day. 

Morrisons chief executive David Potts has described the replenishment system as the retailer’s “biggest new initiative” in technology. 

The use of this technology is by no means confined to the grocery sector. In fast fashion, where huge volumes of product moves in and out of warehouses barely touching the shelves, the possibilities of automation are plentiful.

3. The use of chatbots 

“If you think you can spot a robot a mile off, take a minute to reflect on Amazon’s voice-activated AI assistant Alexa. The fact that ‘she’ isn’t real didn’t stop more than a quarter of a million of users proposing to Alexa last year. Millions more have happily chatted away with AI chatbot customer service agents – inappropriately or not – as though they were nattering with a human.” 

Whether their customers know it or not, some big retailers are using chatbots as live agents on their customer service lines and to help steer shoppers to products. 

A survey by IBM last year revealed that 65% of millennials say they prefer to be greeted by a chatbot than a human agent. So bots are not just a way of cutting back costs on call centres – they are preferred by many users and are more sophisticated than humans when it comes to searching vast quantities of information. 

4. Intelligent recommendations 

Since not long after ecommerce began to take off, retailers have been offering suggestions to shoppers based on previous purchases. AI takes this to another level. 

North Face’s platform doesn’t just remember what shoppers have bought in the past, it uses IBM’s Watson AI to work out what you might need – after all, a stroll through the Peak District and a trek up Mount Kilimanjaro are very different scenarios. 

Using AI to process a variety of data about the customer, from the usual characteristics such as height and weight to more specific details such as where in the world they’re off to, North Face offers shoppers gear customised for each trip. 

5. Personalised marketing on the go 

AI isn’t quite in the era predicted in Minority Report, where a shopper will be recognised and assisted the second they set foot in a store. 

But that is not to say that AI hasn’t made it into the real, bricks-and-mortar world. 

Early versions of shopping apps were little more than a hand-held directory of a mall or even a high street. This is being refined with more intelligent systems that ‘guide’ shoppers around stores, knowing – thanks to geolocationing technology – where they are in a store, backed up by AI to help them find what they’re looking for. 

US department store Macy’s has made some of the most exciting advances in this field. In 2016, working with IBM Watson, the retailer unveiled the Macy’s On Call app, the closest thing so far to a smartphone personal shopper. 

Customers type in what they’re looking for and are then directed by the app to the right place in the store. With time the AI-powered app learns and refines the answers it gives back based on that shopper’s individual habits. With its in-built geolocation, intelligent learning ability, chatbot and visual search functions, the Macy’s app ticks a lot of AI boxes. 

To discuss this further, you can email me on danny@refind.co.uk

re:find help businesses find the talent they need to deliver transformational change.  Clients call us when they need change to happen quickly and effectively. We are Executive Search and Interim Search specialists. 

Click here to read about what we do specifically in the retail sector.

Predictions for retail this year

Predictions for retail

As we head into 2019, we’re facing a pretty uncertain time. While 2018 was a year of growth for many retailers and brands, accelerated by tax cuts and low unemployment, 2019 is more precarious. The stock market is in flux, many retailers are facing the reality of steepening tariffs, emerging markets are flexing their muscles as they take on a greater share of global growth and it’s anyone’s guess on which way the wind might blow fickle consumers and their expectations for connectivity around every transaction. 

That said, you could also say that the glass is more than half full and that these challenges also present opportunities for savvy retailers and brands willing to face the winds head on. Here are 10 key points on what the retail industry should expect in 2019. 

Click here to read the full article by Forbes but here is an overview: 

1. Retailers will get personal with zero-party data 

Consumers are becoming more aware of their rights thanks to Facebook and GDPR, which is making way for a new age of privacy and personalisation. If 2018 was the year that marketers were forced to wean themselves off third-party data sets, 2019 will be the year they shift to “zero-party data.”  

2. Small is the new big 

Digitally-native and niche brands have come on the scene over the last couple of years, and 2019 will be the year that the growth of these brands will eclipse the growth of traditional retailers – and not only in their online businesses. 

3. Customer-centricity will go mainstream 

Retailers have been saying they want to “put the customer at the center of everything they do” for the past two or three years, but have struggled with how best to scale this. In 2018, retailers learned that simply monitoring social media is not enough. We believe that, thanks to the adoption of technologies like Voice of Consumer (VoC) Analytics, 2019 will be the year that the industry actually makes the customer-centric model happen. Offers a robust solution that enables them to determine what their customers want and also to deliver it – with speed and at scale. 

4. Retailers and consumers will begin to feel the weight of tariffs 

Retailers will be faced with making decisions in 2019 to determine the categories and products they raise in price and push the cost increases onto the customers, and where they need to absorb the cost increases themselves. This may force retailers to evaluate whether it makes sense to exit certain categories if they cannot sell product profitably.  We all wait on the outcome…

5. Algorithms take control 

Retail has long been driven by savvy merchants who had a penchant for following their gut to the right product selections and it has been an art far more than a science. But as more retailers implement innovative tools to leverage consumer data – whether to confirm the merchant’s gut feeling, or to guide decisions altogether – 2019 will be the year when the true science of retail takes hold. 

6. Millennials will flock to brands – they will want luxury 

Millennial purchasing power continues to increase.  By 2025, Bain & Co. forecasts that Millennials and Generation Z will represent 45% of the global personal luxury goods market.  This is a great opportunity for luxury brands, but it’s also a challenge since younger consumers think and shop differently than their parents. 

7. Baby Boomers will constrict spending in a much bigger way 

Along with the growth of Millennial spending, comes the decline of spending by Baby Boomers.  Millennials are expected to overtake Boomers in population in 2019 as their numbers swell to 73 million, while Boomers decline to 72 million. But the Boomer segment is still a huge cohort whose spending habits drive the economy. 

8. Apple jumps the shark 

A warning to Apple aficionados:  The Crown of Cupertino is losing its luster.  We haven’t seen any real innovation from Apple in years – with only incremental enhancements to the iPhone and Mac since 2010.  Apple has grown revenues by increasing prices – the average selling price of an iPhone in 2018 was $765 which was up 20% from 2017, while unit sales have flattened out. 

9. Amazon: Prime membership plateaus and prices increase 

Amazon’s growth of Prime membership is showing signs of slowing down. At 55 percent, just over half of the U.S. is subscribed to Prime, which is about the same as in 2017.  This was the first year that Prime membership did not increase. Some of this may be due to the fact that Amazon raised the Prime membership price in May to $119, but it is more likely a function of reaching a saturation point in the U.S. market. 

10. The final divide of retail winners vs losers 

2018 saw additional retail bankruptcies, and 2019 will be the year of the final shakeout.  Most of the winners and losers have been decided, but several more will hit the mat this year.   

As in any year, 2019 will have a tremendous amount of opportunity for those who spot the trends and position their companies to capitalise on them. 

To discuss this further, you can email me on danny@refind.co.uk

re:find help businesses find the talent they need to deliver transformational change.  Clients call us when they need change to happen quickly and effectively. We are Executive and Interim Search specialists. 

Click here to read about what we do specifically in the retail sector.

Hot growth areas of retail in 2019

Hot growth areas of retail

You can hardly believe that athleisure and vegan foods were previously untapped sources of sales growth in recent years. So what are the emerging trends which will drive consumer spend in 2019? 

The rise and rise of ‘free-from’

One of the biggest growth categories in grocery over the last 12 months has been vegan food. UK retailers have grabbed the trend with both hands, and the UK was found to be the nation where the highest number of vegan food products launched in 2018, according to Mintel’s Global New Products Database. 

Sixteen per cent of food products launched in the UK last year were badged as vegan, double the 8% in 2015. 

The combination of increased awareness among shoppers of food provenance, sustainability and health benefits, as well as the burgeoning use of social media to find new product recommendations, will continue to drive the growth of vegan food in the years ahead. 

The area of grocery that will deliver the greatest sales increase is in the free-from category – foods that are free from specific ingredients such as dairy, wheat and gluten. 

The uplift will be driven by shoppers whose needs span from the necessity to cut out ingredients for medical reasons to others, similar to flexitarians – people who tend to eat vegetarian food but not exclusively – who want to limit but not exclude a certain ingredient from their diet for more general health or ethical reasons. 

The free-from category grew by 18.5% in 2018 to hit £1.8bn and we expect the category to reach £2.3bn by 2020. 


A big beauty and wellness trend in 2019 will be savvy shoppers adopting a simpler approach to cosmetics and skincare, and expecting fewer products to pack a greater punch. 

The craze around complex 12-step Korean skincare routines of last year has begun to be usurped. This is in favour of more straightforward Australian and Scandinavian beauty products, which leverage their natural ingredient credentials to drive sales. 

The focus on natural products in health and wellness has led to the rise of another rapidly growing product category – CBD, a derivative of cannabis without any of the psychoactive qualities commonly associated with the plant. 

CBD-infused products can be used to treat a variety of ailments including inflammation, arthritis, anxiety and PTSD.  Today it is being deployed in a growing variety of health and beauty products from oils to body lotions and is on track to become a $22bn industry by 2022, according to consultancy the Brightfield Group. 

US department store Neiman Marcus and UK health chain Holland & Barrett have both launched CBD-infused cosmetics lines this year, while Whole Foods has named CBD as one of 2019’s top food trends. 

The trend of shoppers expecting health and beauty products to work harder for them is also apparent in the increasing appetite for personalisation in cosmetics and supplements.  Mintel’s director of trends for EMEA, Simon Moriarty, believes personalised products will be a key growth category for the health and beauty sector this year. 

Smart tech 

In electricals, a key area of growth is likely to be smart-home products. Dixons Carphone’s go-to-market planning director Zeena Hill says voice assistants, which recorded a 130% increase in sales this year, will grow exponentially based on their ability to be synced with other smart devices in a customer’s home. 

John Lewis’ audio and connected home buyer Katrina Mills, believes this technology will have implications for all areas of the home. 

“In the kitchen, we have seen a rise in appliances integrating smart technology including Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa, so automation will be more prevalent. For example, customers will be able to control their oven or coffee machines with simple voice commands or reorder food via their smart fridge,” she says. 

“Another area of growth is home monitoring, which is mainly due to the category becoming much more accessible. The newest smart home monitors offer instant access via a dedicated app and often don’t require additional investment.” 

Hill concurs that smart security systems, which delivered a 110% uplift in sales at Dixons Carphone in 2018, will be a key growth driver in the year ahead “as it appeals to both advanced smart-home customers due to simple integrations with other smart products and to new customers who understand the product benefits”. 

According to Statista, UK sales of smart-home products will rise 16.6% and will hit a market value of $7.2bn (£5.6bn) by 2023, with household penetration hitting 43.5% from 25% this year. 

The mindful consumer 

An overarching trend impacting how shoppers spend across all categories is sustainability, with a particular focus on plastics. 

A study by Kantar TNS of 1,260 people found 63% are concerned about reducing the amount of packaging they buy. 

What’s more, the appetite for sustainability is driving market-beating growth in some categories. According to 2018 Nielsen data, sales of bath products grew at 1% overall but 14% when marketed as sustainable. 

To monopolise on this trend ethical beauty retailer Lush has launched its first ‘naked’ shop in the UK this year, which exclusively sells products that are not packaged in plastic, while L’Occitane is offering eco-refills on products such as shower oils. 

“Plastic-free aisles and products in retailers like Lush and L’Occitane won’t bring in enormous numbers of people because the people who really care about it are quite small in terms of the average shopper,” says Moriarty. 

“But it’s a way to stand out and grow loyalty with shoppers who might go on to shop in other areas or shop there more often.” 

Marks & Spencer has launched more than 90 lines of loose fruit and vegetables that are free of plastic packaging in a trial at its Tolworth store and is removing best-before labels from the products in a bid to reduce waste. 

The retailer is launching additional lines of loose produce and more sustainable alternatives to plastic in every UK branch. 

“The issue we are seeing for retailers is that shoppers are aware and concerned of this issue in a way that we’ve not seen before now,” says Watkins. 

“Ten years ago, food waste became a big topic for shoppers because they found out that on average a third of the contents of their fridge was thrown away. Saving money by limiting food waste is still a big way for shoppers to balance their budgets, which demonstrates that once these ideas are in customers’ heads they have longevity.” 

While shoppers may not immediately reward the retailers that pay attention to issues such as single-use plastics, in the long term they are likely to punish those that do not make a concerted effort to be more sustainable by taking their shopping lists elsewhere.

To discuss this further, you can email me on danny@refind.co.uk

re:find help businesses find the talent they need to deliver transformational change.  Clients call us when they need change to happen quickly and effectively. We are Executive Search and Interim Search specialists. 

Click here to read about what we do specifically in the retail sector.

How to progress your interim career

I asked my network about an interim career and if they thought interim professionals could focus on their own development. Or if they were dictated by what was out there on the market and got a number of thoughts and opinions back.

A concern of many individuals in permanent employment is the perceived lack of career progression as a contractor. Some think that if you move into interim employment, you stay in that one position for the rest of your working life.

Sarah Cowley, Executive Coach

“Managing one’s career takes courage, and the confidence to say no. A successful career is dependent on personal growth which results from spending time and money on learning.”

A key difference of the employment status of an interim (becoming a LTD company) is the mentality. You’re not just an individual carrying out an assignment (or a job) but actually thinking and behaving like a business. Just as any other successful business might do, you need to innovate and develop.

Steve Lungley, Interim Transformation Director

“We will have had to define our services, identify the markets, sectors and environments in which we want to operate. Then develop marketing and channel strategies, sell our services and deliver them (brilliantly of course, because our reputation depends on it). On top of tht manage all those other things day to day things like accounting, tax and VAT.”

Like any business, understanding your routes to market is absolutely pivotal. Developing your personal and employer brand are key to finding that next assignment. Developing broader business management skills such as finance, sales and marketing are necessary to having a successful interim management business.

Barry Flack, Interim HR Director

“We have to supplement the assignment with a need to hone true business development capability – and personally – given that your proposition is everything. Then it requires a constant need to learn, adapt and stay relevant.”

To continuously develop your brand, you have to get your name out there through delivering successful assignments, communicating with key decisions makers and staying front of mind through social media channels (such as blogging, as well speaking and attending seminars in the relevant subjects and sectors).

Of course, all these activities take time and in the life of an interim this may be at the weekend, evenings or may even require you to take unpaid leave – so it’s not all plain sailing.

Although the activities outlined above certainly require additional time on top of the day job, they can bring increased opportunities.

Paul Powell, Interim Head of Resourcing

“Some of my moves have been intentional, gaining functional or sector knowledge and have involved calculated risk. It’s often meant stepping outside of the confines of my comfort zone. As a result, I have gained some good experience and a portfolio of skills, plus it has allowed me to share some pretty powerful insights with some clients.”

The interim market provides a wealth of opportunities and challenges. There’s short-term problems to fix, ideas to come up with and to deliver quickly. It can, therefore, be an exciting place for the right people.

Hayley Proctor, Interim Head of Resourcing

“Being the interim allows you the freedom to be bold and disruptive with your ideas to drive positive change…you are also expected to be the master of your ideas so learning and experimenting become the norm, whilst you’re given far more freedom and autonomy than your permanent counterparts.”

As an interim, there is no forced structure to your development as there is in permanent employment. You are expected to provide your own advice and guidance in this respect, to take responsibility for your own career and your own development.

Sharon Green, Interim OD and Change Expert

“I set aside a budget each year for CPD, ask clients for feedback and want to keep developing my business”.

Regardless of whether an individual is a permanent employee or an interim, if that person wishes to continuously develop their capabilities, they will progress.

I had a recent conversation with a senior HR director, who has just been offered a year’s extension. (And turned it down for the right reasons!) The CEO couldn’t believe that they were leaving, to go to nothing…who in their right mind would do this in permanent employment?

I think the feedback is overwhelmingly positive regarding an interim career. However, this is very different from being a permanent employee and won’t be for everyone!

So in summary:

  • Interims are often thrown in the deep end and need to learn new skills.
  • They need to be responsible for their own development and need to ensure that they make it happen.
  • Interims think of themselves as a business – building a proposition and delivering against it.
  • They are adaptable and learning broader skills (rather than developing their career vertically).

James Cumming is our MD and leads our HR practice. He has recruited senior HR professionals for over 15 years and has experience in finding niche HR talent. Connect with him on LinkedIn here.

If you would like to find out more about re:find and how we can support you and your business, then please get in touch.

The return of the unions?

The return of the unions?
The return of the unions?

From the demise of traditional heavy industries where unions were strong, to today’s proposed legislation, it may have seemed that Industrial Relations were a thing of the past. Many of the traditional IR skills are not being called for in today’s working environment. However, recent events suggest that this may not be the case – for example, the Junior Doctors’ strikes and the issues ongoing at Tata. (Not to mention the likely implications of Brexit?)

It all seems like a bit of a minefield – could we actually be seeing a resurgence in union activity?

Might the mass redundancies we regularly see in retail prompt a surge in union membership?

In this article, we speak to career interim Bill Gregory who just happens to be a HR specialist and an industrial relations expert:

One of the best uses of an interim is to carry out a time-bound task, that calls for a specific skill and expertise that the in-house team either doesn’t have or doesn’t have the time to use. Why keep a specialist on the payroll if they are only used infrequently? Not to mention, what kind of professional would work under those circumstances?

One such area these days is employee and industrial relations – this can take many forms:

• Varying terms and conditions to reflect new customer demands
• Requests for union recognition
• Pay deals
• Complex restructures involving demanding consultations

These tough areas present challenges:

1. Expertise. No doubt an incumbent HR director would take on these tasks. Sometimes, however, things can come out of the blue, or there is something at a local level that needs more of an additional resource – a heavy hitter with specific experience and expertise to come on board.

2. Time. Dealing with these issues requires immense planning and a carefully managed implementation.

There is also a significant amount of engagement that is needed with key stakeholders in the business – it is vitally important to have regular informal meetings with employment lawyers and trade union officials in order to be familiar with the environment and the law. A large part of the role is spent reading the legal case reports every week and interpreting what the impacts will be.

3. Long term. Often these exercises can be tense and having someone to manage it in the short-term, means that the long-term relationship between the employer and staff, their union etc., is protected. That’s not cowardice on the employer’s behalf – that’s good sense.

4. Project management. Having one person project managing the exercise means a single, competent point of contact for the busy HRD. For example, industrial action can cause loss of output and have a major impact on reputation. A skilled practitioner will work with the client’s communication team to contain these effects, as well as to train managers what to expect and how to cope.

A good interim will aim to leave behind the result the client wants and to share knowledge and expertise with the in-house team. Good interims do not protect their knowledge in the way that management consultants might do, especially when using proprietary systems.

Bill points out that while some traditional areas of union membership have ceased to exist, where they are in place, actual density of membership is as high as ever (rail, transport etc) and that there is an increasing tendency for those in the professions (junior doctors being a good example) to take action.

There is little doubt in Bill’s mind that it has set a precedent for other groups.

To discuss further, you can email me on James@refind.co.uk.

You can view more about James Cumming our change and business transformation specialist here.

Why this whole Millennial thing gets on my nerves

Why this whole Millennial thing gets on my nerves
Why this whole Millennial thing gets on my nerves

Hi, my name’s James and I am not a millennial…you can tell this by checking out my picture on LinkedIn. Although I still think I’m 18 years old, I now know for a fact – after a recent visit to a well-known high growth sportswear brand in Birmingham, where I was the one sticking out like a sore thumb in middle-aged chino brigade outfit, whilst all the cool kids were dressed like a scene from Gucci crossed with Men In Black – that I am most definitely not!

But I just don’t get it? Why is there such a big deal being made about this generation, I don’t think parents have ever understood the generation below them have they? Whether it was rock music in the 50s or rave culture in the 90s, it has always seemed a bit different, hasn’t it?

According to Wiki – Millennials also knows as ‘Generation Y’ or ‘Gen Y’, are the generational demographic cohort following ‘Generation X’ and preceding ‘Generation Z’.

And if you happen to work in HR – this seems to be the second worst thing people like to talk about. (That is after why hasn’t HR still got a seat at the top table. DON’T START ME!)

The thing I think companies do need to consider when recruiting these days is that information availability and choice are greater than they have ever been. I recently posted a blog that I wrote following an interview with Simon Brown, around his experience of a recruitment process – the gist of it was that it was not a great experience. I think a lot of this comes down to trust. Employers still seem to be stuck in the dark ages – micromanaging people, not giving them any freedom and expecting lots from them, but giving nothing in return. Check out most job adverts and you will see what I mean.

There are so many things that are easily done to build a productive and happy workforce – whatever the ‘generation’. Trust is the missing ingredient in my mind… many employers simply don’t trust people to do the job they are paid to do. I remember a senior MD (at a firm I used to work) told me as a newly promoted Director “INSPECT rather than EXPECT”. Seems a bit archaic today, but many people still have this as their mentality.

I don’t think that labelling an entire peer group is particularly productive – instead, we could all treat people like adults regardless of their age. Whether that be through the recruitment process, the onboarding process or throughout their career!

To discuss further, you can email me on James@refind.co.uk.

You can view more about James Cumming our change and business transformation specialist here.

Hiring an Interim Executive? You need to get it right! Discover the 8 step process you should follow, by downloading our free eBook here.

The business change journey

the business change journey
The business change journey

Over the past few years, I have had a lot of people ask me what is meant by the term ‘business change’ and why do they need it? Not being a subject matter expert myself, I thought who better to ask than my wife who a) is always right about stuff and b) just happens to be a business change expert. (Go on, have a nosy at her experience). This was written over 2 years ago, but is still relevant, because, guess what – she’s still always right!

She told me about travelling for one assignment – as she was going through security at JFK airport – she was asked to provide her job title and I’m sure many of us have had the same confused look she got from security when trying to explain her profession. (I’m a headhunter?!).

She defined her role as “managing the journey we might go through when moving from one way of working to another”. The security guard clarified it for her “like ice melting to water, moving from one state to a different one?” and actually this made a lot of sense (more sense than going into any further detail at that moment, for anyone who has ever been through US passport control!).

So, simply put, business change is moving from one way of working to another and it could be focusing on either a strategic, technological, process or organisational change (or a combination of the four).

Businesses spend millions of pounds on new technology, developing highly skilled programme teams to implement it and setting up new processes and ways of working to create supportive infrastructures. But in many cases adoption rates are low, new ways of working don’t work and businesses don’t get the return on investment they were hoping for. This can leave businesses wondering ‘what happened?’.

From experience, where businesses tend to fail, is thinking that the new way of working is the final destination for the project (this view is compounded by the fact that many businesses tend to remove project teams as soon as a change has been implemented with a view that things should just work as expected).

Any change, whether it is technological, organisational or even a minor process change, has to be embedded in those who are impacted, ensuring that they truly understand how their day to day working practices have/will change going forward. This is why business change is so important. It ensures the company – and not just the decision makers – moves to the new way of working.

“The role of a change expert will help stakeholders determine what the final destination actually looks like and then plot the journey to get there.”

A change expert will support stakeholders and sponsors in gaining answers to the following questions:

  • What does the proposed culture look like?
  • Will individuals be bought into the change?
  • What reluctance is expected and how can we manage that?
  • How do we expect employees to behave and what knowledge do we want them to have?
  • Do they see the benefits and are they on board with making it a success?
  • “What does good actually look like?”

A change expert will help plot the journey and how that journey will take place, make sure everyone’s informed of the destination, get everyone a passport and ensure the employees get there, whilst participating in the experience and supporting to achieve overall success.

To discuss further, you can email me on James@refind.co.uk.

You can view more about James Cumming our change and business transformation specialist here.

Generation Z: understand retail’s chief disruptors

Generation Z: understand retail’s chief disruptors
Generation Z: understand retail’s chief disruptors

Meet Generation Z. Impatient, frugal and with ambitions to save the world, the first generation of true digital natives demand a simple retail experience and substantial discounts from brands that have strong ethics. And yet, confounding expectations, they might not be quite as attached to online shopping as stereotypes suggest.  

Categorised as consumers born in 1996 or later, this rapidly growing consumer demographic is shaking up retail in a big way. Gen Z has never known a world without mobile technology. Compare this with their older millennial cohorts who used floppy disks at university and remember a time before Facebook, and this defines how each generation acts both online and off. Gen Z will comprise 32% of the global population in 2019, passing millennials (31.5%) for the first time. 


I have recently read a report titled ‘Generation Z:  The shopping and work habits of retail’s chief disruptors’ and wanted to share some of the information.  You can click here to access the original report.  I think the report will help retailers better understand this group as consumers and employees and offer guidance on how to harness the spending power of a generation that could swipe before they could talk. 

Here is an overview of what is in the report: 

  • Gen Z’s shopping, technology and social media habits 
  • What influences them to choose a retailer and make a purchase 
  • How to create successful strategies to target this demographic
  • How to engage Gen Z as part of the retail workforce 

To discuss this further, you can email me on danny@refind.co.uk. 

re:find help businesses find the talent they need to deliver transformational change.  Clients call us when they need change to happen quickly and effectively. We are Executive Search and Interim Search specialists. 

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