What makes a great HR professional?

HR is always evolving, as is the importance of the function in business. I have worked in the HR industry for over 15 years and still see many of the same topics discussed over and over.

Has anything changed? Here is my take on what makes a great HR professional.

What qualities should an HR professional have?

Develops trust

This quality is probably the most important one that any great professional needs, more so in HR than other functions. The HRD should be a confidant to the CEO and other business leaders, people will only open up to someone they can trust.

The easiest way to alienate an employee population is to create a ‘say do gap’. For HR to be effective, you need to role model the behaviours of the business and the best way to do this is to be consistent and authentic.

Although there is lots of talk that HR should be more strategic, I think the most effective HR practitioners are able to roll their sleeves up too and to really get to know what is going on in the business.


Known as a problem solver

As an HR professional, you will be responsible for solving problems and issues. I hear many stories of people continuously dealing with the same stuff in a reactive fashion… and guess what? That isn’t the best use of time or resources, and it doesn’t demonstrate commercial thinking.  

Once a problem has been identified it is important to get to the root cause of the issue (there are many great books on RCA), the important steps are finding data to back up what is going on and then providing a workable solution.

The role of HR has moved on and can’t only work in coaching/facilitation mode. The best HR professionals I know have an innovative mindset and provide multiple scenarios, solutions, and options to problems.


Knowledgeable

Like any profession you need to have the relevant subject matter knowledge (in this case HR) – for me, this should be a given. HR needs to have a broader understanding of business drivers, and an ability to consider external factors, such as competitors and the future direction of the sector and bringing ideas into the business from peers or thought leaders.

An easy way to develop this in HR is to read business books (or blogs, vlogs, audiobooks) and to become up to speed with modern concepts such as ‘Netflix – no rules’, OKRs, agile performance management etc. It doesn’t mean that all of these will be suitable or relevant to your business, but business leaders will be up to speed with the concepts and in HR you should have a view.


Understands the business

If you can answer YES to these questions, then it might suggest that you are a commercial HR leader:

  • Could you stand in for the CEO/MD or Operational leader (whoever you support) at their next weekly/monthly stand-up or board meeting and give an update on business performance?
  • Could you meet potential clients/investors, give them a thorough understanding of the business, and sell the benefits of your organisation?
  • Do you understand the key drivers of your business and how it drives growth?

Please let me know in the comments section if you think anything else is relevant? I’d be interested to get other views.


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.

Employee onboarding – warm welcome or completely clueless?

We know how important onboarding is for our candidates. The wrong experience can have a hugely detrimental effect on a new starter. The process ensures new employees receive all relevant information and understand how the company works and what is expected of them. This information allows them to transition from a new joiner to a productive team member, and so is a vital process within any organisation. 

So how does it change in a fully remote working world?

Really, it shouldn’t affect the fundamentals:

  • New equipment
  • Communication
  • 121s
  • Introduction to the team
  • Training and coaching

But it does mean being organised and ensuring that everything is prepared way ahead of the new team member starting. Equipment needs to be ordered and sent to their home address, an introduction to the business, the team and regular 121s need to be diarised and the induction needs to be planned out and communicated clearly.

It’s not just about the new starter

It’s not just about the new joiner either, your onboarding process can affect existing team members who will register the way a new employee is treated.

Onboarding begins before the new team member starts – both internally and externally. Calling the new employee is clearly important to let them know the basics, but also letting the existing team members know what is happening.

Returning to work onboarding

My wife, Gemma, wrote a blog about onboarding, with a difference – the importance of onboarding returning maternity leavers. “Yes, they’ve always been employed and aren’t “new’, but when I returned to work after 10 months out, a lot had changed, and I mean a lot. It was almost like returning to a new business. This, coupled with the fear of returning to work, was surely a recipe for disaster.”

Some key points are addressed about being introduced back into the company/role after a substantial period away, including new technology, new faces and new structure. You can read the full blog here.

In any capacity, onboarding is important to your business – it makes for happy employees and better business efficiency, as it gets employees up to speed quickly.

To have a chat about your experiences with onboarding or returning to work you can contact me on carl@refind.co.uk.

You can view more about Carl Hinett our Executive search of HR professional’s specialist here.

So, what’s with all the cow puns?

So what the hell do cows (and cow puns!) have to do with recruitment? I often get asked what the deal is with re:find and cows – you may have been wanting to ask yourself if you’ve ever visited our website.

Well, unbeknown to most people, my family are Scottish dairy farmers! My family continue to run a few farms up on the West Coast. So, you could say it’s in the blood. But even though working in recruitment is a far cry from the fields of Scotland, I’ve never fully left behind my admiration for these fantastic animals.

Even my favourite artist is cow-themed…a lady called Caroline Shotton, you can check out her work here.

So, hopefully, that explains all the cows.

To discuss anything recruitment or cow-related you can email me at James@refind.co.uk.

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.

Executive search – ‘worst-case’ interview scenario?

Everyone gets nervous before an important meeting or interview. It doesn’t matter how much you may have prepared, there are some common intrusive thoughts that always manage to worm their way into your head the night before and cause you to think about possible escape routes should the worst happen. Through our executive search experience, we can help.

But worry not, you don’t need a getaway car parked around the corner to survive an awkward interview. There are tried and tested things that you can do to overcome these embarrassing moments. And who knows, if you flip the situation successfully it could work in your favour and become an example of how you have managed uncomfortable situations.

The person that you are meeting isn’t focused on you

If you notice that the other person is frantically typing on their laptop and hasn’t said in advanced that they may be taking notes or replying to a work email, then your brain may go into overdrive and wonder whether they are mind-numbingly bored in your presence.

Read the situation and your audience, and if you’re still not confident that you’ve got their attention then politely asking questions to advance the conversation could resolve any worries that you may have. If they need to rearrange to a more appropriate time, then this gives them chance to do so

Being too early can be just as awkward as being too late

When travelling to an interview you can sometimes misjudge the traffic and end up an hour early…. It’s better than being late and although tempting, it might not be the time to show them how keen you are!

The chances are that whoever you are meeting is busy and won’t be sat waiting around for you an hour before (or after) your scheduled appointment, so if you know that you’re going to be too early go and grab a latte and steady your nerves. 15 minutes is plenty early enough to get there.

You forgot your presentation or interview materials

This problem can be easily resolved by planning properly. Try not to rely too heavily on paper materials, which can be misplaced or lost. Instead, ensure that you have an offline copy of your work ready and waiting on your laptop that you will be able to bring up regardless of the wifi situation.

And if your laptop dies, make sure that you’ve sent an email to yourself with all of the key documents on, so you can at least access them on your phone as a last resort. After your meeting, ask the person that you’ve been with if they would like you to email over a copy of any document that you’ve just used so they will be able to access them when reviewing your meeting.

Everybody has at least one awkward interview story, and how you deal with any embarrassment can say a lot about you and how successfully you manage situations. Also, a little bit of humour can go a long way, and we can all be united in our common awkwardness.

To have a chat about your interview contact me at carl@refind.co.uk.

Carl Hinett is our Director & Executive Search Specialist. If you’ve got a hard-to-fill role and need some help, get in touch

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What does chemistry have to do with recruitment?

In my case, chemistry was at the heart of the recruitment company I started nearly 5 years ago.

My degree was in organic chemistry, the main purpose of the degree was to make a chemical called Chrysanthemic acid. Now, you weren’t just measured on succeeding in making it, but on the purity of the final chemical that was made, as well as the % amount that you made from the starting chemicals.

This meant that you had to work out the processes needed to make this more effective – i.e. you needed a more refined process.

Refined: ADJECTIVE

“Developed or improved so as to be precise or subtle.”

When launching my business, people were always saying how poor recruitment firms were and that they didn’t do a great job. I didn’t want my firm to be perceived in the same light.

I took the decision to launch a business that would continually try to improve and refine what it did until it became refined (refind!)

Now, unfortunately, someone had taken the web domain I wanted, so it made sense to think of an alternative, hence the name refind (Well we do find candidates after all.)

And so re:find was born…

To chat to me about re:find 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.

Kingfisher’s struggles shows the pitfalls of nailing international retail

Nailing international retail

International success is one of retail’s holy grails but despite notable wins, Kingfisher’s results today show it is one of the most elusive of prizes. 

As one senior retailer with extensive overseas experience told me, things are always going wrong in at least one important market. He questions whether it is actually possible to be successful on a truly global basis. 

There is plenty of evidence to support that view. It’s not just Kingfisher that has beat a retreat from markets once seen as great opportunities like Russia and China. Tesco has too. And Walmart, which hopes to offload Asda to Sainsbury’s, is another case in point. 

Global ambition is frequently spurred by the idea that there is today an ‘international consumer’ who wants the same whether they live in Swansea or Shanghai. The success of Asos, which describes itself as “a global fashion destination for 20-somethings”, is typically cited as proving that point. 

While such a generation may be nascent, the particularities of place and people still matter hugely, as the travails of B&Q’s owner show. The mixed success so far of the ‘One Kingfisher’ strategy, including greater product in common across its markets, illustrates that starkly. 

Uniting consumers 

Kingfisher can certainly claim some advances from the strategy and it can point, as it did in its results statement, to the fact that “sales of our unified and unique ranges continue to outperform non-unified ranges”. 

However, its overall performance was poor and the architect of the strategy, chief executive Véronique Laury, is to depart when a successor is found. 

As Whitman Howard analyst Tony Shiret noted: “The news that Laury will be leaving the group… effectively means the company is calling time on her ambitious One Kingfisher transformation plan.” 

Whether you put Kingfisher’s difficulties down to unaddressed differences in consumer tastes in various countries, generally tough conditions or the disruptive influence of the gilets jaunes protests in the important French market, the point is that international success is extremely difficult to achieve. 

Gone are the days when giants could simply replicate abroad the model that brought success at home. More than product, what perhaps does unite consumers around the world is shared aspiration and behaviour. 

Everybody wants a better life. Increasingly everybody is conducting more of their lives through smartphones. That’s evident from China to Africa, where pan-African etailer Jumia has grown to the extent that it is planning a Wall Street IPO that could value it at $1bn. 

And while Walmart is scaling back its interest in the UK, it is upping the ante in India, where its $16bn acquisition of Flipkart shows that it is how shoppers buy as much as what they purchase that is seen as most likely to bring future success. 

Bold moves 

That same combination of aspiration, combined with the desire for convenience, speed and value is what has driven the rise of one of the big contemporary international retail success stories – Amazon. 

But the ability to key into unifying behavioural patterns isn’t restricted to the new online giants. Ikea, which itself has had its ups and downs, has perhaps been more forward-looking than its rival Kingfisher. 

The Swedish furniture titan is boldly nailing its colours to the mast of urbanisation, which is occurring across the world, and developing new formats in response. Similarly, Ikea initiatives such as renting furniture are driven in reflection of changes in how people live rather than just product. 

Whether Ikea’s bets pay off remains to be seen, but it looks as if its ideas could tap into transforming times more than some of the shifts Kingfisher has made. 

Ironically, Kingfisher owns one business that does reflect the common desire for speed and convenience – Screwfix, which can offer click and collect in just one minute. 

It’s a business that has been built through intimate customer knowledge that is then executed upon with flair. That’s a foundation stone of retail success anywhere in the world. 

Click here to read the original article from Retail Week. 

To discuss this article 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. 

Supply chain management: An opportunity for transformation?

The world of retail has always been competitive and fast moving. In the current climate, where few are making sustained headway on sales and margin, agility and demand responsiveness are at an even greater premium. For me, this is about supply chain performance where failure can threaten survival, and excellence can transform a company’s market position and financial performance. 

The term supply chain is now as ubiquitous in both the press and government pronouncements. However, the interpretation and scope of supply chain management by people and organisations is varied. Recent research by Cranfield, led by Professor Richard Wilding, found that the senior supply chain manager in around 70% of companies had a place on the divisional or operating board. This is a position that has emerged from nothing in only the last ten years. However, the same research showed that the scope of responsibility varied greatly across the 238 manufacturing companies surveyed.  

What is supply chain management?

The essence of supply chain thinking is about improving the end-to-end processes within a business and with its suppliers and customers, to maximise sales and margin potential.  So the reported fragmentation of responsibility is interesting. For me, supply chain management is about the integration of planning with sourcing, making and delivering.  While the research was carried out mainly with manufacturers, the parallels with retail are strong, with supply chain now having a place on the board, but directors’ responsibilities are not consistently framed across the retail sector. 

Should supply chain calls the shots?

No, this doesn’t mean that supply chain people should call the shots across the business; that would drive a left brain and relatively uncreative retail world and spell potential disaster. From my experience, boards generally see supply chain as a source of risk and disruption. The well-catalogued failures over the years have taken their toll and supply chain operations are perceived as having a negative potential. Suppliers, warehouse operations and systems, parcel operators and others are all seen as potential pitfalls and points of cost with no upside at all. 

For most retailers the planning, buying and merchandising functions (right brained and creative) are not perceived as organised as ‘supply chain’ functions. The paradox is that the financial and reputational risk from lost sales, markdowns and disposals from the planning of flow control processes are worth typically more than double the entire cost of the physical distribution operations. 

How do retailers get it right?

So retailers are damned if they don’t get the operations right, but they are doubly damned if their planning of buying and distribution is lacking. Buying and merchandising is central to retail supply chain management and the real challenge is to manage the tensions between left and right brain thinking, to drive real customer value. By doing this well retailers could see a 5% improvement in like-for-likes and 2% to 3% in net margin. Most CEO’s would kill for that right now and they need to think about their organisational dynamics to get a new balance. 

The multichannel challenge

Multichannel is coming up on the rails so fast it will soon be the outright winner; the problem is that multichannel risks are driving in cost and margin erosion faster than the growth. Right now this is still ‘land grab’ time. Right brains have control and are rushing headlong – and while pursuit of growth is not wrong, it should be challenged if it comes at too great a cost. The fulfilment cost options need to be clearly understood and Boards will need a tighter grasp of the new operating system in order to make balanced long term choices.  Again a consistent offer, well presented and executed by a trusted brand, at a cost that does not erode margin too fast, will be the future. Successful multichannel retailers will be judged by how little they have eroded value, as they have embraced the new normal of e-retailing. 

So what about the future?

Going forward, Boards will need to recognise these twin realities and put in place processes to bring both the left and right brain tensions to their table, well informed by real cost and net margin data. Only then will they make decisions that can protect the business from major surprises. It is both essential for survival and the opportunity for transformation. 

Click here to read the original article from Retail Week. 

To discuss this article 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. 

Simplifying the ‘Change Journey’ – can a Change Advisory Board help?

Simplifying he change journey

A change-advisory board (CAB) delivers support to a change-management team by approving requested changes, assisting in the assessment and prioritisation of changes.   A CAB is an integral part of a defined change-management process designed to balance the need for change with the need to minimise inherent risks. 

The CAB members should selectively be chosen to ensure that the requested changes are thoroughly checked and assessed from both a technical and business perspective. The considered change will dictate the required personnel to convene in a CAB meeting.  

A CAB offers multiple perspectives necessary to ensure proper decision-making. For example, a decision made solely by IT may fail to recognise the concerns of accounting. The CAB is tasked with reviewing and prioritising requested changes, monitoring the change process and providing managerial feedback. 

How do you manage a CAB effectively? 

Here are four good tips to running a CAB: 

1. Get the agenda out early and encourage discussions before the CAB. 
Don’t wait until the last minute to publish the upcoming CAB schedule. One of the frustrating things about attending CABs is that attendees often don’t really know much about the changes until they get to the meeting. Publish the list early so attendees have a chance to get up to speed on the proposed changes. This way, they can get with change requestors and sponsors before the meeting to get a clear understanding of what is proposed. If you don’t, then your CAB will be overtaken with efforts to solve any personal issues people have with proposed changes. 

2. DECISION MAKERS attend the CAB. 
The CAB members should be selected based on their knowledge and meaningful input to the meeting. What happens when CAB invitees can’t make it and send their designated hitters? Simple: ensure that then people attending have the authority to speak on the behalf of the person they are sitting in for. There’s nothing more frustrating than discussing a change and a key role says “I don’t think I can speak on that, I’ll have to get approval from my boss.” If they can’t speak on behalf of their boss, then they don’t need to be there. You can either clarify this need with the attendees before the meeting, or reschedule the discussion to a later CAB when the key personnel can attend. 

3. Know your decision thresholds. 
Do not attempt to approve a change that is bigger than you. Follow your organisation’s governance guidelines and determine the rules to decision making. This means that you should know exactly what thresholds (pound amount, risk level, impact, urgency, etc.) you are capable of approving. 

4. Careful not to get into “rubber stamping.” 

Many CABs get overwhelmed with complex and numerous changes. The pressures of getting through these changes during a meeting are enormous. This often results in sloppy approvals that may not receive proper assessment – and can cause incidents once deployed. Ensure that every change request receives the proper attention by scheduling enough time to discuss them. Also, be careful not to blindly approve a request simply based on who is requesting it. I remember a situation where a CAB approved a change simply based on who was requesting it. This “rubber stamp” approval resulted in a poorly managed deployment that caused several hours of downtime. The lesson learned here is that it doesn’t matter who is asking, every change must have the proper amount of analysis and scrutiny. 

To discuss this article 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.