The HR World speaks to industry leaders about their careers and life – what advice would they pass on and what wisdom brought them to where they are now. In this edition we caught up with HRD Jayne Casey who believes HR's sweet spot is combining people management with commercial outcomes.
Strong roots gave me stability to make big life choices young
He hates me saying this, but I didn’t go to university because I met my husband when I was 16. I realised I did not want to leave so stayed and started an apprenticeship at BT instead. Now my children go to the same school, and we live next door to my parents. I left BT this year after 23 years having grown up with it as my dad worked there, too. The growth and adventures I have had have been inspirational and rewarding.
To get on in your career you have to seize your chances
People always said I was an old head on young shoulders. I don’t know if this is true, but I do remember taking every opportunity that was open to me from a young age. On my apprenticeship there were 200 of us that started but as we went along more people started not turning up. I was like ‘get your fingers out your backsides’! Don’t throw this away. So, I held a company event to re-engage with them. It was that moment I realised I wanted to be in human-focused work and propelled me from there to gain my masters and CIPD.
Line managers can make or break an organisation
When I came back from my first child, I had mild postnatal depression but didn’t recognise it at the time. I did not want to leave my son, so decided I was going to train to be a teacher to have the holiday time off. I went to my boss and he did not accept my resignation. He said he could tell there more to it and asked me to see a doctor. From there I went on to work a more flexible week way before flexible working was available. I wholeheartedly believe that line managers can make or break the employee experience of working with an organisation and therefore it’s a short-sighted organisation that doesn’t pay attention to how good their leadership teams are.
As HRs we hold the moral compass of an organisation
During the pandemic we have been looked to as being able to understand and tap into the ‘right’ things to do for our people – morally, ethically and with the right engagement approaches. I’m not saying we are perfect, but it has been a real test of our capabilities and I think for the most part HR has proven its worth in helping the C-Suite know how to handle an experience that has been traumatic on every level.
HR’s sweet spot is bringing out the best in people while contributing to the bottom line
For me, we earn our money in HR when we can improve people’s performance, retention and skills specifically to make a difference to the bottom line. If they are happy and producing their best work, they tend to bring their best selves to work, which continues the cycle. When people are not really engaged or producing, we see teams and whole businesses really struggle. Business leaders know this to be the case but so often there is not enough attention given to this holistic approach. I believe great HR teams are pivotal to bringing this to life and driving commercial outcomes from the shop floor up.
It’s not 1962 – culture has to be built on purpose
And build with purpose too. Everyone is different and we don’t have a right to expect people to do their best work. It’s not 1962 so we must create an environment in a company that creates a place where people want to work. For this reason, I think as an HR professional I bring a strong culture and engagement bias to the table. Some people want to look at organisational change or rewards and benefits. For me, any new role I take the first thing I want to do is read the employee survey verbatim, hit the shop floor and speak to people to get under the skin of the problem areas. The workplace right now is also constantly changing. And now with five generations in the workforce, HR must be on top of the game when it comes to communication around cultural understanding.
Moving around a big company can be like moving company completely
During my time at BT, I worked across many areas from BT Sport to BT India. I’m a pretty good networker so would always be on the hunt for what was happening and spot an opportunity. There was a huge amount of movement within the BT corporate landscape with the huge transformation project when BT signed Accencture to outsource management of the HR help desk with admin and processing. Where we outsourced everything some of my colleagues were taken out to Accenture and we had to bring back in house – this kind of continuous learning is the cornerstone of a successful career.
We need to hold on to the ‘good stuff’ that has emerged from the pandemic
I was reading there is a massive shift in the number of people who want to change their jobs. This is going to create huge challenge for HRs. We must be aware of people’s lives and needs in this new world of work and that has really been a massive shift from the pandemic. We have gone from a time where we business is purely financially driven to a more people-centric focus. We all want to be able to work in organisations that have learned and developed from this experience and wants to take this attitude forward. I can’t help but feel this will also change society in general for the better – so the importance of human-based human resources right now cannot be underestimated.