Sue Morrison explains how she fostered a workable and purposeful HR function in an environment where people come second to the animals cared for.
1. How strategic is your role?
Five years ago, when I joined the Home, there wasn’t a personnel function; since then we have grown into a small team of three, which now includes a training officer. In the next year I hope to be less hands-on and develop an HR strategy which complements the direction the Home is taking. In the short-term, I intend to concentrate on retention of staff and developing an inclusive training programme for all staff.
2. How is the HR function perceived within your organisation?
We are based on the main Battersea site and therefore very closely involved with the operational side of our work. As a result, staff see the personnel team on a daily basis and our open door policy makes us approachable.
3. How does your business use HR practices to get ahead?
We have well-defined policies and procedures supporting HR practices, which in turn support the strategic aims of the Home. In a poorly-paid sector, it can be more of a struggle to keep staff, so we need to offer staff a good working environment and opportunities to develop their skills.
4. Why is your company such a great place to work?
If you like dogs and cats, then this is the place - we adopt Battersea dogs and cats, foster them in our offices and homes, socialise and walk them in our lunchtimes; we can even bring our own dogs to work! People are more relaxed - and healthy, with all the walking we do.
5. How does HR win hearts and minds in your business?
Because we are based on an operational site, we have day-to-day involvement with the core activities of the business and understand staff pressures and stresses and as a result, can provide a more effective service.
6. Will HR survive outsourcing and changes to service delivery?
I think so - certain functions, such as recruitment, can be more remote, but I don’t think you can completely replace the on-site expert, who knows the business, the characters and understands how an organisation ticks.
7. What’s the new skill set of HR?
Promoting better communication skills - too many people hide behind the email and forget to get up from their desks to talk to people. Alongside this, encouraging good teamwork.
8. What’s the worst thing about working in HR and the best?
I hate anything to do with disciplinary issues - whatever the outcome, I hate that feeling of failure that a situation has reached the stage where the process needs to take place. As for the best, I enjoy watching individuals develop and move on to better things, whether internally or externally and hope that I’ve helped them with their development.
9. What are the key issues preventing HR professionals from getting a seat on the board?
I can only answer this in a general context, as my last two roles have been within a senior management team setting, but I think most people would agree that HR is not seen as a business benefit to the organisation.
10. If you have a mantra/motto what is it?
Stay calm in a crisis - even the worst situation can be treated as a learning experience.
11. What are your currently reading?
The Real Cruel Sea - a story of the Merchant Navy during WW2.
12. What would be your desert island disc?
Comfortably Numb by Pink Floyd.
13. If you could have lunch with three famous people, dead or alive, who would they be and why?
- Jane Austen - I have always loved her writing; way before the recent Darcymania.
- H G Wells - amazing storyteller - such an imagination.
- Thomas More - a man with principles, prepared to die for them.
14. If you’d like to be remembered for one thing what is it?
That I made a difference!
Previous career profiles can be seen on the How Did I Get Here? page.