Say hello to... Ian Johnston, Group HRD, Johnston Press

Ian Johnston, Group HRD, Johnston Press
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Taking on a new role is as challenging as it is exciting. In this series we will be talking to HR professionals who are getting to grips with a new job and finding out what attracted them to the role, as well as what their key priorities are for the months ahead. Want to tell us about a new role you're getting stuck into? Get in touch.

Ian Johnston has just been appointed Group HRD at Johnston Press. He is a board-level HR leader with over 10 years’ experience of operating at executive level in a variety of international people leader roles. He was previously HR Director, Risk, at Barclays and before that HR Director at Allied Healthcare Group.

Jamie Lawrence, Editor, HRZone: What's your plan for 'absorbing' the information you need to make decisions? You're coming into a brand new culture, lots of history, lots of opinions. How do you orient yourself over the first few months?

Ian Johnston, Group HR Director, Johnston Press: As I settle into my new role within the business, company culture is very high on my agenda.

With more than circa three thousand talented people working across the country, from our 900+ editorial staff right through to commercial, sales and operational, I want to continue to foster a cross-company culture where people are proud to work for Johnston Press.

That means that the first few months for me are all about building my understanding and listening to the many voices within the business, whatever brand people are working on, be it i, The Yorkshire Post or The Scotsman, so that I am able to effectively create an overarching strategy that’s not only the best direction forward from a business point of view, but importantly also the best way forward for the people that shape Johnston Press as a company. 

Jamie Lawrence, Editor, HRZone: How will you build trust with stakeholders in the first few months?

Ian Johnston, Group HR Director, Johnston Press:  While Johnston Press is undergoing considerable business transformation, particularly when it comes to the sales function – which has seen the implementation of a new Sales operating model over the last six months – I very much see myself bringing stakeholders and the teams together to make sure that new ways of working are fully embraced by everybody within the business.

There’s much to be done when it comes to embedding best practice and new ways of working, so this will be one of the key ways I’ll be building my relationships not just with stakeholders over the first few months, but also every person I interact with within the company.

Jamie Lawrence, Editor, HRZone: Top three areas of HR you'll focus on in the first six months and why?

Ian Johnston, Group HR Director, Johnston Press: Developing a People strategy will be one of my key priorities over the next six months, combined with annual plans that support the implementation of our overarching business strategy, all of which will be designed to enable Johnston Press to succeed in a challenging market. 

Alongside this, while seismic changes in the industry continue in line with the shift to digital, considerable changes are being introduced across Johnston Press to help attract and engage audiences even better across all platforms.

Supporting the implementation of change and embedding best practice will be something that forms a key part of my new role.

Ultimately it's about ensuring that the changes we implement will enable us to stay ahead within the industry, as well as ensure that we continue to attract, retain and develop the most talented people.

Having an operating model that enables sustained success for the company coupled with a focus on being the employer of choice in our sector. 

Jamie Lawrence, Editor, HRZone: What have you learnt from your previous job about good HR that you'll put into practice in this job?

Ian Johnston, Group HR Director, Johnston Press: First and foremost, HR needs to understand the business end-to-end - including strategy, operations and performance. Only with that understanding can we best determine the people and organisational initiatives that are required to support business outcomes. Of course we will always need to do the HR fundamentals well, but it's also about having the mindset and wherewithal within HR to enable the business to become more efficient and effective.

About Jamie Lawrence

Jamie Lawrence, HRZone

Jamie Lawrence is editor of global online HR publication and community HRZone.com. He is committed to driving forward the HR agenda and making sure that HR directors have the knowledge and insight necessary to make HR felt across the whole organisation. He regularly speaks to audiences of 250+ and has interviewed key HR industry names, including Daniel H. Pink. He has worked previously as a small business journalist and a copywriter and has published non-fiction that reached #2 on the NYT Children's Bestseller List. In his spare time Jamie likes writing fiction, films, fitness and eating out.

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