Peter Cheese introduced Chris Last (Civil Service HR UK) who opened by saying that he believes that successful HR isn’t all about the model (Ulrich or otherwise), it is all about the people. It was also interesting to see the Civil Service using Prezi to give a snazzier presentation than we often see!
We were reminded of the vast scope of the Civil Service, including making loans to start-ups, setting up schools, tackling climate change, and the role of the Department for Work & Pensions.
Chris suggested that we get the HR function that we deserve, and explained how his thinking is heavily influenced by the years he spent working at Ford. At Ford, training played a part in developing people in the HR function but an even bigger part was a very intentional approach to developing HR careers and systematically making sure that people gathered the right experiences along the way.
The Civil Service has 4,000 HR employees (significantly less than a few years ago), and 18% of them are in business partner roles. They are trying to be really intention about developing the careers of those people, making sure that they develop both business and HR skills along with collecting broad experiences. As commercial acumen is becoming increasingly important for the Civil Service, they are making use of secondments to commercial organisations (for instance, they have a HR manager who is currently on a secondment to GSK). One of the problems in the past has been that people have simply drifted into HR at some point in their career, and so the Civil Service have put a lot of emphasis on their approach to recruitment so they can deliberately recruit people into a career in HR.
Summary; focus on people and their professional advancement, drive continuous improvement, and work hard to develop the relationship with the business.
(This was live-blogged during the session at CIPD14 – I’ve tried to capture a faithful summary of what was said, but my own views might occasionally creep in.)