In his monthly Western Mail column, Matt Southall, Acorn's Managing Director examines the world of HR in the current political climate. 

Historically, innovative and efficient human resources teams have been at the heart of the country’s most successful businesses, whatever their size or sector. 

Seamless HR teams

With a wide-ranging remit spanning recruiting the right people with suitable skills (or the potential to learn them); inductions; bespoke training and progression opportunities; mentoring and providing adequate challenges for employees – and the impending implications of Brexit make a seamless HR team particularly pertinent in the current climate.

Of course, skills shortages remain within many roles, and with perhaps soon-to-be fewer opportunities for recruiting individuals from outside the UK to fill this gap, it has never been more important to upskill an existing workforce through comprehensive training and incentives, and to really value, nurture and make the most of apprenticeship opportunities. 

Business leaders across the country will soon have no option but to readdress previous policies of casting their recruitment net wide and must revise their methods of relying on attracting talent from outside the UK.

Brexit fallout

The world in which we work is changing and the way in which we carry out business is constantly evolving, which is why it is so important to have an HR department that is fully versed in legislation and trends, and can meet new challenges from the Brexit fallout head-on.

Much of the UK’s employment law also derives from EU legislation and we wait to see if legislation that has been protected by EU law until now may be facing an overhaul - these include protection on transfer of employment; agency workers’ right to the same ‘basic working and employment conditions’ as the rest of a workforce after 12 weeks of engagement and protection of part-time and fixed-term workers.

Legislation like workplace health and safety and holiday pay can sometimes attract different reactions from employees, employers and policy-makers, and as a repercussion of Brexit may also be reconsidered; although it remains undetermined to what extent this might be.

And it feels critical at this time of so much uncertainty, that issues like the gender imbalance within senior positions be addressed effectively and sustainably once and for all – we must really draw on the wealth of talent we have in the UK and ensure a positive and dynamic environment; places where people want to work or want to continue to work because they feel stimulated, challenged and valued.

Apprentices and the enthusiasm and energy they offer are still a relatively unmined resource in the UK but are invaluable to both new and established businesses. The apprentice and business has so much to gain from working relationships of this kind.

And so, our reliance on the commitment, agility, awareness and professionalism of our HR teams will be more and more important over the next two to three years.

Critical to success

HR can be a rewarding but difficult profession, and management and employees often don’t appreciate the value of their HR team until there is a problem – the team can otherwise often be perceived as an internal function trying to police the workforce. Instead HR is a fundamental strategic function, critical in the success of any organisation, and it needs to be recognised as such.

One company that is renowned for its innovation in HR is the John Lewis Partnership. The UK’s best known employee-owned company, which is often held up as an example of business best practice.

Lord Price, the Minister of State at the Department for International Trade worked for the JLP from 1982 as a graduate trainee before becoming MD of Waitrose in 2007 and the Partnership’s Deputy Chairman in 2013. Working for the business in a variety of roles and over a number of years means he knows firsthand the benefits of a strong HR ethos and how understanding many elements of a business is at the core of this. 

Wales HR Awards

And HR professionals in Wales are being given a rare opportunity to gain an insight into this unique business at the inaugural Wales HR Awards where Lord Price will be the guest speaker.

I am proud of Acorn’s involvement in establishing these awards - as Wales’ leading specialist recruitment and training agency, it seemed very natural for us to partner with leading commercial law firm Darwin Gray, to launch this awards scheme in recognition of such an important profession.   

The shortlist for Wales’ first ever Wales HR Awards will be announced very shortly with the awards ceremony taking place in Cardiff, on March 23rd.

The celebration will be ideal opportunity to showcase the excellent work being done by HR professionals and teams across Wales and to celebrate their many achievements and the huge value they contribute to the success of their organisations.

Matt Southall is Group Managing Director of Wales’ leading multi-specialist recruiter, Acorn

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