Simon Geere, HR division director at Alexander Lloyd, shares the ins and outs of the HR world, what trends he’s noticed and what he looks for in an HR director (HRD) with PM Jobs.
Simon Geere, HR division director at Alexander Lloyd
Tell us a little bit about Alexander Lloyd
We’re a niche recruitment firm operating in the HR space – particularly in the London, Surrey, Kent and Sussex areas. We’ve been delivering successful recruitment assignments for clients within all industry sectors from SMEs to global blue chips for more than 15 years.
There’s been a lot of change in the HR function during this time – what are you seeing right now?
Regardless of what people might be saying about line managers being the new HR function, we’re certainly not seeing businesses considering removing the HR function just yet. What we are seeing though is a market that’s demanding business people first, people who can move into HR, rather than the other way around. Why? It’s because these are people who know how the business makes money. They know what impact they can make, for example, on raising productivity.
What’s this doing for the development of HR as a profession?
What’s happening is that it’s still a buyer’s market. Anyone can go into HR, but businesses demand HR that does more – it’s looking for the X-factor. For instance, international experience is something we’re seeing a huge desire for – it’s almost become a must now. The result is that HR people need to skill themselves up and take responsibility for their own development to get noticed now.
When organisations sometimes doubt the value recruitment consultancies add, they may not consider that meeting this enhanced list of requirements is incredibly tough. But that’s where I that think we add the value they need. We’re the ones who know, and network with CEOs, COOs and FDs. They’re the people who tell us about the talented people that they know, the people who are excellent, but not necessarily in the job market. It is our job to approach them and see what roles they might be seeking next. Good HRDs aren’t advertising themselves. They have to be found.
What else has changed?
Recruitment has become a visibly faster requirement. When we first started out, a search might have taken three months. Now, it needs to happen in four-eight weeks, and that’s before taking into account someone’s notice period. What’s helped us, is that today it’s easier to connect with people. However, it’s also easier for everyone else now too. That’s why our associates aim to be meeting at least three-five great HRDs a week, face-to-face, to build and grow personal relationships. This way, when they’re ready to take a new opportunity, it’s less a cold call and more the continuation of an existing relationship.
Can clients now be too demanding, setting out a list of impossible requirements?
It’s possible, but that’s only because they want the best, and they believe that’s what best in HR-class needs to offer. What we say, is that sometimes clients won’t get 100% of what they require, but if most of the boxes are ticked, it’s worth seeing someone. We’ll often find people for whom the job brief is a stretch. But that’s fine too. A new role always has to offer something fresh and challenging for people to be interested in it in the first place.
So it’s not always what’s on the CV that counts?
It never is. In HR especially, CVs don’t always say what you really need to know. Yes, they’ll record a person’s experience, but it’s still the case that culture-fit and chemistry plays a huge part in an HR person’s suitability. The easy bit is finding people who can do the job. The hardest part is always working out whether they’ll fit in, and enjoy themselves at a new company.
So what impresses you most when you see an HR director now?
There are two types that impress me the most: Those that want to work within the business, and want to understand it at a deeper level. Then there are those who have already come from the business i.e. they’ve run a call centre and want to move into HR.
Of the two, the latter would always get my attention first, because they understand people issues at an operational level. I would say that there can often be frustration with what I would call ‘pure HR’ professionals because they’ve existed in isolation slightly, and they don’t always understand the financial pressure that the business is under.
So what does a good HRD have to do to become a great HRD?
Ideally, they need to have worked in both small and large organisations, to ensure they do not become institutionalised into one way of thinking. They also need to be qualified – either to CIPD standards or in LEAN/Six Sigma principles because this is how good thinking becomes great thinking. One cannot underestimate likeability and charisma. Developing this soft skill will get them far. HRDs who are overly tough, and go in all guns blazing don’t tend to work out very well. I’m not saying HRDs need to return to being soft and fluffy, but those who are emotionally intelligent ‘get’ what’s going on. HR is still a role where success is more down to someone’s ability to strike up personal relations rather being based on the nuts and bolts of whether they can do a job.
What are the next in-demand skills you’ll be seeking going forward?
Project management and data-analysis are two skills we’ll see huge demand for. As a profession, I think HR is moving more into an interim function anyway – taking on specific projects, for specific periods of time. So it’s my guess HR will become more project-led, and by default, more specialist too. Being highly skilled in a few key areas, rather than being a generalist, is another possible way the profession will go.