DuluxGroup’s executive general manager of human resources, Penny Lovett FCPHR, talks about the fine line between creating an organisation’s culture and remaining competitive in their industry.
Q. There are a few definitions of the term ‘commercial HR’ in the ether at the moment. What does it mean to you?
To me it’s about HR being integral to delivering performance in the organisation. It’s my belief that performance is driven by leadership and culture. And you can’t deliver performance unless you have the right people and the right practices in place to develop people. This is where great HR practice really starts.
I think a great HR director has to be integrated deeply into the business – to understand the business and be able to read its pulse. They should be asking whether the company is pushing hard enough and what the opportunities are from a people point of view.
In order to build on this you have to understand the external context of the organisation, the pace of change in the industry you’re working in and what the destructive threats are, among others.
More importantly, great HR practice is about how a company competes within each context and how it differentiates – in other words, what is your point of difference and how do you stay ahead of your competition?. Once you understand that, you can align all of your people processes to deliver on a target customer experience.
Q. When you talk about performance being driven by leadership, how much of that is on a personal level and how much is it about being aligned with business strategy?
I think it’s both. Personal leadership is about individuals being able, willing and equipped to continually learn and improve their own personal leadership. In other words, their whole learning culture needs to be based around leadership.
The other part of this is for HR to improve on its leadership of the business agenda and strategy. So in my view it’s very much a combination of the two.
Q. Can you share any specific examples or results in relation to a successful commercial HR focus?
At DuluxGroup, we’re very clear on the values and behaviour that underpin performance in our organisation and, yes, some of those are about being customer focused and consumer driven.
So by leading a culture in our organisation where we walk in the shoes of our customers and help them to understand our products and the changing environment, we can be much more connected and able to deliver the right customer experience.
At the same time, there’s a real focus around innovation. Part of that is about creating a culture where we think beyond our immediate work areas and challenges and ask what is possible. We are focused on being very curious about the art of possibility and having a collaborative work environment.
In connection with this is the process we’re going through of aligning the leadership model to create a culture that allows us to compete with other companies in the industry and win. We are very clear on the type of culture we want to have and our entire leadership is aligned to creating this particular kind of environment.
This has certainly allowed us to grow our business quite significantly over the past three years.