CEO & HR Director 'A Critical Relationship’?

CEO & HR Director 'A Critical Relationship’? Author: Simon Walton Published: 16 March 2018

Berwick Partners recently hosted a roundtable dinner with HR Leaders from the Consumer Industry at their offices in London and were delighted to be joined by guest host Andrew Higginson, Chairman of Morrisons.

Andrew enjoyed an early career working with high-profile consumer brands (Unilever and Guinness), before moving to the retail sector where he has held a number of Executive and Non-Executive roles within organisations such as Morrisons, Poundland, Tesco and N. Brown. His significant leadership experience enabled him to share his thoughts on various elements and factors that influence and enable a truly strong relationship between CEO & HRD. This relationship continues to evolve and remain critical as businesses constantly face economic, political and social challenges.

Whilst the HR function is often cursed by many, most also recognise that the function is both fundamental and critical to the success of any business. Andrew described a Board’s four main responsibilities as Strategy, Investment, Performance and People; where HR contributes in all and leads the agenda on the last.

During the discussion, Andrew continued to highlight the importance of the relationship between business strategy and people strategy as demonstrated most recently at Morrisons. The organisation was in a difficult position - consistently losing both market share and sales to the competition. Fast forward three years and Morrisons has just recorded its eighth consecutive quarter of like-for-like sales growth. As Andrew explained, with the odd exception, this has been achieved with predominantly the same people and teams. However, an aligned business and people strategy created a fundamental shift in culture; everyone believing that they are in the right roles and making a positive and valued contribution.

A number of themes emerged through the discussion amongst the guests including the need for the HR Director to be a confidential ‘sounding board’ to the CEO, ensuring that the right talent is in place to deliver the business strategy. Plus to also be a voice on culture and the DNA of an organisation as well as continue to bring commercial insight to the CEO and Board.

Concluding with some extensive Q&A from the attending guests, much thought and debate was created. Thank you to all those who attended.

Simon Walton is a Partner and Head of the Consumer Practice at Berwick Partners. Also hosting were Alka Gandhi, Katie Hart and Basil LeRoux.

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