Berwick Partners were delighted to be joined by Angela Spindler as guest host at the North West HR Directors Dinner, held at the King Street Townhouse in Manchester, on Thursday 24th January. Angela is one of the retail sector’s most experienced leaders. She was most recently CEO of N Brown Group, and prior to that worked for the Original Factory Shop, Debenhams and Asda.
The evening brought together Senior HR leaders from a broad range of industry sectors, to discuss and debate the ‘CEO & HRD relationship’ in a time of transformation and change.
Angela talked passionately and candidly about her career to date, and shared her learnings and experiences from both the PLC and Private Equity worlds. As she said, these are unprecedented and challenging times for businesses; CEOs no longer have the luxury of setting a five year strategy and, just as importantly, being able to stick to it. Economic, political and consumer pressures, along with the pace of technological change, require agile leadership at the top. This has led to a renewed focus on corporate culture as change is delivered by people. Simply put, culture trumps strategy.
In order to lead this change, HR Leaders must ensure that they create future leaders that can adapt and respond in a world where uncertainty is the norm. Angela made reference to her earlier experiences at Mars and Asda Walmart, where ‘people and organisation’ were at the heart of the business. Mars created an environment where individuals were expected to develop their skills across multiple functions in order to prepare them for future leadership roles. A similar approach was taken at Walmart, where there was a complete alignment of the DNA and culture across the organisation, irrespective of role or location.
In Angela’s view, the CEO and HRD must drive a culture where functions and people adopt an agile working methodology, rather than the traditional silo business models. Her belief is that this relationship is the most important one during a period of transformation and requires commercial, resilient, brave and determined HR leadership. Leaders need to achieve a balance between ‘instinct, hard facts and judgement’ when making decisions, ensuring that new values are blended with old values during a time of change.
In recent years the corporate spotlight has shone on the Chief Financial, Customer and Digital Officers. However, in a world of near constant change and transformation, the role of the Chief People Officer should not be underestimated.