“You can’t be a wall flower” – Senior HR Director, Craig McCoy talks to us about HR Leadership.

As part of our commitment to supporting candidates to develop fulfilling careers, we’ve invited some HR Leaders to let us in on the secrets of their success.

This week we spoke with Craig McCoy, Senior HR Director at Sunrise Senior Living. We asked Craig a few questions about his career in HR which spans Public, Private and Third Sector organisations. Craig’s journey takes him from Cambridge University, where he studied French and Italian to Interim Senior HR Director for a US owned care service provider.


Craig begun his HR career after spending some time teaching English in Paris where he developed an interest in Training.  From Training Craig moved into Change Management with a focus on Training & Development; and then into his first HR Director position. Since then Craig has added value in FTSE100 companies and across Telecoms, Healthcare, Care, Publishing and Housing.

We asked Craig a couple of questions about the world of HR and what his thoughts were on what lies ahead for 2019.

What do you think is the key to being successful in an HR Leadership role?

“There is a strong emphasis on consulting, influencing and having relevance at the top table is important … you can’t be a wallflower. You can’t just rely on process effectiveness. Process effectiveness is a bit of a given. It’s about a having a degree of influence, coaching capability, internal consulting, seeing transformation and change. The ability to grapple with difficult concepts like culture, and affect business change through development is key. The forward looking, growth orientated part of the business agenda is where HR can really add value. A focus on steady state and running efficient processes is not going to get you the degree of credibility and influence you could otherwise get. You’ll just be seen as a second-tier process expert, which is not, where you want to be.

What are the common themes and or challenges you are currently facing?

“Brexit is a big one. There’s going to be a massive systemic issue which is already impacting some industries.  I think the changing nature of work and contracts and things like the Gig economy is a big one; the changing nature of how people are contracted to do work. Craig believes “The nature of work is changing, how you deploy resources more flexibly and globally is key in HR. Thinking tends to be more traditional and linear. Whereas you’ve got to open your mind toward more of a shift away from 9-5”.

Craig agreed that Recruitment and AI will follow similar veins. “Artificial intelligence, machine learning, robotics and predictive analytics and big data these are all kinds of things which are fundamentally changing business propositions. Predictive analytics is more prevalent in recruitment, but I think we’re going to see process automation added more to the core of what HR does. AI should increase the human element of HR leadership; the subtlety and the complexity of relationships is not something that can be automated”.

This is something we’ve championed for some time. The ‘black and white’ parts of Recruitment and HR are going to be completed by an algorithm in the future, the value of a strong HR leader is in the grey areas. It’s the interpersonal skills. It’s that human approach.

What advice would you give HR professionals getting started in their career or looking for their next step on the career ladder?

“Learning and Development is a great place to start your HR career because it gives you a platform; it gives you profile. You develop the skills of working with people. You start getting involved in areas like coaching and understanding what key business issues are. You develop consulting skills, you learn skills about being quick on your feet. You get used to being plunged into unfamiliar situations with demanding clients, so all of this was quite formative for me. I felt as though it was a really good place to start my HR career”.

Craig has been with Sunrise Senior Living for 15 months and will be continuing as Interim Senior HR into 2019.

To explore your career options confidentially or speak with us about supporting the growth of your HR team, please get in get in touch today.

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“You can’t be a wall flower” – Senior HR Director, Craig McCoy talks to us about HR Leadership.